A bonus of dining out at a Thai temple parking lot is the price of the food. Though you’re getting high-quality, home cooking, the prices of the food are a fraction of what you’d get at your latest trendy Thai spot, with most dishes ranging from $3-$8. With such low prices, it’s possible (and easy) to feed yourself a 3-course meal, beverage in hand, for under $20.
If you do want to eat at a wat, just make sure to bring some cash with you. Whether you’re handing over your crumpled bills to the vendors directly, or exchanging them for plastic tokens in a dining hall system that many wats utilize, it's cash-only. KQED noted that the reason wats may rely on their cash-only mantra is due in part to the fact that these spaces are non-profits, and therefore taking full advantage of patrons’ cash donations to maintain the temple. Though somewhat tedious, the cash that diners provide help support the monks, upkeep of the temple grounds and schools, and continue supporting the Thai food courts that more and more people are venturing to find.
When heading to your local temple for a meal, it's worth remembering to be respectful, as wats are places of worship and oftentimes double as schools. This means adhering to a more modest dress code, taking off your shoes when entering the temple, never pointing your feet towards statues of Buddha or altars of worship, and generally behaving quietly and graciously.
It’s an exciting time to be a fan of Thai food. As more people travel to Thailand and return home longing for a slice of their vacation, more wats are opening their doors and happily providing an immersive and welcoming experience. Thai people are extremely skilled at improvisation and it reflects in the amount of suburban lots in America that have been transformed into places of worship and makeshift cafeterias. Using portable gas stoves and huge woks, Thai aunties invite you to make your way to the wat, say a prayer, and fill your stomach.