Luang Prabang has its own very distinctive style of cuisine and there are many places in Luang Prabang that can demonstrate just how rich that tradition is. Some are very expensive by Lao standards but are also incredibly good, often combining northern Lao tradition with that of France. New upmarket bistros, many run by foreign restaurateurs, have added to the culinary diversity of little Luang Prabang. There are also very modestly priced places (our favorites are along the Mekong itself), where you can sample the famous Luang Prabang sausage, the delicious fermented fish stew, and many other Lao culinary concoctions. Whatever your cuisine of choice, dining in this sleepy northern burg is a delight.
Inexpensive -- For good eats and the company of many fellow travelers, don't miss what we've called "restaurant row" (it's hard to miss on any trip to Luang Prabang). It is the only place in town alive past 9pm, though it quickly dies at 11pm. If restaurants are empty, it may close earlier. This fun, affordable place is great for exploring -- almost like a Khao San Road.
Baguettes Near Wat Phousi -- At the midtown end of Sisavangvong Road, just in front of Wat Phousi near the Hmong Market, is a series of stalls selling delicious baguette sandwiches (baguette being khao ji in Lao). They are served with a variety of fillings, and plenty of healthy salad and mayo. The ladies assembling these delights are utterly charming, but they will likely ask you to pay a steep 15,000 kip. If you point out that anywhere else in the country the same thing would cost 8,000 kip, they'll skip down ever so swiftly to 10,000 kip with an unabashed "you got me there" smile. The stalls are open daily from 8am to 9pm.
Snacks & Cafés
For atmosphere, there is nowhere better than L'Etranger Books & Tea (tel. 020/537-7826; firstname.lastname@example.org), in Ban Vat Aphay on the back side of Mount Phousi (the opposite side from the main street and royal palace) near the Nam Khan River. The friendly Canadian owners are full of good advice and lend books from their downstairs collection. Have a pot of tea or a cocktail (don't miss the lao-lao margarita) in their atmospheric upstairs teahouse and gallery; it's also a good place on a steamy afternoon to relax on the floor against a cozy Lao cushion while perusing one of the old National Geographic magazines. Young travelers descend for the films, played each day at 4 and 7pm.
A popular restaurant on "restaurant row," the Luang Prabang Bakery, 11/7 Sisavangvong Rd. (tel. 071/212-617), serves some good pizza as well as a host of baked goods, plus has an extensive collection of books. Farther east, the Scandinavian Bakery, 52/6 Sisavangvong (tel. 071/252-223), and chic, air-conditioned Joma (tel. 071/252-292) both serve similar fine coffee and baked goods.
The same team of expats who run L'Elephant own Le Café Ban Wat Sene (tel. 071/252-482), an atmospheric, open-air space. Their desserts and coffee are excellent, as are their light lunch specials of sandwiches and salads. They also offer wireless Internet access. Find them just across from the elementary school.
The best place in town for authentic French crepes, savory or sweet, is Dao Fa, on Sisavangvong Road (tel. 071/252-656), also a good spot for people-watching. It has excellent Mediterranean entrees and homemade pastas cooked to order, too.
Vegetarians should be on the lookout for the side-street buffets by the Night Market, along Photisarath Road. Only 5,000 kip gets you a bowl and all the nonmeaty goodness you can handle.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.