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Home | Laos | Eating & Drinking in Laos | Where and what to eat
Where and what to eat

Vientiane offers a wide variety of cafes street vendors, beer gardens and restaurants serving everything from rice noodles to filet mignon.


Most of the hotels offer set 'American' breakfasts (two eggs, toast and ham or bacon) for around US$I to US$2. Or you could get out on the streets and cat where the locals do. One popular breakfast is a split French baguette stuffed with Lac-style pate (which is more like En/dish or American luncheon meat than French pate) and various dressings. These vendors also sell plain baguettes - there arc several regular bread vendors around town, but especially on Thanon Heng Boun between Thanon Chao Anou and Thanon Khun Bulom,

On the north-western corner of Thanon Pangkham and Thanon Samscnthai, Nam phou Coffee is a little Lao Chinese co free shop serving very goodLao-style milk coffee and two fried eggs with sliced baguette. You can also order Chinese doughnuts or plain French bread with coffee. Although it's open all day the baguettes and pa-koh tend to disappear before 10am.

Restaurant Santisouk ( 215303, 105 Thanon Nokeo Khumman) Dishes US$1- 2.50. Open 7am-10pm daily. Formerly the Cafe La Pagode, this place near the Lao National History Museum is another good spot for breakfast. The menu includes a variety of Western breakfasts (including tasty potato omelet’s) as well as pastry plates and good coffee, and the prices are very reasonable.

Bakeries & Delis
Scandinavian Bakery (215199, 74/1 Thanon Pangkham) Pastries US$0.50-1.25. Open 7am-7pm daily. This bakery on the Fountain Circle sells fresh bread, pies, sandwiches, real Scandinavian-style pastries, cakes and ice cream; there are a few tables inside and out.

Healthy & Fresh Bakery (215265, Thanon Setthathilat ) Pastries US$0.50- 1.50. Open 7am-7pm Men-Sat. Healthy & Fresh features decent coffee, yoghurts, granola, sandwiches, fruit and a large selection of baked goods; it's good, if a little expensive.

Gourmet Mediterranean Delicatessen (mobile 020-516105, 42 Thanon Setthathilat) Deli items US$I-3. Open 7am- 8pm daily. This new deli offers a varied list of breakfasts, croissants, cappuccino, flocci a , sandwiches, pies, pannini, quiche, pasta and vegetarian dishes.

Liang Xiong Bakery House (212284, 54/10 Thanon Chao' Anou) Pastries US$0.30-0.60, breakfast more. Open 7am- 9pm daily. This bakery sells decent croissants and other pastries. It has a couple of tables out the front where you can eat with a view of street life, as well as a row of inside tables. Breakfasts of khao jii khai dao and other egg dishes are available.

Sweet Home Bakery- (214742, 109 Thanon Chao Anou) Pastries US$0.30-0.60. Open 7am-9pm daily. Next door to the Liang Xiang, the Sweet Home also has al fresco tables and a range of egg dishes for breakfast, plus ice-cream sundaes.

There's a string of at least half a dozen cake shops along Thanon Saylom, just off Thanon Lan Xang, all with selections of inexpensive Lao interpretations of European cakes and pastries.

Noodles, Chinese & Vietnamese
Noodles of all kinds are popular in Vientiane, especially in the unofficial China- town area bounded by Thanon Heng Boun, Thanon Chao Anou, Thanon Khun Bulom and the western end of Thanon Samsenthai. The basic choice is joe (a rice noodle that's popular throughout mainland South-East Asia), mii (traditional Chinese egg noodle) and khao pall (very thin wheat noodles with a spicy Lao sauce). Foe and mii can be ordered as soup , dry-mixed in a boor fried , among other variations.

Samsenthai Fried Noodle (Thanon Samsenthai) Most dishes under US$1. Open 10am-9pm Mon-Sat. Samsenthai specializes in large plates of delicious khua foe, with your choice of chicken, pork or shrimp. Order special and the staff will add more green veggies to the mix.

Moey Chin (Than on Samsenthai) Dishes US$1-2. Open 10am-2pm & 5pm-10pm Men-Sat. A few doors west, on the comer of Thanon Chao Anou, this small place has delicious roast duck on rice. There is no English sign.

