HOUReview

photo credit: Liz Silva

restaurant interior with gray metal chairs and tables and framed black and white photos
8.6

Sao Lao Thai Cafe

ThaiLao

Northside

$$$$Perfect For:First/Early in the Game DatesImpressing Out of TownersLunchBYOB
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We can’t say for certain why the image painted on the exterior of Sao Lao Thai Cafe on the North side depicts a ponytail on fire. That said, it’s definitely an indication of the way this spot tickles your brain. Everything about dining at this BYOB Northside spot feels special, from the doting staff that treats everyone like a beloved family member, to the flavorful food that’s full of texture and color.

The small dining room is part counter-service country cafe and part new wave beach resort restaurant—Thai tea arrives in giant mason jars and the space is full of black-and-white travel photos. Sao Lao’s portions are massive, with wide bowls of silken red curry with ribeye and eggplant, and mounds of nam khao with thick lettuce leaves perfect for scooping up every crispy bit of crispy rice, tripe and pork.

Sao Lao feels pretty casual, the food and attentive service are why you’re here. Plus, it’s open for lunch and dinner, so swing in for a mid-day pit stop, a chill date, or an evening to celebrate yourself—just remember to grab a bottle of riesling on the way.

multiple plates of colorful thai food, rice, curry, and soup on a table

photo credit: Liz Silva

white square building with a sign reading sao lao thai cafe

photo credit: Liz Silva

restaurant interior with gray metal chairs and tables and framed black and white photos

photo credit: Liz Silva

bright pation with black and wood tables and chairs and potted plants

photo credit: Liz Silva

multiple plates of colorful thai food, rice, curry, and soup on a table
white square building with a sign reading sao lao thai cafe
restaurant interior with gray metal chairs and tables and framed black and white photos
bright pation with black and wood tables and chairs and potted plants

Food Rundown

sliced thai sausage links with a side of sauce and sticky rice

photo credit: Liz Silva

Lao Sausage

Crispy, funky, and full of pork, a.k.a. everything you want a sausage to be. Grab a little bit of sticky rice and dunk everything in the tangy sauce on the side.

large bowl of crisy rice thai nam kaho with crispy pork and small dried red chiles on a bed of lettuce

photo credit: Liz Silva

Nam Khao

This giant bowl of crispy rice, pork, and silky tripe is something we would launch ourselves into Olympic high dive-style were that appropriate. It’s sweet, tangy, and acidic funk we cannot stop ourselves from inhaling.

minced thai beef laab salab with sliced purple cabbage and cucumber rounds

photo credit: Liz Silva

Filet Mignon Beef Laab

This dish is all texture and spice. Sao Lao’s laab leans heavily on herbs and chili flakes, making it more salad than its other laabs in general. We also like the crunchy red cabbage on the side.

large bowl of crisy rice thai nam kaho with crispy pork and small dried red chiles on a bed of lettuce

photo credit: Liz Silva

Lao Chicken Noodle Soup

We submit this as the official chicken soup for the soul, especially if your soul is a murky pit of cynicism and half-empty energy drinks. The soup’s rich, silky broth plus squishy vermicelli noodles and surprise hard-boiled quail eggs are hardy, comforting, and aura cleansing.

bowl of orange-red thai curry with sliced ribeye, eggplant, and white rice

photo credit: Liz Silva

Thai Red Curry

Doused with coconut milk, the color of Sao Lao’s red curry is striking, kind of like a serene desert sunset and/or Pantone’s next color of the year. Or maybe we just stared at it too long before spooning up the curry’s tender bits of filet and eggplant with rice.

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FOOD RUNDOWN

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