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Lao cuisine is very similar to its Thai and Vietnamese neighbor's, and meals of spicy soup, sticky rice and chicken or laab are favorites with locals. Noodle shops can be found all over the town. They typically serve Vietnamese-type noodle soups, fried rice and other rice- or noodle-based dishes. Prices are very moderate—around $1 USD for a large bowl or plate. It is advisable to eat in places where there are many customers, as the food is likely to be good and fresh.
For Western food, the Scandinavian Bakery is almost an institution in Vientiane and is particularly busy at breakfast and lunch. The small terrace outside is a lovely place to sit and watch the world go by.
Ban Anou Night Market is only about one block long and starts setting up at sundown, but it has some of the best cheap eats in town. There's a wide range of street snacks available, including pho, little lettuce-wrapped snacks with peanut filling, all types of grilled skewered meats, grilled sticky rice and more.
Dozens of unpretentious restaurants and beer gardens are strung along the Mekong River for approximately two kilometers. All are pleasant places to enjoy a beer and a snack or a complete meal while watching the sun go down over the river. One such place is the Sunset Bar, which is popular with expats and tourists.
There are also some good restaurants in the city. Nazim Indian Restaurant on the Mekong River road has decent Indian food, as does the Taj Mahal Restaurant, just south of the National Culture Hall. Lao Garden, two kilometers east on Tha Deua Road, has decent Lao, Thai and Western food in a charming environment. It is very popular with locals and has a great view of the river. Café Indochine, on Thanon Setthathirat, serves authentic Vietnamese food.
Le Nadao, opposite the Patuxai park, has excellent classical French fare with main courses starting at $8 USD. This is probably the best restaurant in Vientiane, and booking is recommended. Amphone on Setthathirath Road is another excellent place for Lao food. The outdoor courtyard is extremely atmospheric. Australian-owned Sticky Fingers is the place for a casual Western lunch or evening drink. It has a good selection of vegetarian options.
The area around Nam Phu (the fountain) has the highest concentration of restaurants. Khop Chai Deu, meaning "thank you" in Lao, serves Lao, Chinese and Indian food and is set in an old French colonial villa that has been renovated and carefully preserved to retain its charm and beauty. L'Opera has good Italian food and pizzas. Le Provençal has French fare, excellent pizzas and so-so steaks.