There are some days on the road when you just feel like disappearing—surrendering to the urge to recoil and escape the pressures of travel. Those are the times when sanctuary can casually surface from a busy street scene and draw you in. Hanoi is collection of controlled chaos, even for locals. From the traffic to the morning propaganda announcements, it's all a bit crazy for the casual observer. Embracing the rhythm of the city, you begin to understand the opportunity of place. So much is hidden in plain sight, and Cafe Pho Co is a perfect example. It's the kind of spot where having the address is no guarantee. Even standing in front of the location confounds. Therein lies the adventure.
The map to this treasure starts with the international landmark for chicken - KFC. The location you're looking for is at the north end of Hoan Kiem Lake. There is a large fountain in a traffic circle, and you'll also see the HSBC in a large white building. Walk north past the building turning left at the end. Now on Hang Gai street, you'll feel the neighborhood closing in, making it difficult to really see what you're looking for. Glide down the block a few doors and look for a shop that sells art supplies. When you find it, enter the art store and look for a doorway in the back with a sign over it that says "cafe."
Fresh French pastries, Vietnamese coffee dripping, and fruit smoothies join you in the bliss on the highest patio overlooking the lake. So splendidly habit forming.