Food & Drink

The 11 Best Thai Spots in Chicago

Published On 01/16/2015 Published On 01/16/2015
thai food
jeffy mai

This is just like every other "Best Thai in Chicago" guide you've ever read, but, like, well, um, infinity times better than all of those, thanks to secret menus, house-made hot sauces, and boat noodles served WITH PORK RINDS.

jeffy mai

Jin Thai

Edgewater
What you’re getting: Hot curry catfish
Jin is a relative newcomer to the Thai scene, but it rivals the best the city has to offer. You’ll find the usual array of salads, soups, and noodles (kao soy is a standout), but first head straight to the specialties section of the menu and ask for the hot curry catfish, which serves crispy fillets of catfish over a bed of eggplants in a heat-cranking spicy curry.
 

Andy's Thai Kitchen

Lakeview
What you’re getting: Boat noodle
Andy Aroonrasameruang turned TAC Quick into a city favorite before leaving to start his own place a few years ago. Fortunately for us he brought along some of his staples, like boat noodles, which marry rice noodles with beef brisket, pork rinds (!), Chinese broccoli, and bean sprouts in a sweet and spicy broth. They're the perfect pick-me-up on (another) cold winter day.

Flickr/Ron Dollete

TAC Quick

Lakeview
What you’re getting: Sai Krog Isaan
The regular menu is full of the usual Ameri-Thai dishes, but a specially translated, not-so-secret "secret" menu is where to find the really good stuff. Pad Thai kung sod haw khai is a winning combination of glass noodles and shrimp pad Thai folded into an omelet (so you can have breakfast for lunch or dinner), while classic Northeastern Thai fermented sour sausage (Sai Krog Isaan) is grilled to perfection and guaranteed to be different from any other sausage you’ve ever had.
 

Arun's

Albany Park
What you’re getting: The tasting menu
Fine dine-ery Arun’s has long set the standard for Thai in Chicago, picking up countless accolades and awards over the last 30+ years. If you’re willing to splurge a little more than usual on Thai, the ever-changing tasting menu is the move -- it offers creative takes on Southwest Asian fare as well as traditional courses such as spring rolls and panang beef curry.

jeffy mai

Spoon

Lincoln Square
What you’re getting: Somtum pu
Spoon was one of the first Chicago Thai restaurants to start the “secret” menu trend that would make its way around the city. Nowadays, all diners have access to Spoon’s full array of dishes, including the kai tod -- Thai-style chicken wings marinated in fish sauce, deep-fried, and served with homemade tamarind sauce. The must-try, though? The Somtum pu. This traditional spicy green papaya salad lights the mouth on fire with a mixture of string beans, tomato, carrot, peanuts, and crab in a lime dressing.
 

Amarind’s

Oak Park
What you’re getting: Amarind’s Noodles
Rangsan Sutcharit, a nine-year Arun’s vet, takes his fine-dining expertise and pairs it with delectable dishes at an affordable price point at Amarind's. The carefully presented plates are as tasty as they look, including the eponymous Amarind’s Noodles, featuring spinach noodles with a plethora of shrimp, crab, bean sprouts, garlic chive, and scrambled egg in a chili sauce.

jeffy mai

Aroy Thai

Lincoln Square
What you’re getting: Tom yum
Tom Yum is a hallmark of any Thai menu and the version at Aroy is as good as it gets. The rich and funky, spicy and sour broth is loaded with beef balls, tender beef, green onions, and mushrooms, and it pretty much guarantees to keep you warm during the next few months, especially for those who commute -- thanks to the restaurant’s close proximity to the Damen Brown Line station.

jeffy mai

Sticky Rice

North Center
What you’re getting: Northern Thai larb
It’s one of Chicago’s most popular Thai spots, and for good reason. While you can’t go wrong with any dish on the menu, the surest bet is to stick with the Northern Thai specialties that the restaurant is known for. Northern Thai larb is an intensely flavorful mix of ground pork and intestine, stir-fried with a blend of spices. It packs just the right amount of heat to keep things interesting and even the most offal-adverse diners will find it pretty damn delicious.

Opart Thai House

Opart

Lincoln Square
What you’re getting: Tiger Cry
With two locations in Chicago, Opart is without a doubt a popular destination for some authentic Thai fare. Start the meal with the restaurant’s most well known dish, Tiger Cry. Charbroiled beef is served with a house-made hot sauce that will have you crying... over how good it is. (See what we did there? DO YOU???).

jeffy mai

Thai Pastry Restaurant

Uptown
What you’re getting: Fried stuffed chicken wings
As the name implies, this Argyle spot has a full complementary bakery in front offering cookies, cakes, ice cream, and other pastries. The regular menu is what you're here for, though, with a quality selection of noodles, curries, and lunch specials. You’ll definitely immediately get the fried stuffed chicken wings with panang curry -- a unique take on wings you definitely won’t find at BW3.
 

