The last year has been hard on Dallas’ best Lao restaurant, which enjoyed a showering of national accolades before coronavirus shut down its tiny, intimate dining room. Since then, Khao Noodle Shop has tried selling pantry provisions, running pop-ups (including Asian-American cheeseburgers) and more. But owner Donny Sirisavath is used to challenges. He grew up in the back rooms of his parents’ Thai and Chinese restaurants in San Antonio and served as a cook during high school, but his Dallas restaurant was his first formal chef job. Khao honors his mom, who died of cancer years before the restaurant opened, and it’s also about Sirisavath’s love of the food and culture of Laos, a country which for many decades was hidden to American eyes by its big, famous neighbors, Thailand, Vietnam and China. If you have two friends at home, you can try just about everything on the short to-go menu, which consists entirely of snacks and small bowls of noodles.
Top pick: Order some tripe chicharrones and pickled veggies, then move on to any of the noodle bowls. One person can probably enjoy two portions of noodles. Make one of them the boat noodles, with their meatballs and pork blood broth.
Fun fact: We don’t mean to brag, but here’s what we wrote about Khao in March 2019: “It feels irresponsible to hype a restaurant as small as Khao Noodle Shop. With just four tables and a counter, this isn’t a dining room meant to handle legions of fans, and the pint-sized kitchen isn’t meant to attract national attention. But national attention is coming, and Khao ... is a new milestone in Dallas’ culinary history.” Six months later, national attention arrived when Bon Appétit magazine named Khao the second-best new restaurant in the United States.