Guangdong Reslaurant ( 217364, 91- 93 Thanon Chao Anou ) Dishes US$1.50-3. Open noon-9pm daily. The spotlessly clean, air-con Guangdong offers a few varieties of inexpensive dim sum, fresh mii, and a 70-item menu of various Chinese specialties.

One of our favorite Lao-Vietnamese noodle dishes is khao piak sen. a bowl of toothy, round rice noodles served in chicken broth with' strips of chicken. The best place in central Vientiane to sample this delight is from a sidewalk khao piak sen vendor on the eastern side of Thanon Pangkham about midway between Thanon Samsenthai and the Fountain Circle amid a row of tailor shops. 'The scissors standing in the chopsticks jar are used to cut khao-nom khuu into bite-sized pieces to be added to the soup, along with dollops of fresh crushed ginger, chili jam and a possible medley of other condiments found on each table. It's open from around 7am until the noodles run out (usually before noon).

Nang Suli (Lao Chaloen; Thanon Heng 80111I) Dishes US$1.25-3. Open 11am-8pm daily. The popular Nang Suli specializes in barbecued pork meatballsand yaw (spring rolls), usually sold in 'sets' (sut) with khao pun, fresh lettuce leaves, mint, basil, various dipping sauces, sliced stature and green plantain. It also has Lao- style khao pun. There is no English sign.

Vieng Sawan (213990, Thanon Heng 801m) Dishes US$1.25-3. Open iiam-8pm daily. Next door, this place also specializes in naern neuang and yaw. The Vieng Sawan is the better of the two. You can also order sin ja thinly sliced pieces of raw beef which customers boil in small 'cauldrons of coconut juice placed on the table and eat with dipping sauces. There is no English sign.

Several tip pet (roast duck) restaurants can be found along the eastern side of Thanon Khun Bulom towards the river, while farther north on the western side are four foe stands in a row. This is the best area in town for foe, especially at night when it's very busy. At all these eateries, dishes typically cost US$1 or less.

PVO (Thanon Samsenthai ) Dishes US$0.50-1. Open 8am-8pm Mon-Sat. This modest garage-style place serves good, inexpensive Vietnamese and Lao food. Its figureless with pile are especially tasty. Khao Piak Sikho (north side of Thanon Luong Prabang, about 150m past the turnoff for Wattay International Airport) Dishes around US$I. Open 11 am-11.30pm daily. This very casual, warehouse-sized restaurant serves the best khao piak (rice soup) in the city. There is no English or Roman-script sign.

For authentic, cheap Lao meals, Vientiane's night markets and street vendors are your overall best source.

Dong Palan night market (Thanon Ban Fai) Dishes under US$1. Open 5pm-11pm daily. The most extensive market is the Dong Polan, off Thanon Ban Fai (marked as Thanon Dong Palan on some maps), at the back of the Nong Chan ponds near Wat Ban Fai. Vendors sell all the Lao standards, including laap (spicy minced meat salad) and ping kai.

In the central city area, the best ping kai vendors can be found in a spot opposite the Maninyom Supermarket, near the comer of Thanon Khun Bulom and Thanon Heng Boun, from around 5.30pm until around 8pm or 9pm. A set of tables behind the vendors allows you to eat on the premises, though most people do takeaways. Towards the northern end or Thanon Chao Anou, on the right-hand side before it crosses Thanon Khun Bulom, a slightly smaller group of vendors offer slightly less expensive ping kai, along with tam (spicy mortar-ounded salads) made with shredded green papaya or green beans, all for takeaway only.

Thim Manivong (Km 4. Thanon Tha Deua) Dishes under US$I. Usually open late afternoon Men-Sat. If tam maak hung (spicy green papaya salad) is a particular favorite, seek out the stall belonging to Thim Manivong, in front of Wat Phoxai. Thim reputedly makes the best tarn maak hung in Vientiane.

