When Thip Athakhanh and her husband Vanh decided to open Snackboxe Bistro, there was more than food at stake. The couple hoped the intimate bistro in Doraville could show Atlanta what it was missing.
“Laos is underrepresented in Atlanta,” Athakhanh said. “Let’s open a restaurant and educate people through our food.”
Athakhanh grew up in the U.S. after arriving as a toddler. In 2016, a trip back to Laos inspired the couple to connect with their roots and Lao cuisine.
Among the mainstays, restaurant goers can order a variation of laap, the unofficial dish of Laos, according to Athakhanh. The chicken version featuring ground chicken salad with toasted rice powder, chili flakes, lime juice, fish sauce and herbs.
“It’s full of flavors, citrus flavors, galangal root, and then it’s tossed with veggies and fresh lime juice,” she explained.
“How does this dish represent Laos?”
“This represents Laos because we’re a landlocked country. When you’re landlocked, you don’t have much resources,’ Athakhanh explained. “So we work with what we have. We grow our own veggies, and we raise chicken on the farm.”
According to Athakhanh, customers may not be aware of the reach of the Lao influence.
“The majority of Thai restaurants you see, I guarantee there’s a Lao chef in the kitchen,” she said.
Snackboxe aims to extend that influence further.
“Laotian people in general like to eat together at the table and share our food, share our stories,’ Athakhanh said. ‘In our restaurant, food brings everyone together.”
“How does this dish represent Atlanta?”
“Atlanta itself is very adventurous, diverse hub,” Athakhanh, who previously worked in global supply chain, said. “This is why we’re able to thrive, because people are willing to try something different.”
“I wanted to be able to bring our culture here and introduce modern techniques too. We can connect everyone,” she said.