Eat Your Way Through East Hollywood’s Thai Town This Songkran
Celebrate Thai New Year in this six-block haven for Thai food.
Unlike Thanksgiving or Lunar New Year, Thai New Year—otherwise known as Songkran—doesn’t have a definitive dish that must be consumed for prosperity’s sake. Instead, people in Bangkok typically travel back to their hometowns for the week-long celebrations and enjoy regional specialties they don’t otherwise have access to.
Those of us in Los Angeles have options. The celebrations in LA’s Thai Town typically include street closures for muay Thai sparring, Thai classical dance performances, and water fights synonymous with the new year as a means of cleansing away the past. This year, with continued mask mandates and safety restrictions, Songkran will look a little different.
Despite that, the six-block East Hollywood neighborhood that is Thai Town remains a beacon for Thai food of all varieties. There are options for northern noodle soups flush with coconut milk, sharp Northeastern fermented Thai sausage, spicy Southern curries, and Central favorites like pad Thai and barbecue pork rice. Whatever you’re craving, here are the spots you have to hit for a Thai Town food crawl in celebration of Songkran.
Blink and you just might miss Siam Sunset. That’s because this Thai breakfast spot, which has been around for decades, is unassumingly attached to an America’s Best Value Inn. Despite its home in a value motel, Siam Sunset makes some of the best Thai congee in LA, starting at $4 a bowl, complete with garlicky pork meatballs and slivers of ginger. If you get there early enough—like at 6 am when the place opens—you can also snag some Chinese crullers to dunk into your rice porridge or a side of sweetened condensed milk. Just remember that it’s cash only—although you won’t need a lot, because the value is incredible.
How to order: Open for dine-in service; call 323-467-8935 for takeout.
Sapp Coffee Shop is known for their jade noodles—a delicious tangle of green egg noodles topped with a trio of crab, barbecue pork, and slivers of duck and finished off with crushed peanuts and chili powder. It’s popular for a reason, but the other noodle options—which include deep Thai cuts like the seafood-infused yen ta fo noodle soup and the fermented sausage fried rice, are worth trying, too.
How to order: Open for dine-in service; takeout and delivery via ChowNow.
Digging into regional specialties is when Thai food can become even more interesting than it already is. Such is the case at Northern Thai Food Club, which serves delightful dishes that hail from Chiang Rai. There’s sai oua, a spicy and herbaceous sausage filled with the scent of lemongrass and makrut lime leaves. The kanom jeen nam ngiaw is a Northern specialty of vermicelli noodles in a red cotton flower broth that’s hard to come across in other regions of Thailand, let alone in Los Angeles. Lastly, the nam prik noom, a Northern chili paste comparable to salsa, is wonderful with boiled eggs or just a bowl of white rice, but goes especially well with an order of house-made pork rinds.
How to order: Open for dine in service; takeout and delivery via their website.
Every self-respecting Thai food enthusiast has heard of Jitlada. But just in case you haven’t, here’s the gist: the menu is expansive, the restaurant is family-owned, the food is deliriously spicy when called for, and the specialty is Southern Thai food (which means tons of seafood). Yes, you can order your typical favorite pad Thai, but maybe opt for the Southern version called Nakhon Spicy Pad Thai which can be made with lamb, soft shell crab, or tiger prawns, and is zippier thanks to Thai chilies and additional tamarind.
How to order: Call 323-667-9809 for takeout; delivery via UberEats, DoorDash, and Grubhub.
Photos of Pa Ord, or Auntie Ord, adorn the walls of Pa Ord Noodle. And for good reason—she’s built an incredible fanbase and two successful Los Angeles restaurants thanks to her memorable noodle soups. The boat noodles are a favorite; deeply savory blood soup is filled with rice noodles, choice of pork or beef, liver, tripe, and a sprinkling of bean sprouts. For something a little brighter, the tom yum noodle soup is equally as delicious and cut with a generous squeeze of lime. If noodles aren’t your thing, the spicy basil stir fry—otherwise known as pad krapow—is always a winner.
How to order: Open for dine-in at the Hollywood location; select your location and order takeout or delivery via their website.
Bhan Kanom Thai, which pretty much translates to house of Thai snacks, is the place to go if you’re looking to pick up a bag of Thai Lays (we recommend the sweet Thai basil flavor if you can find them), fresh baked buns stuffed with pandan custard, and endless other Thai sweets. The staff at Bhan Kanom Thai are usually behind the counter flipping pangchi—black sticky rice pancakes studded with corn and coconut flakes—or pinching together sweet and savory crispy crepes. In the refrigerated section, you can find mung bean pudding, Thai tea-flavored custard, and even mango and sticky rice if the fruit is in season.
How to order: In person
There are a handful of Sanamluang Cafes scattered across Los Angeles, but the one on Hollywood Boulevard in Thai Town is the original. It’s across the street from Jumbo’s Clown Room (if you know, you know) and is open late for drunken revelers and late shift workers alike. The menu is relatively traditional and big enough to have something for everyone; you can’t go wrong with an order of duck noodles, rad na (pad see ew’s saucier cousin), or panang curry here.
How to order: Pickup via their website and delivery via Postmates, UberEats, DoorDash, and Grubhub.