A small, open-air night market of sorts convenes along the high levee beside the Mekong River; look for a string of well- spaced bamboo tables and chairs that begins just west of the Inter Hotel and extends south 100111 or so, Some or the vendors here offer cold beer and sort drinks only, others prepare ping kai, tam maak hung or naem (minced sausage mixed with rice, herbs and roasted chilies with a plate of greens on the side). This is a peaceful spot to watch Mekong sunsets or full moons (some of the vendors stay open late) while enjoying cheap snacks. Nang Bunmala (Thanon Khu Yieng ) Dishes US$1-2. Open 11am-10pm. If you’re looking to eat ping kai with a roof over your head this clean, popular and inexpensive place is your best choice. The chickens cooked here are much plumper than the norm and roasted to perfection. Also available are ping pet (roast duck), ping ( la (grilled fish), tarn maak hung, sticky rice and draught beer.

Along Thanon Fa Ngum, facing the river between Wat Xieng Nyeun and Wat Chanthabuli, is a sprinkling of Lao food shops specializing in laap as well as naem, fried rice and other simple dishes.

Soukvimane Lao Food ( 214441, 89/12 Ball Sisaket) Dishes US$1-2. Open 5pm-9pm Tues-Sun, Serious connoisseurs of Lao food should seek out this restaurant, at the end of an alley next to That Dam off Thanon That Dam. Among the house specialties (which vary from day to day) lire fish soup with ant larvae and spicy minced fish salad,

Nang Khambang (97 Thanon Khun Bulom) Dishes US$1 or less. Open for dinner daily. Another very good place for traditional Lao dishes is the friendly and inexpensive Nang Khambang, in a little house not far from the river. It has a bilingual menu; specialties include kop stuffed frogs, roast quail, ping paa, pickled lettuce, beef or chicken laap and yam sin ngua (spicy beef salad).

Klla Lao (215777, 111 Thanon Samsenthai) Dishes US$2-5. Open for lunch & dinner daily. Compared to the Nang Khambang, this place seems tame and pricey, though the food is quite OK. Housed in a large renovated French colonial mansion on the corner of Thanon Chanta Khurnman, the menu consists of a mix of Lao and Thai standards, which makes it popular among Thai tourists.

Khob chai Deu Food Garden (223022. 54 Thanon Setthathilat ) Dishes U5$1.50-4. Open noon-II.30pm daily. This restaurant fills a patio in front of a crumbling but beautiful old French colonial 'house near the Fountain Circle. The menu is mostly Lao, with an emphasis on grilled foods, but there are also a few Thai and falling dishes available, along with draught Beerlao. The ambience here is very nice in the evening with lights washing over the facade of the old mansion. Inside the house is a wine bar. Service can be slow when it's busy. Western The number of restaurants and cafes serving Western food continues to grow as Laos be - comes the darling of the aid-and-development set. Most are quite expensive by local standards but good value compared with continental cuisine just about anywhere else in the world.

Restaurant Santisouk (see Breakfasts earlier) Dishes US$-4. At the cheap end of the spectrum and of particularly good value is Santisouk, on the ground floor of Santisouk Guest House. Although the bland, slightly tatty decor does nothing to engage the senses the cuisine is of the simple 'French grill' type and quite tasty. A filling plate of steak or filet mignon served on a sizzling platter - or filleted fish or roast chicken with roast potatoes and vegetables costs less than US$4.

Le Silapa (219689. 17/1 Thanon Sihom) Dishes US$3.25-10. Open 11.30am- 2pm & 6pm-lOpm Mon-Sat. Superb decor and French cuisine to match make this the capital's top choice for falling dining. Sample dishes from the changing menu include salmon steak in a red wine and grilled shallots sauce, aborigine stuffed with goat cheese, leg of lamb with a rosemary and garlic comfit and duck breast with kathiep flower sauce. For every bottle of wine opened, the restaurant contributes to a medical fund for economically disadvantaged children.

Surrounding Fountain Circle is a virtual French gourmet ghetto harboring the following three French eateries.

Restaurant-Bar Namphu ( 216248. Fountain Circle) Dishes US$3-10. Open 11 am-3pm & 6pm, 11.30pm daily. Popular with diplomats, UN staff and other expats on large salaries is the intimate and taste-fully decorated Restaurant-Bar Narnphu. The food and service are impeccable and the menu includes a number of German and Lao dishes as well as French - the popular blue-cheese hamburger adds an American touch; there's also a well-stocked bar.

