Whether it’s sweet, spicy or sour you’re craving, the five boroughs are teeming with Thai restaurants. These are our 10 favorites. By Yvo Sin.
Just blocks from Penn Station, Pad Thai could easily rely on location to get by. Instead, they offer a fantastic lunch menu for around $7, and above average Thai food that will satisfy your craving. The pineapple cashew chicken fried rice (pictured) is quite a tasty treat, while the restaurant’s namesake dish also makes for a yummy, filling lunch. Add on a Thai iced tea and linger over your meal before going back outside to fight the tourists mobbing the outside of your office building for no reason; you deserve it.
Long lauded as the best, most authentic Thai found in all of New York, Sripraphai has since expanded to two locations… both of which are equally good. Asking for “Thai spicy” will yield face melting results, but without Thai spicy, the food is well-balanced and quite authentic. Try the mee krob (pictured), tangled nests of crisp, slightly sweet, slightly vinegary noodles topped with shrimp, and served with bean sprouts to offer a cool counterpoint to the tanginess of the noodles itself. Any of the noodle dishes are sure to please, though really, the entire menu is fun to explore. Bonus: if you enjoy the mee krob, you can buy containers of just the noodles by the cashier – it goes really well in salads or just eaten straight while watching TV.
Boon Chu Thai
The pad thai at Boon Chu is perfectly balanced, but try the pad see ew (pictured), broad white noodles sauced with an incredible brown beef gravy that has seen some patrons practically lick the plate clean, or the crispy catfish salad, which will have you questioning all you know about catfish. The catfish is fried into impossibly crispy nests on top of shredded lettuce, then dressed with a fish sauce vinaigrette and a layer of sliced bird eye chilis. Careful, though: too many of those chilis and you may need another Thai iced tea. Luckily, they do those quite well too.
This is not for the faint of heart or those averse to spicy food: when Chao Thai says spicy, they don’t mess around. You can ask for a dish to be made mild, and they’ll agree; but when the dish arrives, you’ll realize they either forgot or they’re intent on watching you squirm. Don’t let this deter you if you love spice, though. Chao Thai is the real deal, creating dishes that balance precariously the flavors of Thai food: sour, spicy, sweet, and salty, though some dishes – especially those marked with the spicy asterisk – sometimes fall right off the spicy cliff into a pool of face-melting spiciness. Be sure to try the papaya salad (pictured) – deceivingly cool-looking, this dish will start the meal off right, with a burst of heat punching you in the mouth.
Red Basil Thai Kitchen
Sitting right above the Steinway stop on the R/M subway line is Red Basil Thai Kitchen, which attracts a good number of locals for lunch – for good reason. Boasting a lunch menu that includes an appetizer and an entree for just $6.95, value and delicious food are offered together one on menu. Choose from chicken satay, Thai salad, soup, for appetizers, and pad Thai, pad see ew, and various curries for your main course, and be rewarded with a plate of balanced Thai food. Chicken satay and pad Thai (pictured) comes with a small dish of pickled cucumber and carrot pieces, along with the peanut sauce. Yum!
Rain Thai has a lunch menu worth examining. For $8 or $8.50 (depending on your choice of protein), you get to choose from ten appetizers and fifteen main courses. Considering Thai food’s reputation as rather expensive, this is more than a bargain; it’s a downright steal. For a lighter option, start with the summer roll or tom yum soup – or any of the three salads offered, but go all out with your main course option with pad thai, pad see ew, or any of the multiple curry choices. At this price, you really can’t go wrong with eating your way through the entire menu.
Thai Me Up takes Thai food to a new level with their Thai sandwiches. Choose your protein (chicken, beef, shrimp, tofu or simply veggie), your sauce (Black Pearl, White Ginger, Pinegrand, or Red Basil), and everything gets sauteed with a healthy mix of veggies, then slipped into a scooped-out baguette, topped with lettuce, tomato and chili mayo before being handed off for your consumption. Because the sandwiches tend to be a saucy, you’re advised to eat it like a burrito, peeling the wrapper back as you go… or you can opt out entirely and have your mixture served over rice or noodles. Either way, you’re in for a really customizable, delicious treat here at Thai Me Up!
Sugar Beets Thai
Sugar Beets Thai also has a great lunch special menu, ranging in price from $6 – 8. Start with your choice of Thai salad, house soup, crispy spring roll, steamed vegetable dumplings or crispy wontons, and move on to your choice of protein in various styles – sauteed, in fried rice, with pan fried noodles, and of course, in curry. Particularly noteworthy here is the drunken noodles, flat noodles with egg, vegetables, chili, garlic & basil leaf, and anything from the curry section. Can’t decide? Why not get both – it still won’t break the bank.
Aside from its adorable name, Dee Daa is all about balance: balance among the four basic flavors, sweet, salty, sour, spicy. The premise is that you should find all four in your meal from Dee Daa; the menu is designed to be as mix&match as possible, allowing you to choose from a protein, main dishes, and sides. The main dishes are separated into curries, rices, noodles, or stir fry, while the sides are split into soups, salads and bites. Try the karee curry rice, which bursts with flavor and delicately straddles the lines between savory and spicy.
East Village Thai
Don’t let the tiny space fool you: East Village Thai is big on flavor but easy on the wallet. With lunch specials that are all $6-7, and choices from pad thai (pictured) to pad priow wan, you’d do well to order from them. The adventurous can choose their heat level: hot and spicy, very hot and spicy, or extremely hot and spicy, but be warned: extremely hot and spicy is, well, extremely hot and spicy. Proceed with caution and be sure to order a Thai iced tea or iced coffee with which you can douse the flames! The heat-averse needn’t worry, however; there’s plenty on the menu for them as well, including satae rice, which is topped with crowd-pleasing peanut sauce, pad ruom pak, or mixed vegetables with bean sauce, and of course, fried rice with your choice of protein. It’s easy to walk by East Village Thai and not give the hole in the wall a second look, but it’s a real shame if you read this and don’t immediately call to find out if you are in their delivery range.