To continue this penetrating etymology of the restaurant with the best fried chicken, we move to exhibit B: from Laos to Haus. That word is German, ja? Didst du know that? It is the word for house, ja? But there is no schnitzel here!
Firstly, for those in the know, it is strikingly similar to Eddie Huang’s steamed bun joint Baohaus. That Asian-heritage hip-hop loving restaurateurs did the same thing with the German word is a great coincidence. Nothing more.
“I originally wanted to call it something different, like a name that was more important to me but probably wasn’t as good a name. When we were starting it just calling it Laohaus kept coming up. People that knew obviously immediately thought of Baohaus.”
Chris and Charlie aren’t Huong’s New York competitors, aren’t trying to bite his Bao business, or lure people in with the promise of a Baohaus-like experience. As much as the name is an homage of sorts, it turns out this sort of reference is very useful. The small-town Ontario Asian food market is loaded with small-town (see: prejudiced) expectations of what someone can expect from a restaurant with an Asian pedigree. One can’t call a place Lao Dragon (never a real name suggestion) and get away without having teak table sets, Lotus-blossom flute music, and complimentary tea. One can, however, borrow from an entrepreneur that has publicly pushed expectations of an Asian food business and redraw the lines to include a subwoofer and bottled beer.
Chris went on to elaborate on the hausness of his business: “We wanted to make the kind of food that you see made at the house parties Lao people throw. Things like khao poon, nam khao or even the fried noodles are all dishes you make for a party… Lao parties everything just comes out on a table, like there would be so many different things to choose from, and you just come and grab from everything.” The social dimension of the food is emphasized in the restaurant, as Lao people typically eat from one large shared plate instead of being allotted personal portions in the kitchen. “Whenever someone comes in we want it to be like you’re at a Lao party and we’re hosting you. I mean, it’s a restaurant actually, but that’s what we want.”
Old white people still want wanton soup though.