Downtown Sakhon is a great place to simply wander around the narrow lanes, popping into the myriad open-fronted shops to see what’s being served. One of the best places to do this is Suk Kasem Road, starting from Sai Sawang Road to the north and running south. This walk will take you past several shops serving khao ka muu (stewed pork shanks with rice), several types of noodle soups, old-style boran coffee and ahaan-tam-song (made-to-order) joints where you can grab a plate of krapao gai kai dao (chopped chicken with holy basil, chilli, garlic and deep-fried egg) or pad kee mao straight out of a sizzling wok.
A stone’s throw west of Suk Kasem on the corner of Prem Prida and Makkalai, Prachachuen Restaurant is worth a peek if you prefer a trendier ambiance for dinner. Set in an old wooden house with an outdoor terrace sporting bright pastels, the restaurant/bar opens from 17:00-22:00 and appeared to be perfect for a cold beer with a whole deep-fried fish and a spicy salad or two.
Another street that’s a good option for foodies is Kumjudpai, where we noticed most of the above plus an ahaan jay (vegan food) shop marked by the usual yellow flags just south of the Somkiat Hotel. Here you can grab veggie stir-fries, curries and meat substitutes served over rice for cheap, but arrive early as it closes up by late afternoon. A few doors down from that, we also noticed a hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant set in an old wooden house.
For a more foreigner-accessible Vietnamese dining experience, head to the bright orange-and-green Weelee Restaurant at the corner of Rat Phatthana Road and Soi 6. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the shop serves a range of Vietnamese rolls -- fried or fresh -- along with Thai-style banh xeo and the house specialty: naam neuang. The latter consists of Vietnamese sausage, crispy greens and herbs served alongside translucent spring roll wrappers; diners dip the rolls in a pot of water to unstiffen them before wrapping. A menu with pictures makes it easy for non-Thai speakers to communicate an order.
The central fresh market is a great place to check out endless piles of fresh meat, seafood and produce, including “exotic” ingredients like red ant eggs and fermented fish sauce, but you won’t find much in the way of prepared foods. You’ll have better luck at the fairly large night market that stretches to the south of town along the west end of Khu Mueang Road up to Suk Kasem. Running on both sides of a footpath, vendor stalls squish tightly together to sling gaeng hed (Isaan mushroom curry); roasted duck; pad Thai; fresh fruit; grilled meats on sticks; Southern Thai curries; and a wide range of fiery Isaan soups and salads, including the ever-present som tam Lao -- made with pungent pla daek as opposed to sweeter som tam Thai with its standard-issue fish sauce. The market runs from around 17:00 to 20:00; there’s virtually no on-site seating but we won’t tell if you stock up for an all-out feast back at the hotel.
One of the only places with an English sign/menu and Western food on offer is Green Corner, easy to find across from the old bus station on Rat Phatthana Road. Open from 08:00 to 22:00, the spacious air-con cafe does acceptable sandwiches and tenderloin steaks along with a range of upscale Isaan fare, a bakery serving over a dozen types of cake and quality fresh coffee. Even if you don’t come for a meal, stopping here to grab some baked goods before a bus ride is not a bad idea.
If all else fails, you’ll find English menus at both the Dusit Hotel and Majestic Hotel, and the usual chain restaurants are represented at the Big C shopping centre.