Cocktails for a Cause

Cocktails for a Cause

It is no secret that Laos is the second poorest country in the Mekong, with 74 per cent of the population living on less than $2 US a day, with the average income being just under $8 US a day according to the United Nations development report.  However, what many people may not know is that Children in poor communities in Laos usually have to work as well as going to school to help their family. Many completely drop out of school at a very young age and some end up working in dangerous situations just to earn a living.  There is more information now more then ever about sex trafficking, child labor, child begging and the like, but you don’t hear enough about the success of organizations that are working to stop these realities for children growing up in developing countries.  Friends-International is one such organization that is making a difference for street children in South East Asia.

Two of the kids on staff at Makphet in Vientiane, Laos ready to greet customers

Friends-International works with marginalized urban children and youth, their families and communities to become productive, independent citizens of their country. According to their website (INSERT LINK) “We do this by listening to and being guided by those who matter the most to us – the children and youth we work with everyday.”  With a mission statement like that Friends-International is an easy organization to support and once you try the food and drinks at one of their three restaurants you will be singing their praises too.

The restaurants run by Friends International are located in Vientiane, Laos and Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  Makphet the restaurant in Vientiane is where I was introduced to their creative cocktails. Who can resist a pomelo and lime martini or a starfruit margherita?  The food was great too; the delicious mushroom dip served with sticky rice was a mouth-watering combination of herbs, spices and straw mushrooms that were tender and tasty.  After being impressed at Makphet I couldn’t resist checking out Romdeng in Phnom Penh where we had a few Khmer specialties namely stir fried beef with tree ants, fried tarantula and a fabulous banana flower salad.

The flavorful and delicious banana flower salad at Romdeng

Just in case the good work and great food of Friends-International isn’t enticing enough the atmosphere and customer service at both Makphet and Romdeng are top notch.  Each guest is welcomed by two to three of the trainees, typically teenagers eager to help seat you.  A trainee and a teacher take orders, in our experiences the trainee spoke little English, but the teacher was happy to answer questions about the menu.  Once you have ordered you can enjoy your surroundings, Makphet is in a small renovated home with a gift shop if you are interested in shopping.  Romdeng is located in a stunning French-era villa with a swimming pool and romantic garden seating, while the interior features local art.

The welcoming foyer of Romdeng restaurant in Phnom Penh

If you are visiting Laos or Cambodia for just a short time the Friends International restaurants offer a wonderful opportunity to make a positive contribution to these developing countries.  You will not regret spending a night at any of their three restaurants and the kids working at each of these establishments will thank you personally.


Makphet restaurant in Vientiane, Laos is open Monday to Saturday from 11 am – 2 pm and 6 pm – 9 pm, happy hour is from 5:30 to 7:30 pm when cocktails are half price, no happy hour specials on food or other drinks.  Dishes range in price from $3-$8.

Romdeng restaurant in Phnom Penh, Cambodia (#74 Street 174, Phnom Penh) is open Monday to Saturday 11 am-10 pm, but does not offer a happy hour.  Dishes range in price from $4-$10.

To learn more about their restaurants and other projects check out their website here

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» Tashia :
Apr 12, 2011

Ooh! We went to Romdeng, but they were fresh out of fried tarantula (so we bought it streetside in front of the palace)! Glad you made it there!

LOCAVORista Reply:

Tashia, Romdeng was delicious, but I bet the fried tarantula was cheaper streetside.

» dad :
Apr 19, 2011

another shared experience…..we, too could not more highly reccomend this organization and the incredible social changes/impact they have on the young and ociety in general, gives one a sense of hope in a very desperate world…..and yes, the unique cocktails were a treat…….do you remember me sharing the story of the homestay with nick in cambodia, where they caught the tratulas in the back yard and the the 3 year old sone would bite off the live legs as a game, oh my again, would never say they were good, but when in Rome………be safe……love you both dad

LOCAVORista Reply:

Dad, it is fun to have shared experiences- thanks to you and Mom for the recommendation to visit their restaurant in Phnom Penh. They are doing great things! I would also venture to say that the tarantula were good, maybe not my favorite but crunchy and salty- I can’t complain too much.

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{ Apr 16, 2011 - 08:04:45 } Living If | 36 Hours in Vientiane, Laos

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About the Author

LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.

About the Author
LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.


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