Amazing Local Food is what was promised and that's exactly what we ate (over and over and over). Tripadvisor can have its (wrong) opinions, but we found the actual best restaurant in Bagan. However, the food was only the beginning.
When I was searching for the top-rated restaurants in Bagan, I came across one with a perfect 5.0 rating on Google Maps. Now, it only had 20 ratings, but still, 20 ratings and not a single person gave less than absolutely perfect - we had to check it out. The first night we went, we would learn later, it was closed as they had already sold out of all their food (it was about 8pm). The next day, we went back for lunch and absolutely loved the salads. I devoured the tomato salad and the tea leaves salad, Liv enjoyed her tea leaves salad as well. We had a nice conversation with the owner about where we are from, our travels, and his extended family that all lived on the property behind the restaurant (the basic restaurant was built by them in their front yard). The menu didn't have prices on it so we didn't know what to expect when it was time to pay, but salads in Myanmar were usually between 1500-3000 kyat ($1-$2 USD) each. Not this time, only 1000 kyat ($0.70 USD!) per salad and they were the best we had in all of Myanmar. We couldn't believe that the food was not only the best, but also the cheapest of our entire trip! So of course we went back multiple times over the next few days either for lunch or dinner or even just a quick snack.
“However, the food was only the beginning.”
We learned all about the owner, who is also a horse cart driver and has been for 35 years. Then, at lunch one day, he invited us to come early for breakfast, even though they don't serve breakfast. There was going to be a parade in celebration of some new local monks and he wanted us to see it with him. Unfortunately, our e-bike died that morning on the way back from sunrise so we missed the parade coming by his house/restaurant.
When we arrived though, he still invited us to come down the road to try the local Myanmar breakfast where all of the parade participants would be eating later. Of course it was also delicious and he said there was no charge, no matter how many times we tried to pay. He then told us that the parade was up at one of the main pagodas in town and he wanted to take us to see it. Liv wasn't feeling well so I dropped her back at the hostel while I went to check out the celebration with him. Again, he didn't disappoint. Happy locals everywhere with a variety of animals in the parade too. He found us a spot to watch and take pictures until it was over and then he headed home while I was off to pick up laundry.
We joined them again later that day for one last lunch and said our goodbyes (and took pictures) before we headed to Ngapali that evening. Needless to say, he's one of the good ones - an absolute gem of a person with a really nice family too. If you make it to Bagan, you absolutely cannot leave without trying Amazing Local Food and meeting these fantastic people.