Luang Prabang offers so much these days for travelers to experience, especially in the food department. We love feasting on local cuisine and seeking out unique eating experiences. We left Luang Prabang with full bellies and warm souls. Here were our top five favorite meals in Luang Prabang.
Prashaniyom Coffee or ร้านกาแฟประชานิยม (on Google Maps)
There’s something special about eating the local cuisine amongst locals. When the bar counter is sticky, bowls of fried dough shuffle back and forth to new customers, and scruffy old Lao men occupy half the bar– you know you’re in the right place. The best way to start your day is with a cup of hot, dark Lao coffee and a steaming bowl of khao piak khao, rice soup. Khao piak khao is similar to Thailand’s khao tom, made with minced pork, crisped garlic, cilantro, sometimes a fresh vegetable, like mushrooms and of course rice. On top of the unbeatable no-frills local experience, this place stands out because they serve their khao piak khao with fried dough (seriously, when else do you get to eat fried dough for breakfast?!) and strong black Lao coffee (ask for it black if you don’t want the sugary milk custard in it). You’ll find this local joint at the end of Kitsalat Road on the southwest corner when the road runs into the Mekong River road, Khem Khong Road.
Riverside Barbecue Restaurant
Sindad, Lao Barbecue is similar to Korean hot pot or Japanese shabu shabu, as you get to cook your own food right on your table. Each table comes equipped with a small coal heating device with a metal egg-shaped grill for you to cook your meats on. While you can eat sindad at a number of places around Luang Prabang, Riverside Barbeque Restaurant (Google Maps name) stands out because it’s all you can eat, they have a great spread of meats, vegetables, and noodles and they have the best location. On Khem Kong Road, they have two levels of seating with prime Mekong River views. For a set price of 60,000 Kip, currently $7.50, no one leaves without a full belly.
You would never know that this is a vocational training restaurant without paying close attention to the servers and their teachers. Khaiphaen is part of the TREE Alliance (Training Restaurants for Employment and Entrepreneurship), which helps give marginalized youth an opportunity to work and learn skills in the restaurant and hospitality industry. The food was some of the best local food we had while in Luang Prabang. By eating here and interacting with our student waitress and other staff members we felt like we were giving a little back to the people of Laos. Khaiphaen is the Laos word for the popular crispy Mekong River weed snack, which you will find on their menu. We were a bit hesitant to try it at first, but it we are glad we did- it’s delicious! The restaurant is relaxed, casual, and warm. It is located right in the middle of town and is “a must” for lunch or dinner while you’re in Luang Prabang.
Lao Lao Garden
Because the restaurant was built into the side of a hill and the tables are each situated in their own nook, you often feel like you have the restaurant to yourself. This unique terraced restaurant serves both eastern and western style food. The best part about this place is that they have a budget conscience section of their menu. Plus they have some awesome Lao-style barbecue, sindad. Lao Lao Garden has a sleepy, relaxing feel during the day, which makes for a decent place to work off their wifi as you watch the place slowly comes to life at night.
Opera House Restaurant/Bar
Trying to choose a place to eat dinner while walking down Sisavangvong Road (main street) may be tough as there are so many options. If you’re in the mood for pizza and people watching, we recommend Opera House. It’s location and tiered seating right in front of the sidewalk make it a prime place to watch the droves of people stroll by on their way to the night market. And who knew you could get good pizza in the middle of South East Asia? Oh and red wine? They have a decent happy hour menu offering with discounts on drinks and pizza. Try to snag one of the tables in the front and enjoy watching the center of Luang Prabang come to life.