Dara Thai Lao extensive guide to Berkeley and San Francisco area, plus inspiring articles about trips around the world

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Dara Thai Lao Cuisine  1549 Shattuck Ave./Cedar St.; Gourmet Ghetto.  In warm weather, the front patio here is a delight.  Vines and exotic flowers mingle with weathered-wood tables, providing a mini jungle through which the filtered street-scene view is mesmerizing.  Particularly good dishes include priking (sautéed chili string beans with shrimp), pad pet makeur (grilled eggplant sautéed in a spicy sauce), and flavorful spicy Panang red curry with fried tofu and veggies.  Sticky rice puffs--deep-fried balls of curry-flavored rice--are a must.  The deep-fried sweet potato appetizer and pad Thai noodles are also very good, and a sweet Thai iced tea provides the perfect lift. 

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travel writer Carole Terwilliger Meyers