La Cave de Chateaux (Fountain Circle) Dishes US$2-5. Open llam-11.30pm daily. Tucked away in a small space just north of Restaurant-Bar Namphu, this relatively new
arrival features tapas, paella, French Provencal-style entrees, salads, deli items and French cheeses and wines.

Restaurant Le Provencal (216248 mobile 020-513160. Fountain Circle) Dishes US$2-6. Open Il.30am-2pm & 6.30pm-10pm Mon-Sat. Le Provencal, nicely decorated in brick and wood, serves complimentary appetizers to start things off; there's a good French wine list and a fully stocked bar. The cuisine tends towards the more rustic southern French style with dishes such as salade nicoise and poulet mourarde, along with various daily specials.

Le Cote D'Azur Restaurant (217252, 62- 63 Thanon Fa Ngum) Dishes US$2-4.Open 11am -11pm daily. This relatively new restaurant has an inviting country- French decor, and specializes in French pate and provincial cuisine. The menu also features salads, pizzas and pastas. There's a simple wine list.

Le Vendiime (216402. Thanon Wat In Paeng] Dishes US$2-5. Open lunch & dinner Mon-Fri, dinner only Sat-Sun. This cosy, French-owned restaurant is tucked away in an old house on a small street behind Wat In Paeng. It has a very pleasant candlelit, bam-boo-curtained outdoor seating area plus an air-con indoor section. The menu offers a selection of salads, French and Lao food, wood-fired pizza and desserts.

La Terrasse (218550. Thanon Nokeo Khumman) Dishes US$1.50-4. Open 11am - 2,30pm & 6pm-10.30pm daily. French-owned La Terrace serves soups, omelet’s. sandwiches, salads, quiche and barbecued seafood, plus Tex-Mex rood (burritos, tacos, nachos, enchiladas), pizzas and vegetarian, fish or chicken burgers in a garden setting.

Le Safran (215626, 43 Thanon Nokeo Khumman} Dishes US$1.50-4. OpenIlam-3pm & 6pm-IO.30pm daily. A little closer to the river, this is similar in ambience to La Terrace but more is focused on French cuisine.

L'Opera Italian Restaurant (215099, Fountain Circle) US$2-6. Open 11.30am-2pll1 & 6pm-10pm daily. Opposite the Restaurant-Oar Namphu is the city's oldest and most popular Italian eatery, a branch of an eponymous restaurant in Bangkok. The menu includes pizzas (served with fresh ground chili and oregano on the side), pasta, antipasti, seafood and salads, plus a selection of Italian coffees and wines. Big spenders are occasionally offered complimentary liqueurs. The gelati bar offers takeaway.

Lo Stivale Deli Cafe (215651, 4412 Thanon Setthathilat ) US$2.S0-8. -Open 10am-10pm daily. This deli-cafe makes possibly the best pizza and gnocchi in town. An array or pasta dishes, soups, salads, coffees, wines and tasty desserts, including home-made ice cream, are also available. The prices are a bit higher than is normal for Vientiane. Credit cards arc accepted.

Alexa (Thanon Fa Ngum ) Dishes US$2- Open 10am-11pm Tues-Sun. This popular, French-owned eatery keeps it simple, offering only spaghetti and four kinds or pizza, all quite good.

