Brown paper partially covers the windows at Lao Laan-Xang, which closed in late March after 25 years on Williamson Street. Operations are now consolidated at the Lao Laan-Xang on Atwood Avenue.

I remember well my first visit to Lao Laan-Xang, which opened on Odana Road in 1990. I had been in Madison for about a year and my cousins were eager to introduce me to the flavors and cuisine of the city which, at that point, were fairly limited. It was clear that Lao Laan-Xang was offering Madison something new and delicious. Bounyong and Christine Inthachith, the mother-and-daughter team who founded the restaurant, are truly among the pioneers who made Madison the food city it is today, with a global reach and high quality dining.

When the restaurant reopened on Williamson Street in 1997, the cozy dining room became a favorite of mine. So did the curried squash and Kang gai. When my aunt from New York City made a rare visit to Madison, I knew I wanted to take her to Lao Laan-Xang. She was wowed. She especially loved the crunchy, tightly packed eggrolls so I made it a habit to get an order or two (or three or four, to be honest) and pack them in a soft cooler with ice in my suitcase when I visited. The irony of bringing eggrolls to a city teeming with restaurants was not lost on me. When my aunt became sick with pancreatic cancer and her appetite waned, those eggrolls were sometimes the only thing she’d take a bite of.

To be clear, her devotion predated a 2011 visit by the New York Times’ Seth Kugel, who was looking to test Madison’s “burgers, brats, cheese curds and microbrews,” and found a surprise: “My best meal was not a burger at all, but a Laotian dinner at Lao Laan-Xang,” he wrote.

Bounyong and her four children fled Laos and arrived in the United States as refugees in 1980. When Christine and Bounyong first opened Lao Laan-Xang, there were “unique challenges,” wrote Kyle Jacobson in Madison Essentials, including “having only two categories in the yellow pages to list the restaurant under: Chinese or Ethnic. Fortunately, educating the public on Laotian food would happen over time. To Christine and her mother, the opportunity was ‘the American Dream for us. I was still very young, and [my mother] wanted to have her own business. She has the passion.’”

When it was announced that Lao Lang Xang was closing on Willy Street I knew I wanted to dine one last time at the homey spot. Christina was hosting, as usual, and her mom was cooking. Christina warned with a giggle that if she talked about the closing she might get too emotional. Before I left, Christine went to fetch Bounyong from the kitchen. It was time that her mom get a well-deserved retirement, Christine said. Bounyong did not disagree. With misty eyes, she noted the passage of time in her adopted country: “I’ve been here more than half my life.” 





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