Here's a party trick (Granted, it only works in Seattle): Offer to divine what your conversation partner ate and drank yesterday. If the number>"/>
Here's a party trick (Granted, it only works in Seattle): Offer to divine what your conversation partner ate and drank yesterday. If the number of licensed restaurants in King County is any guide, you've got a pretty good shot of guessing right so long as you say -- listen close -- Starbucks coffee and pad thai.
Seattle loves its Thai food. And while most eaters tend to choose their favorite Thai restaurants by proximity, there are plenty of examples of standout Thai across the city. Here, our picks for the 10 very best, with contributors' comments compiled by Erin Thompson. As always, the list is arbitrarily ordered, with the exception of the winning restaurant, which you'll find in the number one slot -- because after you've amazed strangers by telling them what they've recently eaten, they just might ask where to eat next.
10. Little Uncle
Little Uncle took on many forms before it became the Thai take-out restaurant in Capitol Hill, evolving from a stand at the Columbia City farmers market to Monday night pop-ups at Licorous and La Bête, before the term "pop-ups" saturated the local food scene. The business that eventually became husband-and-wife owners Wiley Frank and Poncharee Kounpungchart's current take-out restaurant focuses on family recipes, like sarabao (soft steamed buns stuffed with braised beef cheeks) and khao soi gai (a hot and spicy curry dish of fresh rice noodles, sauteed veggies, and locally-sourced chicken.)
9. Spice Room
Spice Room shoots for an upscale Thai dining experience, much like Buddha Ruksa and May Thai in Wallingford. On Columbia City's charming main drag, the restaurant was smoking hot when it first opened in late 2009, with the locals lining up for the first Thai restaurant in the 'hood. Joining the colorful chorus of Thai standards, high notes include catfish curry and a New York strip. The kitchen has taken a page from Buddha Ruksa's playbook and offers crispy garlic chicken and drunken noodles. There's also a full bar.
Popular for its lunch buffet, the charming Araya keeps an all-vegan kitchen, so its dining room draws a diverse group of college students, animal lovers, Muslims, Hindus, Jews--as well as eaters who aren't driven by dietary restrictions. The restaurant's decades-long history shows in its decor, a dark wood scheme that's a few leaves short of a fern bar, and its mastery of Thai cooking. The custardy fried tofu could pass for dessert, and the silky green curry is terrific. Many of the dishes made with meat substitute somehow taste meatier than the real deal, perhaps because Araya has cut out the bovine middleman and put stunning vegetal flavors straight on the plate.
The Thai Curry Simple empire keeps expanding--first a small International District eatery, it installed a walk up shack on Capitol Hill and then another sit-down space in South Lake Union. How does Thai Curry Simple stay so popular? By staying true to their name--the prices are simple (the most expensive item on the menu, shrimp pad thai, is $8) and so is the menu. There are four types of curries to choose from (they're all $6 and come with rice), the best of which is a spicy red chili panang curry, and then five noodle dishes. It's an easy, breezy, and tasty dining experience.
6. Thai Tom
There's very little guesswork with the U District's storied Thai Tom. It's really small, you will probably wait, you will sit crammed at the counter or tucked around a small table, you will order off a menu inscribed on a chunk of wood, and you may have to squint since the place is pretty dimly lit. Everything's basically the same (cheap) price, and your meal will be served right out of the pan into a ceramic boat-shaped bowl heaped with jasmine rice. While the vegetable and curry dishes are commendable and dependably good, Thai Tom does two things spectacularly: pad Thai and swimming rama. They're also very serious about spice: Five stars is rocket ship status.
5. Tup Tim Thai
There's no forgetting the famously brisk, bustling vibe and excellent value to Tup Tim Thai. Usually there's a wait in the crowded vestibule before getting a table, but two not-to-miss dishes make it worth it: No. 40 (Mussaman Neua beef curry) and No. 61 (phad Thai with whatever you want). Spring rolls and chicken satay skewers make for tasty starters. You can get out of here with a lot of food without flattening your wallet--one reason for the crowds.
4. Naam Thai
Thai restaurants are to Seattle what foreclosed tract homes are to any King County suburb: an inescapable part of the landscape. The market is so glutted and the competition so fierce, it's a wonder proprietors haven't started getting gimmicky in an effort to draw customers, like dressing comely waitresses in nothing but strategically placed basil leaves. Thankfully, Naam Thai doesn't need T&A to elevate itself above the fray; it can overcome the economic forces of supply and demand strictly through execution alone. Naam Thai's fresh rolls are just a little more fresh, its larb just a little larbier, and its fisherman's madness just a little madder than all the others. It's like that same vinyl-siding-wrapped two-bedroom you see in most empty planned communities, only with a flat-screen in every room.
3. May Thai
If you get pad thai at Wallingford's May Thai Restaurant and Lounge (that ornate, wooden two-story building you always drive by on 45th), it's the real deal. The noodles have been freshly sautéed with eggs, chives, and bean sprouts, and they're not even spiced until they reach your table--servers toss the noodles right in front of you with lime, ground peanuts, a kicky homemade tamarind sauce, and fresh banana flowers. You've got to start with the phenomenal pad thai, but do move on and try May's other tasty noodle dishes, like the kao soi gai--an amalgam of fresh, thick egg noodles, a rich yellow curry, coconut broth, tender chicken legs, and Chinese cabbage.
2. Buddha Ruksa
The instant you walk into Buddha Ruksa, the servers greet you warmly, as if they've been preparing a meal in anticipation of your arrival. The air is rich with the aroma of spices, the dining room adorned with warm colors, candles, and statues of deities. Buddha Ruksa serves classic Thai cuisine, as do countless other restaurants in the city. But it's their signature dishes that bring customers back again and again. Their red curry contains succulent prawns and hearty pieces of pumpkin that come up with almost every dip of the spoon. The crispy garlic chicken, dubbed "crack chicken" by regulars, is sautéed in a savory sauce and served atop a bed of crispy, seasoned basil. Dishes such as these are intended for sharing, but you won't want to. Be prepared to battle your company for every last morsel.
1. Noodle Boat
Is it worth traveling all the way to Issaquah to experience "Seattle's" best Thai restaurant? Well, consider that members of the family-run Noodle Boat go all the way to Thailand each year to research new dishes and make chile paste to ship back to Seattle. The restaurant doesn't dumb down its spice levels, and ingredients are fresh, as evidenced in its popular starter, mieng kum. The menu is full of similarly intriguing and delicious items, from "Queen of Banana" (with banana blossoms) to "Dragon's Antenna" (with bean-thread noodles). Now, if only Noodle Boat would offer boat noodles, which are impossible to find in Seattle.
Find the best Seattle has to offer on-the-go with our 'Best Of' Mobile App