The 169-year-old white brick building on historic downtown Monroe’s Main Street might as well be a portal to a sultry kitchen in Southeast Asia. Don’t be fooled by the pub aesthetic Numprik Thai Lao inherited from previous tenants: This small restaurant serves authentic Thai and Laotian cuisine in all its salty, spicy, sour, and sweet glory.
A six-page menu ranges from familiar dishes like pad thai to lesser-known regional specialties like kaeng hang le, pork belly and peanut curry in a gravy-smooth sauce flavored with tamarind juice and Indian-inspired spices. Appetizers include Son-in-Law eggs, named such because a Thai mother is rumored to have made the first batch of the deep-fried hard-boiled eggs with sweet-and-sour sauce and fried shallots as a warning to her daughter’s disrespectful husband. A big bowl of tom yam soup with kaffir lime can easily feed four as a starter, and an order of papaya salad, purposely made with crunchy, unripe papaya for a cooling, cucumber-like effect, balances the aggressive heat of the noodles, stir-fries, and curries, spiced with a heavy hand on a scale of 0–5. It’s easy to forget where you are. The outlet malls might be a five-minute drive away, but inside Numprik Thai Lao, you might as well be eating dinner on the other side of the world.
Numprik Thai Lao, 214 S. Main St., Monroe, (513) 360-7709