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Vientiane Cafe in Oakland for Lao?

I've tried just about every Lao/Thai restaurant in East Oakland at least twice and I'd say that Vientiane is just as good if not better than Champa Gardens. Plus, it's cheaper and more consistent. Try the Nam Kao (sour sausage and crispy rice salad). My other go-to place for Lao/Thai is Chai Thai Noodle. You can't go wrong with the Chiangmai noodles.

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Champa Garden
2102 8th Ave, Oakland, CA 94606

Chai Thai Noodles
545 B International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94606

Favorite Dishes at Bay Area Lao Restaurants [Split from San Pablo: That Luang Kitchen thread]

Don't forget fairly new Black & Silver Laos Food & Burger around 20th Ave & International Blvd in the San Antonio district of Oakland. We went there for the first time a month ago and thought the food was just as good and just a tad cheaper than Vientian Cafe and Green Papaya Deli. I really hope this business survives. The best thing to order is the chicken feet salad. But I'd call in advance to check that they are open and that they have chicken feet in stock.

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Vientian Cafe
3801 Allendale Ave, Oakland, CA 94619

Green Papaya Deli
207 International Blvd (at 2nd ave, Oakland, CA

Black and Silver – Laos Food and Burgers (Oakland)

When we went, for the first time, sometime in June 2010, they had taken the chicken feet salad off the menu because not enough people were ordering it. Luckily, they had enough for one more serving and made us a batch. It was so good. The boneless chicken feet was tossed with crunchy snow fungus and it was the perfect combination of sour, sweet and salty. I hope enough people ask for it that they put it back on the menu.

The Nam Khao (crispy rice salad with sausage) and the Lao style Papaya Salad were excellent too. We've had these items at Vientian Cafe, Green Papaya Deli, Chai Thai Noodle and Champa Garden and we thought Black & Silver's rendition was right up there.

I also ordered the barbecued duck heads and the rice flour noodles in tamarind soup, which were fun to try but I wouldn't make those regular orders. I'm not sure how the barbecued duck heads are supposed to taste since I'm not Lao but the duck heads were kinda dry and a little bitter. The chunky flour noodles in tamarind soup were pretty mushy. They may be authentic but just not my style.

A small dish of fishy, garlicky chili paste came with one of our orders and that paste was made in house. It was absolutely delicious. We wanted to buy a jar from her. The owner said that she sells it at the nearby Lao international market (also on International Blvd).

The prices are dirt cheap. I'm talking less than $6.50 for almost every item. Last note: the hours are a little sporadic. I would try calling first just to make sure they are open before making the trip out there.

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Champa Garden
2102 8th Ave, Oakland, CA 94606

Vientian Cafe
3801 Allendale Ave, Oakland, CA 94619

Green Papaya Deli
207 International Blvd (at 2nd ave, Oakland, CA

Chai Thai Noodles
545 B International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94606

Black & Silver Laos Food & Burger
1927 International Boulevard, Oakland, CA 94606

Casual fish market selling boiled or fried seafood?

When I lived in Washington, DC, I used to enjoy going to this fish market on the waterfront close to L'Enfant Plaza. That fish market was one of the few redeeming aspects of living in DC. They sold fresh fish off the boats in these open market stalls and several of the stalls would also cook your purchase any way you'd like it. Refreshingly, the tourists didn't touched it.

They'd regularly have boiled crab, shrimp, and fried fish that they'd sell to you in brown paper bags or styrofoam containers with a couple packages of hot sauce. It was by no means a classy joint - but it was cheap and fun. People would just find a spot on the pier and dig in with their hands.

Are there any places like that in the Bay Area? Or even an hour's drive away? I live close to the Tokyo Fish Market in Albany/Berkeley but it's not the same.

-Tara

Where to buy saffron in DC or VA

If you're not looking for high quality saffron, Trader Joe's has small jars for $2.99. I use saffron occasionally in curries and rice dishes and that works well enough for me.