Vientiane Cafe, a Laotian-Thai restaurant that started out in the owners’ West Philly backyard, is expanding to Kensington this week. Vientiane Bistro opens September 13 at 2537 Kensington Avenue, next to popular neighborhood pho joints Cafe Pho Ga Thanh Thanh and Thang Long.
The original Vientiane began as a makeshift restaurant set under a big blue tent next to Daovy Phanthavong’s house. In 2002, after the eatery proved too popular for the space and its unlicensed status became an issue, Phanthavong and her family relocated it to its current location at 47th and Baltimore. Daughter Sunny Phanthavong now runs the restaurant.
The family is from Laos but, as is the case at many Lao eateries in the U.S., Vientiane serves Thai dishes as well. The restaurant is also known for its annual Adventurous Eats dinner, a multi-course meal made up of traditional dishes not usually seen around here, like silkworm omelets, fertilized duck eggs, and bamboo stew with ant larvae.
Kensington Avenue’s Vientiane Bistro will have a similar menu as the original — the spring rolls, curries, and noodle dishes, not the silkworms and ants. The menus at both restaurants include Lao classics, like grilled stuffed sausages, laab, deep-fried catfish, and a stew with bamboo shoots, pumpkin, and mushrooms.
Vientiane Bistro also looks similar to the West Philly location, which has a laid-back, comfortable vibe. Both have a BYOB policy and only take cash.
After the bistro is up and running later this week, the hours will be Monday through Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Over the summer, two other Laotian restaurants opened across town in South Philly: Laos Cafe is on West Passyunk, in the former Grubhouse space, and Maliwan, serving a Lao-Thai mix, is in Khmer Kitchen’s old spot at 1700 S. 6th Street.