Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Ray's Grill, Vientiane

I've staggered my posts so as not to inundate the blog, thus by the time you read this I'll be in Yunnan, but I have one final note for Vientiane.

Vientiane. Didn't do much. Woke up several mornings telling myself I was going to bike around town to see temples, stepped outside, decided it was too hot. Temples-schmemples. Read books in a cafe instead. And you know what else? I didn't even eat the local food

I mean, I ate some of it. When I felt like it. I've been permissive with myself on this trip. And that means eating Western food where it's available. At bus stops where the bearded white dudes in harem pants are loading up on plates of slimy noodles (rest stop food: never good), I'll go to town on a trusty sleeve of Pringles that costs twice as much. 

On the backpacker trail, there's this subtle pissing contest over who's being the most adventuresome traveler (never tourist). Alas, I'm traveling alone and sometimes the best comfort is a Snickers. I'm a shameless flashpacker. 

That said, I hadn't had any remarkable Western food on this trip. Until Sunday.

Ray's, located conveniently up the street from my hotel, got good reviews on the Vientiane wikitravel so I decided to check it out and ordered a Philly cheesesteak. Sweet Jesus, it was so good the first bite made me feel patriotic. 

Bread. Melted Cheese. Red meat. Carmelized onions. They say a Western diet leads to early death. This sandwich? Worth it. I would describe my feeling while eating it as akin to the deep gratitude I get snuggled next to James on a Saturday morning when the old thing on the agenda for the day is making brunch and reading books. I'm a bit embarrassed, but I think this is my favorite thing I've eaten on the trip. I'm going back tonight.

The chef, the eponymous Ray, was manning the grill next to my table. Turns out he's from Seattle. Used to deal in antiques and had a company that built websites. But after the dot-com crash he moved to Asia where life is cheaper, not so tied to debt. 

If you find yourself in Vientiane in need of a melty, savory American fix - make this it. 

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