Thip Khao: Naem Khao

Crispy Rice Salad

Remember that dim-witted man who decided to tip toe across a high wire between two of Chicago’s tallest buildings without so much as a carabineer for protection? Yea, the one who then did it blindfolded? At the end of his stunt he experiences a euphoric release that’s akin to how we felt when Thip Khao opened its doors in the District.

A little distance never kept us from hitting up Bangkok Golden in Virginia, but the fact that a straight shot up 14th Street is all that’s separating us from edible Laotian treasures from Chef Seng makes us tingle.

While the intricate menu mandates several (hundred!) trips, there are some early front-runners for Best Thing on the Menu like Naem Khao—Crispy rice with coconut, lime, green onion, sausage, peanut, cilantro and lettuce wraps. It’s a $10 texture party found in the soup & salad section.

Khao Poon

The Khao Poon noodle soup is silky and teeters between sweet and spicy. Rice noodles dance in a broth made from coconut milk, red curry and shrimp paste, along with a mound of cabbage, bean sprouts, carrots and a protein of choice (chicken/flounder/tofu).

Finally, you can’t go wrong with laab. The dish is commonly pronounced larb, but we’ve sworn that off like a bad habit thanks to some instruction from Chef Seng and other Laotian buddies who say it like a lob in tennis. The signature dish consists of minced meat, fish or tofu blended with herbs, tang and heat. Go with duck if you can.

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If you woke up with your big boy pants on, place an adventurous order from Thip Khao’s “Let’s Go to the Jungle” menu. Extra points if you sing Guns N’ Roses. This menu boasts more authentic tastes like crispy fried intestine with sriracha sauce; spicy blood sausage with peanut and ginger; and rice noodle soup with pork blood tofu.

If possible, save room for a cocktail from the mind of Jack Caminos who took the challenge of making Lao inspired drinks very seriously. It was tough because beer is the go-to beverage in Laos, making cocktails relatively uncharted territory.

Naem Khao (crispy rice salad) not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.

Thip Khao is located at 3462 14th Street NW.

El Camino: Chilaquiles

Chilaquiles

The news of a taco slinger opening in Bloomingdale was met with the kind of excitement of being a kid on Christmas morning who finds a present the exact size of a Power Wheels Pink Barbie Jammin’ Jeep under the tree. In other words, EPIC excitement. Believe it or not, this analogy is kind of appropriate because El Camino is indeed named after a car (Yea Chevy!). That’s why you’ll see things like tables bases made from rims.

Gently-priced tacos are the first thing you spot on the Mexico meets SoCal menu, which runs the gamut of tortas, ceviches, braised meat, and chips with dips. While everyone can get on board with $2.50 tacos, the Best Thing on the Menu comes in a crock pot: Chilaquiles made with corn tortilla cops, salsa verde and smoked gouda. 

Simply put, they’re wet nachos. But in the best possible way. In Mexico, they’re typically eaten for breakfast or lunch but at El Camino, dinner’s the only option so dig on in. Here’s the kicker. These bad boys are both vegetarian AND gluten free. You hardly miss meat when the gouda cheese imparts so much smokiness. Start with one order, then another if for no other reason than “chilaquiles” is hella fun to say.

Mezcal Old Fashioned

Pair this tasty crockpot with something equally smoky – the Mezcal Old Fashioned. It’s the priciest cocktail on the list, but spring for it anyway because you can get a margarita almost anywhere. El Camino’s cup of love contains Mezcal, mole and orange bitters, and vanilla-sarsaparilla agave.

Chilaquiles not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.

El Camino is located at 108 Rhode Island Avenue NW.