When charting out Asian explorations, Vietnam often goes overlooked. This lush, beautiful country offers more than meets the eye, particularly when it comes to savoring culinary delights. Sadly for many Western travelers, these beauties are shrouded in a dynamic past.
Luckily in recent years the country’s travel routes have found their way onto the backpacker trail giving the country an opportunity to show the true diversity and beauty within the borders.
A frequent stop while traversing the country, the city of Hoi An charms visitors with delightful lanterns, iconic architecture and an overall blissful atmosphere. It’s also one of the few cities in Vietnam to celebrate the classic bicycle, enticing tourists and locals alike to meander the streets and explore the outskirts of the city blanketed with sweeping rice patties.
I discovered one additional delight in this city.
For the conscious traveler, STREETS Restaurant Café epitomizes everything you could wish for in a dining experience. First you will be greeted by a generous and welcoming host inviting you to explore the menu. A quick glance at the menu brings not only a rush of savory sounding dishes, but also a motto you can’t ignore.
Sitting down, you’ll be attended to by two staff members, one trainee and an experienced server. Their attentiveness and genuine friendliness catches you off guard. You ear catches near flawless English. It’s the instantaneous moment you know that this is an experience you will savor beyond whatever dish you will settle on. When the food does arrive, your taste buds will be treated to one of the most delicious culinary encounters you’ve had in the country.
What you are experiencing is the power of a dedicated social enterprise built around empowering, educating and creating opportunities for street children and disadvantaged youth in Vietnam.
It’s the true triple threat in business and tourism: service, an exquisite product and a positive mission.
Behind the scenes, both in the kitchen and the dedicated training center offsite, STREETS operates an intensive 18-month training program. Students come from diverse backgrounds around the country and the world. Once adopted into the program, all the basic needs are taken care of including housing, food medical care and financial support.
Then the training begins.
The program focuses on aligning the student’s skillsets with the demand of the ever-growing hospitality industry. Courses include culinary arts, intensive language, hospitality service and more. As a byproduct of the way the program is established, the students develop a powerful sense of community and support.
While I may not have been privy to the instruction, the byproduct resulted in the best service my husband and I had while wandering throughout the entire country of Vietnam. Our server even offered to show us how to eat the dish. While this may sound odd, frequent travelers in Vietnam know it can be extremely confusing knowing how to approach a new dish in the country.
Once trainees complete the program, STREETS provides support to help them secure job placement in the hospitality industry. While the focus is on job placement, the ultimate goal is empowerment through dignified employment.
From the caliber of staff and trainees serving your meal to the mouthwatering Vietnamese dishes you’ll enjoy to the powerful mission, this is perhaps the most enchanting dining experience you can have in the country.
My husband and I enjoyed our visit to STREETS so much we doubled back for a second encounter during our short stay in Hoi An.
Here is a taste of our experience:
Vegetarian options are readily available and specifically marked at STREETS. They also prohibit smoking in the restaurant offering guests a reprieve from the common practice.
Alexandra Black-Paulick is constant wanderer and social enterprise enthusiast. As the host of the Positive Impact Podcast, she highlights compelling stories of conscious business around the globe. Tackling a variety of issues from India to Haiti to Rwanda and even enterprises addressing issues at home, this show inspires everyday do gooders to continue their unique mission to make a positive mark on the world. These days she is traveling Asia, experience the rich cultures, flavorful cuisines and dynamic scenery this side of the world has to offer.