Editor’s note: As the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts the restaurant industry, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has changed its dining coverage and suspended its restaurant reviews. Instead, we are publishing a new column called Atlanta Orders In, which looks at the challenges faced by Atlanta restaurants, and serves as a guide to ordering takeout.
One of the greatest joys of my job is watching a fledgling restaurant experience success.
I remember the day, a few years ago, when I was loading the trunk of my car with Asian groceries from H-Mart in Doraville, and I noticed a coming soon sign on the door of a storefront in the same shopping complex. That turned out to be Snackboxe Bistro.
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When first-time restaurateurs Vanh Sengaphone and Thip Athakhanh opened their restaurant in February, 2018, foodies flocked there to taste Laotian cuisine, which was brand-new to Atlanta. Customers came for more than just sticky rice. They came for bright, often spicy Laotian street food — pork-filled spring rolls, papaya salad, chicken laap, Laotian sausage, flash-fried beef jerky and fried garlic-pepper wings.
The Laotian-American husband-wife team experienced such success that they expanded, opening a Snackboxe outpost in the new Asian food hall, Ph'east, at The Battery at Truist Park. That was in late January.
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Then, COVID-19 came, forcing the couple to shut down the Cobb location and lay off 25 of their 40 staffers. They set up a GoFundMe for their unemployed workers. But, Laotian cuisine still is coming out of the kitchen in Doraville.
“It’s been a roller-coaster ride,” Athakhanh said, adding, “We’re putting our best foot forward.”
Unlike some restaurants that are offering a pared-down version of their menu for takeout and delivery, Snackboxe Bistro offers everything from its carte. In addition, it rolled out a $15 combo platter — a bento-box like meal that includes papaya salad, Laotian sausage, beef jerky and sticky rice.
The restaurant also gives away a limited selection of desserts. On a recent day, that meant 45 patrons got to bite into a sugar cookie decorated to look like a roll of toilet paper. The sweet treats were a gift from Kristy Tran, owner of Peachtree Cookie Co., who also happens to be Athakhanh’s best friend.
To celebrate the upcoming Laotian New Year, Snackboxe is offering a special platter every weekend in April. Priced at $45, and portioned to serve two people, the feast includes eight dishes — “all our favorite items,” Athakhanh said — plus a dessert of mango sticky rice. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Giving Kitchen, as well as Laotian temples throughout Atlanta.
In announcing the Laotian New Year Platter on its Facebook page, the restaurant said the annual festivities may be canceled, but the true meaning behind the holiday "is to seek peace, seek forgiveness, seek spiritual cleansing, so that we may be blessed with good health and fortune. We look forward to celebrating with each and every one of you all month long, and paying it forward to our local communities, together."
Athakhanh and her husband are trying to keep a positive outlook as they work to keep their staff and customers safe.
“As long as we can stay open, we are going to stay open, and make sure everyone is fed,” Athakhanh said.
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Menu: full menu, limited quantity of daily specials. Check Facebook page for daily menu updates.
What's new: combo platter; Laotian New Year platter ($45 for two people), available Fridays-Sundays in April
What I ordered: tofu puffs, combo platter, squid on a stick, kua mee, jeow bong wings
Service options: pickup, or delivery via Uber Eats, Menufy, Postmates and DoorDash. Order online, or via phone.
Safety protocols: Kitchen and staff adhering to all COVID-19 health and safety precautions. Curbside pickup only; customers cannot enter the restaurant.
Address, phone: 6035 Peachtree Road, Doraville, 770-417-8082
Hours: 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays; noon-6 p.m. Sundays
Read the AJC Fall Dining Guide: The Noodle Edition
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