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Luang Prabang Dining

Traditional Lao Cooking
Luang Prabang Dining
Incredibly varied, Luang Prabang’s dining scene ranges from simple street food and cool coffee shops to hip cocktail bars and beautifully designed restaurants serving local dishes.
Photo by Justin Lancy
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    Traditional Lao Cooking
    Traditional Lao Cooking
    For an excellent introduction to Lao cuisine, head to Tamarind, where you can enjoy a delicious tasting menu of Luang Prabang specialties. Signature dishes include fish cooked in banana leaf, lemongrass-stuffed chicken, and an assortment of dipping jeow. Near Sakkaline Road, 3 Nagas also serves traditional Lao fare as well as more modern things like spicy tom yum cocktails. If you want to end your day of exploring in local style, go straight to the balcony at Tamnak Lao and order a Beerlao, some orlarm (stew), and fried morning glory.
    Photo by Justin Lancy
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    Lao Fusion
    Lao Fusion
    Nowhere is Luang Prabang’s cultural diversity on greater display than at the city’s restaurants. At Blue Lagoon near the Night Market, Swiss-trained chef Somsack Sengta cooks Lao and European cuisine with equal aplomb, offering local specialties like papaya salad alongside cheese-rich Swiss dishes. French restaurateurs Thibault Josse and Marie-Odile Clavel take a different approach at Tangor, working Lao ingredients into international fare and serving it all in a vintage Indo-Chinese atmosphere. Try the ceviche, marinated in olive oil with lime, lemongrass, and mint, and be sure to save room for the chocolate lava cake.
    Photo courtesy of Blue Lagoon Restaurant
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    Echoes of the French
    Echoes of the French
    Luang Prabang was part of a Franco–Indo-Chinese protectorate until 1954, a fact that’s evident in the city’s colonial architecture as well as its large number of French restaurants. If you’re looking for fresh croissants or pain au chocolat in the morning, check out Le Banneton Café, a patisserie on Sakkaline Road across from Wat Sop Sickharam. On the opposite corner from Wat Nong, you can get traditional French cuisine like frog’s legs and coq au vin at the elegant Restaurant l’Eléphant. For something more casual, try Couleur Café, which serves authentic bistro fare in a riverside setting.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Local Secrets
    Local Secrets
    For an authentic dining experience, head to the off-the-radar restaurants favored by local Lao people and expats. In keeping with its name, Secret Pizza is hidden down an unpaved road outside of the Peninsula and open only a few days per week—most tuk-tuk drivers know the details. Owner and Milan native Andreas Cassini built a brick oven in his backyard and intended to cook for family and friends but ended up opening to the public once word got out about his imported Italian meats and cheeses. Another local favorite is tiny Rosella Fusion, which offers Lao dishes like laap (a kind of minced-meat salad) alongside European-style fare like bruschetta.
    Photo by Justin Lancy
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    Eating Outdoors
    Eating Outdoors
    Since it’s generally warm in Luang Prabang, most restaurants have at least some outdoor seating. In the heart of the Sisavangvong Road strip, Coconut Garden serves a mix of local and international fare in two large garden areas, making it perfect for big groups. For something a little more elegant, The Terrace at Burasari Heritage offers excellent Lao and Thai cuisine on a deck overlooking the Nam Khan River, while Manda de Laos has tables surrounded by beautiful lotus ponds. On both the Nam Khan and Mekong sides of the river, you’ll also find a number of hot pot–style barbecue restaurants called sindad, where you can cook your own food while enjoying water views.
    Photo courtesy of Mr. Zupachai Laokunrak
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    Fine Dining
    Fine Dining
    While most restaurants in Luang Prabang are informal, fine dining does exist here, primarily at upscale hotels. La Belle Époque at the Luang Say Residence is perhaps the most sophisticated option, with signature dishes like foie gras risotto and kalee ped (Lao duck red curry) made from ingredients grown in the hotel’s organic garden. After you finish eating, sink into one of the leather couches in the adjoining 1861 Bar and enjoy a digestif. Also worth visiting is the poolside Phou Savanh at Belmond La Résidence Phou Vao, which offers views of Phousi Hill alongside a unique blend of Lao and Western dishes. The smoked chicken bruschetta and the pet yang makham (crispy-skinned duck with tamarind) are particular highlights.
    Photo courtesy of Belmond
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    Cafés of Luang Prabang
    Cafés of Luang Prabang
    While coffee culture is a fairly new thing in Luang Prabang, there are a growing number of cafés where you can enjoy a cup of joe. Joma Bakery Café features two locations (one near the Night Market and one on the Nam Khan) and a wide variety of drinks, sandwiches, and snacks, while Saffron Coffee’s Espresso, Brew Bar & Roastery uses beans grown and roasted in Laos. Also worth trying is Le Café Ban Vat Sene, where you can enjoy Lao coffee and snacks at a streetside table, and Café do Laos, which offers premium coffees and a fine selection of teas.
    Photo by Justin Lancy
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    Street Food
    Street Food
    When in Laos, one must try the street food. There are rich pickings within a short walk of almost any location in the main part of Luang Prabang, from fish and meat on sticks to shakes and smoothies for washing it all down. For the greatest selection, however, hit the Night and Morning Market areas. There, you’ll find crepes, dumplings, papaya salads, bags of roasted peanuts with garlic or chili, and sweet kanom krok (coconut pancakes). In the evening, an alley off the Night Market near the Royal Museum turns into a sort of dining hall, complete with food stalls and tables with benches.
    Photo by Justin Lancy
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    After Dark
    After Dark
    While Luang Prabang isn’t known for its nightlife, there are a few places to grab a drink before the city’s 11:30 p.m. curfew. Icon Klub is the rare sort of hangout that’s recommended by both expats and tourists. Run by Hungarian artist Lisa Vongsaravanh, it’s a mix between a European-style bar and an art project, with creative cocktails and patrons playing guitar or reciting poetry. For something more mainstream, try Opera House, which offers wine, cocktails, and tapas on Sisavangvong Road. Dao Fah serves as the main spot for locals, as it's located slightly out of town, has DJs, and stays open long after the official curfew, while 525 is the most stylish spot in town, with a wide range of cocktails, great food, and chic decor.
    Photo courtesy of Icon Klub