Ranging from classy Scottsdale digs to shacks in South Phoenix, you'll get a variety of experiences from Thai restaurants in the Valley. It seems there are as many places to get your favorite pad Thai or duck curry in town as there are to get your favorite carne asada burrito or street tacos. With many of the same dishes tying every Thai menu together, there's a few distinguishing characteristics that set our 10 favorite Thai joints apart from their competitors.
Chanpen Thai Cuisine Chanpen Thai Cuisine can be intimidating for first-timers. The South Phoenix location isn't the nicest and the tiny hole-in-the-wall may not be the most inviting. However, once inside, you'll be met with friendly service that makes you feel like family instantly. The eats are about as authentic as it gets, and the yellow curry, in particular, is simple, flavorful, and filling. Our favorite part of Chanpen is that each table gets a selection of small jars filled with spicy mix-ins, each with its own distinct flavor really adds a kick to anything you choose from the menu.
Soi 4 Bangkok Eatery If you're looking for all of the best parts of upscale dining combined with delicious Thai food, Soi 4 Bangkok Eatery is the place for you. This sleek and chic North Scottsdale by way of Oakland restaurant doesn't go for the simple, homey décor most spots on the list seem to adopt. Plus with a full bar, you can get a craft cocktail while you munch on kieow tod, pork and shrimp dumplings pan-fried and served with a ginger soy dipping sauce. You can expect to pay a bit more for the classy digs, but the food and drinks are well worth the small splurge.
Nunthaporn's Thai Cuisine While Nunthaporn's Thai Cuisine may look pretty basic, fresh and simple is the name of the game at this downtown Mesa spot. Rather than relying on thick and overly sweet premade sauces, like some Thai places do, Nunthaporn's flavor comes from fresh, authentic ingredients prepared on the spot. The pad khing shows off bright, acidic flavors with ginger, garlic and onion and contrasts them with a more umami pallet by using soy bean and black fungus. The attention to balanced flavors really shines through in each dish, creating a completely unique to the Valley Thai dining experience.
Sala Thai Restaurant This little strip mall Thai joint in North Phoenix is certainly a diamond in the rough. Bright, framed Thai fabrics line the walls to add some color to the restaurant with big, comfy booths as the standard seating option. This Best Of 2009 winning restaurant touts traditional Thai flavors like kiffir lime, tamarind and lemon grass. The delicious spicy duck basil entrée is full of hearty chunks of gamey duck meat with a hot and sweet sauce and veggies. Sala Thai also has a Goodyear location for west siders looking to get their Thai fix.
Yupha's Thai Kitchen Yupha's Thai Kitchen has been one of our favorite spots to grab dinner for years. Winning Best Thai in Tempe in last year's Best Ofs was no surprise for a restaurant that delivers tasty Thai cuisine time and time again. Located off McClintock Drive and Elliot Road in South Tempe, it's setup next to the Pollack Tempe Cinemas dollar theatre makes for a cheap dinner and movie combo that's a no-brainer. The lard na, which may not be much to look at, is a stick-to-your-ribs flat noodle dish covered in gravy with your choice of meat--perfect for upcoming chilly desert winter nights.
Thai Basil Although Thai Basil has many different locations to choose from around the Valley, the Tempe incarnation off University Drive and Farmer Avenue downtown is our favorite. Fast and friendly service makes it an ideal spot to grab lunch on a break between classes or from work. When we go, the silver noodle soup is our go-to dish because the light, but flavorful broth with rice noodles and tons of veggies is enough to fill us up, but not slow us down. The papaya salad is also a great option for calorie-counters with a delicious citrusy dressing and shrimp.
Wild Thaiger The patio is the way to go at Wild Thaiger when the weather is temperate. Located off Central Avenue in Phoenix, it's nice to watch the trains pass by while sipping on a sweet and creamy Thai tea. Plus, you're going to need that tea to soothe the burns from the explosively spicy Temple of Fire fried rice dish. Packed with chiles and chicken, the dish is tasty enough on its own. However, you can and should add on a fried egg because it's fried perfectly crispy on the outside while keeping the yolk ooey gooey-- definitely one of the most expertly fried eggs in town.
Malee's Thai Bistro This Old Town Scottsdale spot has been dishing out Thai food to hungry patrons since the 80's. It's clean, open and bright bistro setting differentiates it from competitors. While the prices are a little higher than the typical Thai place, you're likely paying for the location, which is definitely more upscale than other Thai joints on the list. Appetizers like roasted pork ribs marinated in a honey plum sauce and Thai style hot wings are a great start to your meal at Malee's, while main dishes like the coco chili fish and drunken dragon noodles (which the menu labels as a "Thai wives revenge on drunk husbands") are sure to impress on their own.
Thai Hut Maybe it's just the fact that Thai Hut looks more like a greasy-spoon diner with Thai design flourishes than a traditional Thai restaurant, but when we're in Downtown Phoenix and craving something Southeast Asian to eat, Thai Hut is our pick time and time again. Seeing as how there are about six different places for Thai within a mile of each other downtown, that's saying something. The pad ga pow with minced pork (or whatever you like), fish sauce, Thai basil, bell pepper satisfies with it's sweet and tart flavor. Plus, with a generous helping of steamed rice it'll fill you up for under $10.
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Krua Thai While Krua Thai might not be the Valley's most trendy place to get Thai food, it's the kind of neighborhood Thai joint that regulars frequent because the service is friendly with a cozy, intimate atmosphere. Even if you weren't raised on Thai cooking, dishes like the fried fish filets seem like a familiar comfort food, but with an added Thai flavor kick from chiles and jalapenos for grown up tastebuds. Finish it off with a sweet sticky rice or Thai custard for desert and you've got a meal that feels a little like home and a little like an adventure.