Food & Drink

The 13 Best Spots for Thai Food in NYC

Published On 02/12/2015 Published On 02/12/2015
Best thai nyc
Courtesy of Evan Sung/Uncle Boons

Every city has a TON of Thai spots, but very, very few cities have a Thrillist list that tells you exactly which ones are the good Thai spots. Congratulations, New York. You're one of the very, very few. From a kao soy specialist in Red Hook to a crowd-friendly import from Bangkok, here are the 13 best Thai spots in NYC.

Courtesy of Evan Sung/Uncle Boons

Uncle Boons

Nolita
Best For: Beer slushie enthusiasts
Not only are the chefs behind this downtown hangout both alums of Per Se, but they're also the chefs behind a contraption that turns bottles of Singha into boozy slushies. Perfect for washing down plates of juicy rotisserie chicken, grilled sour sausages. and spicy lamb laab (essentially a minced meat salad).
 

Pure Thai Cookhouse

Hell’s Kitchen
Best For: Budget-conscious diners
Chefs David and Vanida Bank modeled this always-packed location after the street stands of their homeland. The namesake “Pure Thai” noodles (featuring house-made egg strands) are exceptional and so are snacks like bean paste-marinated pork ribs and vegetable (trust us) spring rolls. They’re all also part of a killer lunch deal, when everything is $10 and under.

Courtesy of Somtum Der

Somtum Der

East Village
Best For: Thai enthusiasts looking for a bustling crowd
Near the front, you’ll spot the Bangkok import’s star dish -- green papaya salad -- being thrown together, then sent over to diners seated at long communal tables. There are eight varieties in all, each funkier than the one before, along with shareable soups, smoky grilled skewers, and sticky rice to sop up all the leftover sauce.

Flickr/Lulun & Kame

Pok Pok Phat Thai

Columbia St Waterfront
Best For: Pad Thai devotees
If you're after next-level pad Thai, get the one at Andy Ricker’s noodle-only spin-off. No sickly sweet stuff here -- just plate upon plate of wide rice noodles cooked in pork fat with your choice of prawns, ground pork, or both (so... both).
 

Kao Soy

Red Hook
Best For: Noodle soup aficionados
True to the restaurant’s name, the must-order item here is kao soy, the fragrant, coconut-scented curry native to Chiang Mai. Thai native Kanlaya Supachana doles out an impressive bowl that's brimming with tender chunks of chicken, springy egg noodles, and crunchy fried papaya sticks.

Harold Dieterle/Kin Shop

Kin Shop

West Village
Best For: Top Chef worshippers
Not every one who’s on Top Chef pans out, but this unassuming neighborhood spot that delivers bold, yet sophisticated Thai fare (like roasted maitake drunken noodles or a fried pork and crispy oyster salad) is just one of the reasons Harold Dieterle did.

Flickr/Jarret M

Ngam

East Village
Best For: Farm-to-table disciples
Helmed by supermodel-turned-super-chef Hong Thaimee (what have you done for me lately, Kate Moss), this cozy charmer takes a more modern approach (locally sourced, hormone-free) to Thai cooking, offering up red curry with roasted Long Island duck, lamb massaman roti pot pie, and fries made from kabocha squash and sweet potato.

Flickr/Lulun & Kame

Larb Ubol

Hell’s Kitchen
Best For: People who would rather not leave the house
Infinitely better than your average pad Thai slingers, this 9th Ave joint is actually a reliable takeout option. Queue up all nine seasons of One Tree Hill (!!!!) on Netflix and put in an order for Isaan specialties like som tum (available here in eight different forms) and moo krob kra prao (crispy pork wok-fried with holy basil).

Patty Lee

SriPraPhai

Sunnyside
Best For: Vegetable pushers
Navigating this 7 train standby’s 30-plus-page menu is no easy task. Luckily, all you need to do is remember three words: crispy. Watercress. Salad. Don’t worry, the leafy greens are battered and deep-fried, then tossed with squid, chicken, and shrimp, plus a spicy fish sauce dressing to form New York City’s most glorious "salad."
 

SkyIce

Park Slope
Best For: Sugar junkies
The Asian-inspired ice cream here -- done in creative flavors ranging from Thai tea to black sesame seaweed -- is one of the many draws of SkyIce in Brooklyn. Do get a ton of it, but don’t overlook the savory things, including a standout kao soy, baked chicken curry puffs, and a “no-carb” pad Thai featuring papaya noodles.

Flickr/Lulun & Kame

Ayada

Elmhurst
Best For: Outerborough advocates
Tucked away on a quiet Queens street, this pint-sized canteen is ironically home to loud, complex, in-your-face curries, from the rich coconut Panang duck to the tamarind-infused kang som -- a sour soup with shrimp. Oh right, and it’s one of the reasons Queens might actually be the best borough.