International Xang Bar & Cafe
(22 3173, 32 Thanon Khun Bulom) Dishes US$1.50-3. Open 10am-10pm daily. Xang, towards the river, takes the prize for the most innovative restaurant decor with its vibrant co lour scheme and vaguely Tex-Mex theme. There's outdoor seating in front of the restaurant. The menu covers a broad range of light international rare, European and American breakfasts, burgers sandwiches, salads, ice cream pastries, espresso coffee drinks, fruit juices and cocktails. Lots of English- language magazines and newspapers including the Bangkok Post- are available to read, and an upstairs room features a TV tuned to CNN or BBC when there's not a video running. Sunday night is movie night at 7.30pm, and admission is free for eating/ drinking customers. Backgammon and chess sets are also available. Xayoh Cultural Hall Cafe (mobile 020- 521447, Thanon Samsenthai) Dishes US$1.15-4. Open 10am-11.30pm daily. This new, well-decorated and softly lit bistro opposite the Lao National Culture Hall offers an extensive menu or European dishes sandwiches, pizza and some Thai. The fully stocked bar serves draught Beerlao, Sabaidee Restaurant (Thanon Setthathilat ) Dishes US$1-2. Open 7am-11pm daily. Run by the Lao Association of Journalists. the menu here features baguettes, fruit salads, novelettes, sandwiches and fried chicken as well as European, Thai and Lao dishes. The location can be a bit noisy from traffic. Europe Restaurant (n/fax 416598 , 150 Ball Dong Palan Thong) Dishes US$3-8. Open for lunch & dinner daily. This attachment to the Soradith Guest House (near the Dong Palan night market) has a changing menu offering the full range of Swiss cuisine with German, French and Italian influences.

With all the Thais visiting Vientiane for business and pleasure these days, Thai restaurants are not uncommon.

Phikun (Thanon Samsenthai) Dishes US$0.50-1. Open 11arn-9pm daily. Near the Lao National History Museum, the Phikun displays all the Thai standards, including prawn and lemon grass soup and chicken fried in holy basil, in pans lined up in a glass case. The curries - something you don't see much of in Lao cuisine - are good here. The English sign reads 'Thai Food'. A second branch of the Phikun can be found on Thanon Sihorn, near the Thai Military Bank just west of Thanon Khun Bulom.

Sudaphon Thai Food (Soudaphone; 214283, 17/2-3 Thanon Chao Anou) Dishes US$0.50-1. Open 11am-8pm Mon- Sat. Like Phikun, the Thai food here is laid out in pans for you to choose from.

My Choice Restaurant & Bakery (214500,96 Thanon Setthathilat) Dishes US$1-2. Open Ilam-8pm daily. My Choice serves Thai food and features many kinds of curries. There's also a bakery here and some outdoor seating.

Vientiane Department Store (Talat Sao on Thanon Samsenthai) Dishes US$0.50 -1. Open 10.30am-6pm daily. Part of Talat Sao (Morning Market), this department store as a small but very popular food centre with an extensive variety of Thai, Lao and Western dishes.

Nazim Restaurant (223480, 335 Thanon Fa Ngum) Dishes $0.75-2. Open 11 am- 11pm daily.

The large menu here features mostly North Indian dishes such as tandoori chicken, along with a few spicier items from South India such as masala dosa (lentil-and-rice-flour crepe stuffed with spiced vegetables), plus Malaysian specialties. Though not completely consistent, the food quality is more up than down.

Sakura Japanese Restaurant (212274, Soi 3 Khounta Thong) Dishes US$2-6. Open noon-lOpm daily. Off Thanon Luang Prabang near the Novotel, Sakura serves good Japanese cuisine, including sushi and teishokus.

Fujiwara Restaurant (222210, 002/1 Thanon Luang Prabang ) Dishes US$2-6. Open 11.30am-9.30pm daily. West of the Shell petrol station, this restaurant has a menu similar to Sakura's.

Vegetarianism hasn't caught on in Laos as much as it has in Thailand, but there are a couple of decent places.

Just for fun (213642, 51/2 Thanon Pangkhum ) Dishes US$1-3. Open 9am- 10pm Mon-Sat. This small shop opposite the Lao Aviation office has a few vegetarian dishes inspired by Thai, Lao and Indian cuisine, pi us Lao coffee and lots of herbal teas.

Nai Xiang Chai Yene (Thanon Chao Pangkham) Dishes under US$1. Open 9am-7pm daily. For fresh fruit shakes - solo or mixed - one of the best and least expensive places is Nai Xiang Chai. Yene, just a few shops down from the Liang Xiang and Sweet Home bakeries.

Beer Gardens
Vientiane abounds in casual outdoor places built of bamboo and thatch where patrons while away the hours drinking beer and eating traditional snacks, or kap kaem.