Me dee Café

Lincoln Square
What you’re getting: Congee
This under-the-radar Ravenswood spot counts all of the standard American-Thai dishes you’d expect along with some fusion items like shumai and calamari. The best time to drop in? After 8pm, when the "secret" congee menu is available; you’ll get a bowl of rice porridge to go with a few sides of your choosing, ranging from pork belly and Chinese sausage to ong choy (water spinach). Bonus: the restaurant stays open 'til 1:30am.

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Jeffy Mai is a freelance writer who will make the entire table wait while he photographs each dish. Three times. Follow him on Twitter @jmai.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
1. Jin Thai Cuisine 5458 N Broadway, Chicago, IL 60640 (Edgewater)

Jin Thai rivals the best the city has to offer. You’ll find the usual array of salads, soups, and noodles (Kao Soy is a standout), but first head straight to the specialties section of the menu and ask for the hot curry catfish, which serves crispy fillets of catfish over a bed of eggplants in a heat-cranking spicy curry.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
2. Andy's Thai Kitchen 946 W Wellington Ave, Chicago, IL 60657 (Lakeview)

It’s possible that Andy’s Thai Kitchen of Lakeview is BYOB because Chef Andy would rather you choose what potion you use to douse the Thai hot spice in your throat. Powerful flavors bathe Andy’s dishes, from the appetizers, salads, soups, entrees, curries, to, most of all, the slurp-worthy noodles. Speaking of noodles, hop the pad Thai fence and explore new noodle terrain, with the boat noodle, a dish complete with beef brisket, thin rice vermicellis, Chinese broccoli, bean sprouts, garlic, onions, pork skin, and cilantro.

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3. TAC Quick 3930 N Sheridan Rd, Chicago, IL 60613 (Wrigleyville)

Thai food should always be delicious, and Tac Quick is surpassing that standard. There's outdoor seating, good vibes, and even better eats. Oh, and there's a secret menu... hayyy.

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4. Arun's 4156 N Kedzie Ave, Chicago, IL 60618 (Irving Park)

Fine dining destination Arun’s has long set the standard for Thai in Chicago, picking up countless accolades and awards over the last 30 and counting years. If you’re willing to splurge a little more than usual on Thai, the tasting menu is the move. It's always changing, but you're likely to find creative takes on Southwest Asian fare as well as traditional courses like spring rolls and panang beef curry among its 10 or 12 courses.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
5. Spoon Thai Restaurant 4608 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60625 (Lincoln Square)

Spoon was one of the first Chicago Thai restaurants to start the “secret” menu trend that would make its way around the city. Nowadays, all diners have access to Spoon’s full array of dishes. The must-try? Somtum Pu. This traditional spicy green papaya salad lights the mouth on fire with a mixture of string beans, tomato, carrot, peanuts, and crab in a lime dressing.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
6. Amarind's 6822 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60707

Rangsan Sutcharit, a nine-year Arun’s vet, takes his fine-dining expertise and pairs it with delectable dishes at an affordable price point at Amarind's. The carefully presented plates are as tasty as they look, including the eponymous Amarind’s Noodles, featuring spinach noodles with a plethora of shrimp, crab, bean sprouts, garlic chive, and scrambled egg in a chili sauce.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
7. Aroy Thai 4656 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60625 (Logan Square)

Lincoln Square is Thai food central and this veteran restaurant remains one of the best examples. The best cold remedy in town is a bowl of their pungently hot and sour beef ball (no, not that kind) and tendon (yes, that kind) soup.

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8. Sticky Rice 4018 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60618

This Northern Thai resto serves authentic cuisine at terrific prices, whether you hit up their resto in person or order their quick and easy delivery.

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9. Opart Thai House 4658 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60625 (Lincoln Square)

Come to Opart for the most authentic Thai cuisine in Chicago -- they have tons of appetizers, soups, and salads, but make sure you leave room for any one of the curries here and you will leave happy. We recommend ordering the signature curry fried rice, which is spicy without being too over the top. Oh, and it's BYOB too, so stop by the liquor store (it's right next door!) on your way in.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
10. Thai Pastry Restaurant 4925 N Broadway, Chicago, IL 60640 (Uptown)

As the name implies, this Argyle spot has a full complementary bakery in front offering cookies, cakes, ice cream, and other pastries. The regular menu is what you're here for, though, with a quality selection of noodles, curries, and lunch specials. You’ll definitely immediately get the fried stuffed chicken wings with panang curry -- a unique take on wings you definitely won’t find at BW3.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
11. Me dee Café 4805 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60625 (Lincoln Square)

This under-the-radar Ravenswood spot counts all of the standard American-Thai dishes you’d expect along with some fusion items like shumai and calamari. The best time to drop in? After 8pm, when the "secret" congee menu is available; you’ll get a bowl of rice porridge to go with a few sides of your choosing, ranging from pork belly and Chinese sausage to ong choy (water spinach). Bonus: the restaurant stays open 'til 1:30am.

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