The furthest away from the River that the vast majority of visitors go is Patuxai. The main town of Vientiane goes back about 10km from the river and there is a lot more to offer away from the banana pancake sellers and 10,000kip beers. There are lots of good places to go eat & drink which you wouldn't get to know about unless a local person took you the first time, and a few of them are listed here:

Nam Ngeum river restarants - these are about a dozen floating bamboo restaurants 25km from town, or 40 mins on a rented motorbike. They have a great range of fish and other food, and you can waste an afternoon reclining on cushions, eating andd drinkin,g surrounded by teir landscaped gardens. For $5/hr you can have your own private covered river boat to potter up and down the river. Very popular with "middle class" Lao famlies on Sundays, never seen any other foreigners there after about 10 visits.

Half an hour further on the same road past the river restaurants is a fairly sorry zoo, but the small town next to it has some lower key floating eateries. 

Just a little further in Keo Oudom district is the huge Nam Ngeum dam and reservoir, with great fish restaurants overlooking the lake and surrounding mountains. This is about 80mins motorbike ride from town.

Buffet gardens - there are several of these but the best is near the airport, surrounded by water gardens. Eat all you can for $3, with 6000 kip beerlao - all meats, fish, huge range of veg, fruit, soup...

 Near the airport there is the famed T2 Goong restaurant - a whole kilo of fresh king prawns grilled to perfection for $7 - well worth a splurge.

Bars close to the river - leave Bor Pan Yang and Kop Chai Deu and head right down to the end of the dirt road at the upstream side of town - there are loads of rickety bamboo and wood bars down here overhanging the river and many do great spicy tamak heung or tami along with cheap beers.

Want to try dog or BBQ goat? There are loads of "specialised" BBQs around town - ask a tuktuk.

Non Khai - for most just a border crossing, but good for a day out. They have a good market next to the river on the thailand side, clothes and fresh riverfood, and also a huge aircon Tesco supermarket that attracts loads of Lao food shoppers every weekend.