Waiters also range widely when it comes to how much English they know, or how well they are able to understand butchered Vietnamese. Some don't know a word of English, and look at you as if a third arm has just sprouted out of your head when you try to order iced tea in Vietnamese. On the opposite end of the spectrum, at one restaurant a friend of mine tried to order in Vietnamese and the waiter, in unaccented English, said "Please, order in English, it's easier."
When it comes to decor, well, there isn't really any. At this point I should clarify that I'm talking about the cheap eateries that line almost every street in Ho Chi Minh City. There are certainly some beautiful Vietnamese restaurants here, but the vast majority are geared towards quick, delicious food, with little effort expended on atmosphere. Most establishments have simple white, or maybe light-blue, walls. There may be some random pictures of rural Vietnam, or perhaps a few tiny Buddhist shrines, but most places are completely bare. By and large, this is the wrong city to be in if you like aesthetics with your food.
One of the best parts about eating in a local Vietnamese place is observing the locals. At night there will inevitably be a group of ruddy-faced, middle-aged men, downing round after round of beer, 40-ounce bottles of Tiger creating a veritable traffic jam on their table. Children play with each other, and the waiters horseplay in between taking orders.
Going out to eat in Vietnam, then, is certainly an experience. I even made it this far while barely mentioning the main event: the food itself. The cuisine is so fresh and creative that all of the challenges and annoyances of dealing with a restaurant are meaningless. It's all about the food, and that's all that matters.