While Thai cuisine may not be as prevalent as, say, the Hispanic and Latino-inspired fare so prevalent in our southwestern city, there are a variety of Phoenix restaurants offering authentic dishes from the country known as the “land of smiles.” Whether you’re in the mood for a spicy curry, a flavorful pad Thai, or a delightful sticky rice, these local restaurants promise to take you on a culinary adventure through the flavors of Thailand and southeast Asia.
Giving truth to the saying “big things come in small packages” is Glai Baan in central Phoenix. Co-owners Pomsupak “Cat” Bunnag and Dan Robinson, the couple (in life and in business) opened the cozy spot as an ode to Bunnag’s native Bangkok and the street food she grew up on. Begin your culinary journey with the yum woon sen, a delicate dish of glass noodles with minced pork and shrimp. And while a comfortingly familiar pad Thai may tempt you, go out on a limb with the pad kee mao, flat noodles tossed with pork, Chinese broccoli, oyster sauce, chiles and garlic. Then end your meal with kanom custard, made with refreshing coconut rice.
2333 E. Osborn Road, Phoenix 85016
While its strip-mall location in north Phoenix may be quietly unassuming, bold authentic Thai flavors make a statement, loud and clear, at this family-owned restaurant. Using fresh produce usually purchased each day, the restaurant offers fresher versions of Thai dishes, from the cool papaya salad made with shredded green papaya with lime juice, carrots, green beans and peanuts; to the spicy eggplant with basil in chile sauce. And speaking of chile sauce, if you like the heat, you’ll appreciate Sala Thai’s all-too generous use of spice. Thankfully, you can request different levels of spiciness on a scale from 1 to 5.
10880 N. 32nd St., Phoenix 85028
If you take comfort in Thai food, this is the place for you. Located in the reaches of north Phoenix, Krua Thai is a friendly neighborhood spot that has garnered its fair share of regulars. That’s because its menu of 80-plus items gives diners a wide variety of dishes, from bowls of fragrant curries, to stir-fried dishes brimming with fresh vegetables, to hearty and satisfying noodle dishes. And unlike many Thai restaurants that offer only a few dessert options, your sweet tooth will be completely satisfied with an array of treats including mango with sweet, sticky rice, Thai custard, and coconut ice cream.
1510 E. Bell Road, Phoenix 85022
Longtime Phoenix diners have most likely dined at a restaurant helmed by chef and restaurateur Johnny Chu. Former owner of such Phoenix favorites as Fate, Sens Asian Tapas, and Sochu House, Chu has been delighted diners with his creative take on Asian cuisine. His latest venture is Red Thai, which specializes in southeast Asian cuisine. Leaning more towards modern fusion than authentic Thai, the restaurant offers salads, wok-fried entries, curry dishes and soups, including the traditional Thai noodle soup made with sliced tender beef, rice noodle and mushrooms in a lemongrass broth topped with scallions.
7822 N 12th St, Phoenix 85020
Husband-and-wife owners Eric and Atchara “Holly” Willis couldn’t have come from more opposite ends of the world. He hails from South Carolina, she from Chang Mai, Thailand. With their shared love of food and culture, they opened Sa Bai (which loosely translates to “come, enjoy, relax”) to offer traditional Thai food with a modern American twist. From the crispy Thai rolls made with mixed vegetables, bean thread noodles and served with a Thai sweet chili sauce; to the seafood green curry made with shrimp, scallops, calamari and clams in a spicy green curry, the food is Thai comfort at its best.
4121 E Thomas Rd, Phoenix 85018
While celebrity chef Guy Fieri has featured many Phoenix restaurants on his Food Network Show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” The Wild Thaiger in central Phoenix was where he got a taste of chef-owner Olashawn Weaver’s signature Dragon Eggz or pork, shrimp and crab dumplings. Describing her menu as a culinary adventure, Weaver offers soups, hot pots, salads, noodles and curries, as well as seafood dishes and pad Thai. And what better way to top off a wonderful Thai meal than with a luscious dessert? Our pick is the classic mango sticky rice made with Champagne mango and warm sticky rice.
2631 N Central Ave, Phoenix 85004
Whoever says the suburbs is a ghost town when it comes to global cuisine hasn’t tried Taste of Thai in Ahwatukee. A newcomer to the Phoenix food scene, the restaurant opened this spring by owner Artichar “Toon” Reynolds, who has owned and worked in several Thai restaurants around the Valley. Staying true to her cultural roots, she offers such dishes as the Thai beef jerky, made with dried and marinated slices of beef, dusted with fried shallots and served with jaew, a dried chile sauce that really packs a punch. Sai oua, or Thai sausage, is another authentic dish: it’s a Lao-influenced sausage from northeastern Thailand spiced with turmeric, lemongrass and galangal (similar to ginger).
4855 Warner Rd, Suite 16, Phoenix 85044
The heart of Phoenix’s Melrose District is a world away from the Esan region of Thailand. But you wouldn’t know it after dining at Thai E-San, where owners Rodger and Pui Pongtratic share the distinct and aromatic flavors of their home country. Dishes are served in the traditional family style and feature fresh ingredients, including palm sugar and Thai spices imported directly from Rodger’s hometown of Phetchburi. Specialty dishes include Thai fish cakes made with green beans and curry paste; papaya salad available in Bangkok style (dried shrimp and peanuts) or E-San style (pickled crab); and the Thai E-San sausage, served with fresh lettuce, cucumbers, ginger and peanuts.
616 W Indian School Rd, Phoenix 85013