Sozo is a Saigon cafe staffed by disadvantaged locals – similar in concept to Phnom Penh’s Friends and Hanoi’s KOTO. It can be found in Pham Ngu Lao – the backpacker district – housed amongst cheap hotels, budget travel agencies and ubiquitous bars, cafes and shops. This was the first time we’d ventured to the area since moving to Saigon (but we’re familiar with it, having stayed there a few times in the past). Being back there only reminded me how I don’t miss backpacker ghettos, and that travellers who only hang around Pham Ngu Lao except for a few excursions to the tourist sites are really missing out on the rest Saigon has to offer! Anyway, rant over – back to Sozo…
The menu featured a mix of standard ‘western’ fare (nowhere near as innovative as the global/gourmet offerings at Friends and KOTO) so we stuck to the more enticing looking desserts. One slice of carrot cake, one of chocolate cake and two coffees later (they do great Vietnamese iced coffees by the way – but then, it’s hard to find a bad one) we were satisfied with both the sweet fix and Sozo’s feel good factor.
The staff were fantastic too, really friendly and efficient. I love this type of cafe – the service is always great as the staff are making are real effort to improve themselves. As for why the cafe is named SOZO – apparently it’s a Greek word meaning ‘saved’. Now that’s getting a bit too deep – just bring on the cake!
Sozo, 176 Bui Vien, D1, Saigon