Eat This Now

Hidden Gem: Touch of Thai on Bell Road in Northwest Phoenix

Inside is tranquil with a hue of green.
Inside is tranquil with a hue of green. Rachel James
That strip of Bell Road in northwest Phoenix, which also includes parts of Peoria and Glendale, is absolutely teeming with restaurant options. There are the many nationally known eateries around Arrowhead Towne Center, and a never-ending supply of sports bars, cantinas, and luncheonettes.

Within the abundance, it’s almost difficult to find a lunch or dinner spot checking these specific boxes: Is it locally owned? Are there vegetarian options? Is it good?

click to enlarge The lunch soup is addictive, vegetarian, and somewhat sweet. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
The lunch soup is addictive, vegetarian, and somewhat sweet.
Lauren Cusimano
Touch of Thai, capping the north end of a strip mall at the southwest corner of 35th Avenue and Bell Road, is there for you. Hook in off Bell Road, and head in for lunch specials — served with a somewhat sweet soup, an eggroll, and rice — or dinner entrees like broccoli in curry sauce, the cashew chicken, and the Bamboo Shoot Delight.

The interior of Touch of Thai is tranquil, with a consistent green hue. There’s a small bar, tables, and booths lining the edges of the dining room.

The best part about Touch of Thai is the options. Choose where you sit (usually), choose your drink, choose from a whole menu of vegetarian dishes. We mean it. There’s a 63-item menu of Thai selections, followed by a completely separate yet full menu of vegetarian plates.

Some unique appetizers are quickly spotted, including calamari salad, angel wing (a stuffed chicken wing dish), and the crispy combinations (fried and battered shrimp, vegetables, wontons, and egg rolls with a goopy-sweet dipping sauce).

click to enlarge Red curry with beef, always a good choice. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
Red curry with beef, always a good choice.
Lauren Cusimano
Some recommendations include the gang ga-ree gai (chicken with yellow curry, coconut milk, potatoes, onions, and carrots), gaeng goong (shrimp in red curry with coconut milk, bamboo shoots, and green beans), or compelling gaeng keaw wahn (meat with green curry, coconut milk, bamboo shoots, and green beans).

But you can’t go wrong with simple red curry (or any other color). It’s a heaping bowl of piping hot, creamy, coconutty curry — maybe the richest we’ve had. It’s swimming with veggies like carrots, green beans, and bamboo shoots, plus a choice of protein if you opt for it. An entire side of sticky rice accompanies the dish. You will need a to-go box.

click to enlarge Don't miss this Thai food joint on Bell Road. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
Don't miss this Thai food joint on Bell Road.
Lauren Cusimano
And as with many Thai food places, you can opt for more heat. Spice levels are mild, medium, and hot, yes, but the kitchen amplifies these levels with grounded chili, fresh chili in fish sauce, and grounded fresh chili in vinegar.

You work nearby, you live nearby, or neither, Touch of Thai is worth a stop in. In the sea of restaurants, drive-thrus, and chains on Bell Road in the north Valley, this little Thai food joint is a welcome light in the dark.

Touch of Thai.

16816 North 35th Avenue, #13A
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., 5 to 9:30 p.m., Monday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., 5 to 10 p.m., Friday; noon to 10 p.m., Saturday, noon to 9:30 p.m. Sunday
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Lauren Cusimano was the Phoenix New Times food editor from 2018 to 2021. Joys include eating wings, riding bikes, knowing everyone at the bar, talking too much about The Simpsons, and falling asleep while reading.