A lengthy string of tiny, bamboo-thatch places right on the river can be found in the vicinity of the River View Hotel.

Sala Khounta (Sala Sunset; on the river) Dishes US$0.50-1.50. Open from around 4pm until after sunset daily. One of the most venerable options, and the one with the best sunset views, sits at the northern- most end of the string, about 120m upstream from the River View. It's basically a small bamboo platform over the Mekong, decorated with orchids, fish traps and .basketry. Beerlao is the main attraction, but the friendly and enterprising proprietors also offer an array of Lao and Vietnamese snacks that vary from week to week or season’ to season. Savoury yaw jeun (fried Vietnamese spring rolls) - sliced into sections and served with khao pun, lettuce, mint, coriander and steamed mango leaves - sell out fast here, The Sala Khounta usually closes after sunset, though it may stay open longer in hot weather.

VIP Riverside Restaurant (215809, on the river) Dishes US$1.50-3. Open 5pm- 10pm nightly. About 100m south-east of Sala Khounta, this slightly more up market bamboo-thatch affair serves the best Lao food on the river, along with a delicious seafood su-kii, the Thai-Lao version of sukiyaki. Moving farther south-east, Phongsavanli specializes in ping paa and tart and spicy minced fish salad. Several riverside places nearby serve .draught Beerlao and continuous Thai and Lao pop music for a young Lao crowd; particularly popular are Sanesai Khong and Mekollg Riverside (Sala Khaem Khong}.

Namphou Garden (2/6775. Fountain Circle). Dishes US$1-3. Open 4pm-11 pm daily. Right in the centre of town stands the Croatian-owned Namphou Garden, a set of tables and chairs encircling the renovated fountain (lit with colored lights in the evening) where you can get Lao, European and Indian food, beer and cocktails. When the weather's hot, this place draws patrons seeking the cooling effects of the large fountain.

Salakham Beer Garden (812045, Km 12 Thanon Tha Deua) Snacks under US$1, Open noon- 7pm daily. South-east of town, the Lao Government Brewery has its own thatched beer garden where you can drink inexpensive Lao draught beer (bia sot, literally fresh beer - and it doesn't get any fresher than this) and eat Lao snacks.

For the largest selection of fresh groceries and the best prices, you should stick to the markets (see Shopping later in this chapter). But if there's something 'Western' you're yearning for, an increasing number of mini- markets cater to the foreign community.

Phimphone Market (222647, Cnr Thanon Samsenthai & Thanon Chanta Khumman ) Open 7.30am-10pm daily. Among the most popular is this shop attached to the Hotel Ekalath Metropole. Phimphone carries an expensive selection of biscuits, canned and frozen/foods as well as toiletries.

Phimphone Minimart (94/6 Thanon Samsenthai ) Open 7.30am-10pm daily. The original but smaller Phimphone Minimart, across the street, is still open.

Maninyom Supermarket (Maningom; 216050, Cnr Thanon Heng Boun & Thanon Khun Bulom) Open 7.30am- 9.30pm daily. Maninyom carries dairy products, breakfast cereals, biscuits, canned foods and imported chocolate.

Simuang Minimart (214295, 51 Thanon Samsenthai ) Open 9am-9pm, Mon- Sat. Simuang, near the statue of King Sisavang Vong at Wat Si Muang, stocks a very good selection of imported foods and wines, and credit cards are accepted.

Vinotheque la Cave (217700, 354 Thanon Samsenthai ) Open 10am-10pm daily. Almost opposite the Asian Pavilion Hotel, this has' one of the best French wine cellars in South-East Asia.

Vientiane Department Store (Thanon Samsenthai ) Open 10 am-6pm daily. In a modern building at the Talat Sao, the Vientiane Department Store stocks imported Asian goods (canned foods. clothes, appliances. handicrafts. cassette tapes) from Thailand, China, Vietnam and Singapore. It features a small supermarket that sells soap, local and imported foodstuffs and beer. Some departments now accept Visa cards

  • Vientiane offers a wide variety of cafes street vendors, beer gardens and restaurants serving everything from rice noodles to filet mignon. Breakfast Most of...

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