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 can seem small and uninviting. However, once inside, you'll be met with friendly service that makes you feel like instant family. The eats are about as authentic as it gets, and the yellow curry, in particular, is simple, flavorful, and filling. And the menu covers everything from salad and soups to rice dishes, pad-Thai plates, and stir-fried options. 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.
2333 East Osborn Road
Bangkok native Pornsupak "Cat" Bunnag and partner Dan Robinson have turned Phoenix's Thai food scene on its ear with this lively midtown bistro. Glai Baan's small menu specializes in Thai street snacks and northeastern Thai specialties, including pork skewers, larb, noodle dishes, and kanom jeeb, or freshly steamed pork dumplings. Bunnag skillfully deploys staple ingredients like garlic, basil, and lime to create irresistible sauces and curries. With a refined take on Thai street food and harder-to-find regional specialties, Glai Baan represents a big step forward for Thai cooking in metro Phoenix.
Krua Thai Cuisine
1510 East Bell Road, Suite A100
This neighborhood Thai joint is frequented by regulars due to the friendly service and 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 jalapeños for grown-up taste buds. At Krua Thai Cuisine, choose from rice and noodle dishes, or specialties like Thai BBQ Chicken and Stir-Fried Eggplant. 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.
Malee's Thai Bistro
7131 East Main Street, Scottsdale
This Old Town Scottsdale spot has been dishing out Thai food to hungry patrons since 1987. 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 — and housed in a 1921 building that has been many a restaurant over the years. Appetizers like Thai Toast, Siamese Kisses 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 are sure to impress on their own.
Nunthaporn's Thai Cuisine
17 West Main Street, Mesa
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 pre-made 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 winner touts traditional Thai flavors like kiffir lime, tamarind and lemon grass. The delicious roasted duck entrée is full of hearty chunks of sliced roasted duck meat sided with stir-fried mixed veggies and rice. Sala Thai also has a Peoria location for west siders looking to get their Thai fix.
Smile Thai Cuisine
2107 South Rural Road, Tempe
Take out, delivered or dine in, Smile Thai Cuisine has those colorful dishes that you won’t be able to shake later, including Drunken Noodle, Massamun Curry, Pad See Eew, and Yum Woonsen. This is also a big soup place, dishing out choice of beef, prawn, duck and seafood, plus Tom Yum (hot and sour soup), Tom Kha (coconut soup), Seafood Hot Pot, and Wonton Soup. There’s also Pho, Chow Mein, Pineapple Fried Rice, and Crying Tiger on the barbecue section of their menu. And Tempe residents are glad for those lunch specials.
Soi 4 Bangkok Eatery
8787 North Scottsdale Road, #104, Scottsdale
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.
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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. What’s more, you’re welcome to bring your carry-out next door to Taste of Tops to pair dinner with a craft beer.
616 West Indian School Road
Named for the Esan (Isan) region of Thailand, Thai E-San in the Melrose District hits hard with a simple menu of traditional and curry dishes. The coconut-based curry dishes are nearly addictive, and their lunch special just puts others to shame with the amount of food plated in front of you (those crunchy fried wonton chips, so help us). And for dessert, choose from coconut ice cream or sticky rice with mango. The dining area itself features hand-picked décor from the owners, who are also ready to make recommendations off their menu.
2631 North Central Avenue
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.
Yupha's Thai Kitchen
1805 East Elliot Road, #115, Tempe
Yupha's Thai Kitchen has been one of our favorite spots to grab dinner for years. Winning multiple Best Of awards should be 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 Lad 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.