Fun, unpretentious and unashamedly quirky, it’s easy to see why Yolo has become one of Hanoi’s most visited hangouts. An endearing use of recycled furniture — antiques and colourful artwork create a vibrant atmosphere — while a mish-mash of metal rods, concrete boulders and empty wine bottles in the entryway show off a wild and unpredictable side, synonymous with its acronymic name.
Live and Loud
But while wonky metal sculptures and recycled furniture aren’t necessarily uncommon in Hanoi’s emerging scene of artisan cafes, what makes Yolo unique is that it feels partially inspired by a 1950s burger joint. Scantily clothed Vargas girls straddle the walls while the restored façade of an old pickup truck hangs suspended above the café’s central performance space — as if plucked from a period Burger King commercial.
If patrons are disappointed with the lack of waiters on roller-skates or big neon signs out front, they may be impressed with the weekly servings of live music belted out only metres away from the café’s long wooden benches and raised bar stools. These are periodically cleared to make way for the jumping crowds of music lovers that flock to Yolo for its wide range of music offerings, varying from rock and reggae music to digital and dub tunes. Around the corner from the central bar, visitors can also retreat to the lounge’s green room, home to a lavish selection of foreign wines.
An Oasis of Calm
While the venue really comes alive at night, by day it slows to become a quiet oasis tucked away from the hustle and bustle. The furnished balconies are perfect for sitting and watching the world go by, while an inviting selection of comfy armchairs make it easy to wile away the hours with a good book. If you’re in need of a place to clear the growing backlog of freelance deadlines, Yolo’s long benches and tasty ca phe sua da (VND30,000) make it a suitable workstation to grind away the hours.
On sunny days, the top floor plays host to patrons toasting the sunshine on the outdoor patio, while enjoying freshly barbecued skewers of beef, capsicum and eggplant (VND50,000 including a drink) cooked up by the friendly staff. The venue also offers free Larue beer between 7.30pm and 8.30pm on Thursdays and Saturdays, attracting a decent sized crowd that hops between Yolo and Barbetta.
If you’re after a barista-made coffee, however, this isn’t the place to come for your daily flat white. But if you’re after a unique and vibrant space to work, catch up with friends or sample the local music talent, Yolo provides a fun and compelling alternative to your run-of-the-mill café. — David Mann
Yolo is open 24 hours and is at 32C Cao Ba Quat, Ba Dinh, Hanoi or online at facebook.com/YoloCoffeeShops