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Austin’s Lao’d Bar Isn’t Afraid of Spice

Take a culinary journey to Laos at this Far East Austin counter-service joint

Laotian family recipes from Chef Bob Somsith of Lao'd Bar Austin.
Laotian family recipes from Chef Bob Somsith (photo by Sara Lauren Hinojosa)

Forget fancy digs. Lao’d Bar serves up a taste of Laos with a side of late-night vibes. Chef Bob Somsith, a Laotian-American with a wild food truck past, has finally opened his brick-and-mortar dream, bringing his family recipes and disco-fueled memories to life.

After tearing up the dance floor in Laos, Somsith remembers the real party started at the night markets – steaming plates piled high, fiery chilies igniting taste buds, and endless rounds of Johnnie Walker Black keeping the energy high. That’s the spirit Somsith and Lao’d Bar capture: communion through spice, laughter, and food that explodes with flavor.

Lahb and spring rolls (photo by Sara Lauren Hinojosa)
Lahb and spring rolls (photo by Sara Lauren Hinojosa)

In the Beginning…

Somsith’s story starts back in 1979, when he was just a tiny tot escaping war-torn Laos with his family. They landed in a Laotian community in Dallas, where the young chef soaked up the magic of his heritage in his mom’s kitchen. Fast forward to 2002, and Somsith found himself in Austin, earning an accounting degree, but his heart set on food. He started cooking for friends, sharing the unique flavors of Laos with anyone who’d listen (and eat).

In 2016, Somsith ditched the spreadsheets for sizzling grills with SXSE Food Company, his Southeast Asian-Texan fusion food truck. It was a hit, even snagging the “Best Food Truck” crown at Trucklandia 2019. But Somsith craved more. He wanted a place to tell his whole story, one that smelled of chilies, lemongrass, and late-night revelry.

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Enter Lao’d Bar. Think open garage doors, string lights, and enough floral oilcloth to make your grandma jealous. It’s a chill hangout with a Laotian twist – a mural of a Laotian elephant and family photos on the wall add a personal touch – on refurbished shelves from the old Nau’s Enfield Drug pharmacy. While technically indoors, be prepared to perspire, although there are plenty of fans and breezes to help with the heat (and spice).

Lao'd Bar's ribeye skewers.(photo by Sara Lauren Hinojosa)
Lao’d Bar’s ribeye skewers. (photo by Sara Lauren Hinojosa)

Spice Up Your Life

The food? It’s Laotian classics with a modern makeover. You’ll find favorites from his former Sek-Sē•Füd•Kō food truck, like ribeye skewers and pork bao buns, but there are new creations too: the Lao’d Smashburger (Lao sausage patty on a potato bun, anyone?) and a Coconut Escolar Ceviche inspired by Somsith’s travels. The whole fried prawns are crunchy, spicy, and sour all at once. The naked chicken wings are more than meets the eye (but definitely dunk them into the habanero sambal sauce). And the Nam Khao (crispy fried rice) is a wild ride of textures.

Don’t be shy about the spice – Laotian food is a party for your taste buds, with sweet, savory, spicy, and everything in between. Want an extra kick? Grab one of those fiery birdseye chilies that garnish every dish.

Drinks and snacks at Lao'd Bar Austin
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Tasty bites and sips at Lao’d Bar.(photo by Sara Lauren Hinojosa)

Enjoy wings and cocktails at Lao'd Bar in Austin, Texas.
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Enjoy wings and cocktails at Lao’d Bar.(photo by Sara Lauren Hinojosa)

Lao'd Bar's waterfall ribeyes in Austin, Texas
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Lao’d Bar’s waterfall ribeyes. (photo by Sara Lauren Hinojosa)

Drinks with a Kick

Beverages are just as exciting. Laotian beers and cocktails with a Southeast Asian twist quench your thirst and pair perfectly with the food. Don’t skip the Lost in Lao (green tea-infused vodka, grapefruit, lime, Indian orange), which helps cut through (some) of the spice. Somsith even throws it back to his disco days with the “Johnny Disco” highball, a nod to the Johnnie Walker served in Laotian clubs.

Taste of Tradition

Lao’d Bar is more than just a restaurant; it’s a celebration of Somsith’s Laotian heritage and his love of food. Here, guests can embark on a culinary journey to Laos, experiencing the bold flavors and vibrant culture through Somsith’s culinary lens. Hopefully you’ll even hear a story or two about his late-night disco adventures – and the epic street food that followed.

But, you’ll definitely sweat a little (or a lot), experience a taste of Laos unlike anything you’ve had before and set your taste buds on fire (in the best way possible). More info at www.laodbar.com.