There are plenty of Thai and Vietnamese restaurants in Atlanta, but only a few Laotian spots. Laos is sandwiched between Vietnam and Thailand (and also shares borders with China, Cambodia, and Myanmar), and its food in some ways bridges its neighbors’ more popular cuisines. In fact, many Thai dishes—such as larb—are actually of Laotian origin. I didn’t have a go-to Laotian place in Atlanta until last month, when husband and wife team Vanh Sengaphone and Thip Athakhanh opened Snackboxe Bistro in the recently revived Doraville development that’s home to Super H Mart, Miss Gogi, and Kula Revolving Sushi. The couple hatched the idea for the restaurant after a 2016 trip to their native Laos; Vanh handles the operational side of Snackboxe, while Thip is the creative force in the kitchen, where she blends tradition and trends.
Snackboxe serves Laotian street food, with a weekly menu of specials in addition to its base menu. Larb is considered the unofficial dish of Laos, and the chicken larb at Snackboxe is exceptional: Each bite is layered with fragrant fresh mint, ground rice powder, bright bursts of lime, and earthy spices. One of the most popular dishes on the menu, saku, is a vegan dish of tapioca dumplings (think large tapioca pearls) covered in fried shallots and garlic and crushed peanuts; the chewy, glutinous texture has a fun mouthfeel. Even simple pleasures like the crispy, enormous garlic-pepper chicken wings and the fried spring rolls filled with pork, taro, and scallion have an incredible depth of flavor. I’m not sure I’ve had a better spring roll in Atlanta.
Rice, especially sticky rice, is a big part of Laotian cuisine. Laotians sometimes will refer to themselves as “luk khao niaow,” or “descendants of sticky rice.” (Snackboxe’s tagline on its website says: “It’s more than just sticky rice.”) Rice finds its way onto the menu in various forms, from mieng khao (seasoned sticky rice served with lettuce for wrapping and fresh herbs) to nam khao (a crispy coconut rice salad with fermented pork or tofu, also served with lettuce) to khao chee (pan-fried sticky rice omelet cakes). The chicken soup has short, thick glutinous rice noodles in a mild broth. For a more sinus-clearing experience, the khao poon has a curry broth rich with coconut milk that clings to the long rice noodles as you slurp them. Fresh herbs and lime wedges accompany the big bowl of soup to brighten each sip. Rounded out with tender pieces of braised pork, it’s perfect for when you have a cold or a hankering for spicy, hearty sustenance.
I like crispy rice. I like salad. I like laos flavors. So it is a no-brainer, I am in love with Nam Khao, a cripsy coconut rice salad with fermented pork (or tofu for V/VG) served as lettuce wrap. 😍 Eating here makes me miss @chefseng to the infinity, the master mind of @laofoodmovement, chef owner of @thipkhaodc, and consultant for @snackboxebistro. Some dishes are better than others – my favs so far are the rice balls (saku), this crispy rice salad, and laab. 🌶 Don’t forget to admire @tideandbloom’s gorgeous paintings on the wall. You can’t miss it. ✨ . . #kfusioneats #snackboxebistro #crispyrice #laosfood #coconutrice #lettucewrap #atlantaeats #doraville #welovebuhi #nomnom #goodeats #asianfood #cheapeats #streetfood #snack #myfab5 #lefooding #rice
After my first visit to Snackboxe, I felt energized by the spice, freshness, and warming quality of the food. Not only will this be a permanent spot in my rotation, it’s also one of my favorite restaurants to open this year. Pro tip: Ask for a bunch of the side sauces made with charred vegetables (the jeow som, a spicy and funky chili lime sauce, is my favorite), which are complex and add even more dimension to the already nuanced cooking. The restaurant also serves beer, wine, juices, Thai ice tea, and Thai coffee, as well as desserts such as orange Thai tea cupcakes, iced coconut milk with jellies, fried ice cream, and fried Oreos. 6035 Peachtree Road, Doraville, 770-417-8082