Flickr/Krista

Zabb Elee

East Village and Elmhurst
Best For: Hardcore heat-seekers
This no-frills favorite isn’t afraid of anything, be it spiciness or ingredients... iness. Skip the usual carb-loaded fare, and opt for Northern Thai classics such as crispy marinated catfish and grilled chicken livers, gizzards, and kidneys, accompanied by a tamarind sauce.

Flickr/Edsel Little

Pok Pok NY

Columbia St Waterfront District
Best For: Just the best. Period.
Andy Ricker’s PDX transplant Pok Pok lives up to the hype hype. The fish sauce wings are as addictive as ever, but it’s the terrific regional specialties that truly steal the show. There’ll probably be a wait, but you can kill time at the neighboring Whiskey Bar. Just don’t fill up too much -- there's whole-roasted poussin and grilled boar collar to be had.

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Patty Lee is a reporter and editor who has written for Zagat, Time Out New York, New York Daily News, and Cooking Channel. At all other times: an eater of desserts, aspiring world traveler, and proud Brooklynite. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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1. Uncle Boons 7 Spring St, New York, NY 10012 (Soho)

Unlike the countless generic pad Thai and pineapple fried rice spots around town, this Michelin-starred basement bungalow serves authentic Thai cuisine broken up into drinking snacks, small plates, large plates, and dishes off the charcoal grill. The Khao Soi Kaa Kai is an absolute must -- a steaming bowlful of yellow curry-soaked noodles and an almost impossibly tender chicken drumstick. Frozen beer slushies pair well with spicier dishes, and the small, always-packed space lends itself to trading a caramelized riblet for a bite of garlic-coated pea shoots with a nearby neighbor.

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2. Pure Thai Cookhouse 766 9th Ave, New York, NY 10019 (Hells Kitchen)

Chefs David and Vanida Bank modeled this always-packed location after the street stands of their homeland. The namesake “Pure Thai” noodles (featuring house-made egg strands) are exceptional and so are snacks like bean paste-marinated pork ribs and vegetable (trust us) spring rolls.

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3. Somtum Der NYC 85 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009 (Alphabet City)

Originating from Bangkok, this beloved restaurant serves the same authentic Northeastern Thai cuisine (also known as Isan) right in Alphabet City. Complete with an assortment of dishes and flavors (including chilis, lime juice, palm sugar and fermented fish sauce), Somtum Der is warm and welcoming. The casual atmosphere has many modern fixtures, but is boldly reflective of traditional Isan in its use of utilitarian clothing and patterns representative of the region as decor.

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4. Pok Pok Phat Thai 127 Columbia St, Brooklyn, NY 11231 (Lower East Side)

Pok Pok Phat Thai isn't only incredibly fun to say out loud, but it's also Andy Ricker's phat joint that serves up noodles cooked in pork fat with select ingredients like fish sauce, palm sugar, chili powder, and egg, and topping it off with your choice of ground pork or fresh prawns (among other authentic dishes).

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5. Kao Soy 283 Van Brunt St, Brooklyn, NY 11231 (Red Hook)

Red Hook's Kao Soy is known for its boldly flavored eponymous dish, which features egg noodles and chicken in a spicy soup of yellow coconut milk curry, mixed with scallion, pickles, chili paste, red shallots, and mustard greens, and topped with green papaya fritters and lime wedges. While you could, in theory, leave the restaurant plenty happy post-kao soy, don’t miss out on the rest of the Northern Thai dishes on the menu, like the fried banana blossom sai oua and green shrimp curry.

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6. Kin Shop 469 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10011 (Greenwich Village)

For this family style eatery, "modern Thai" means American style food with Thai flavors. Lamb comes rendered in a curry sauce while a cup of fermented plum-shrimp sauce rides a long with a plate of tea-smoked ribs. Even fried chicken flies into the menu, marinated in ginger, garlic, lemongrass, oyster sauce and Thai shrimp paste before being fried in rice flour and served with fish-chili sauce on the side.

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7. Ngam 99 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10003 (East Village)

Ngam isn't traditional Thai, it's farm fresh Thai. The East Village spot takes a modern, Alice Waters-like approach to Thai cooking by partnering with local farms to serve a seasonal menu of curries, noodles, and grilled meats. It might be the only spot in the city where you'll find kale fried rice, lobster dumplings, and red curry pumpkin fries. As for drinks, the Tom Yum shot is a must: it's similar in taste to spicy hot-and-sour soup, but it's got tequila and a salt-and-chile rim.

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8. Larb Ubol 480 9th Ave, New York, NY 10018 (Hells Kitchen)

This Hell's Kitchen Thai joint is a reliable takeout option, and offers delicious Isaan specialties like som tum (available in eight different forms).

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9. SriPraPhrai Thai Restaurant 6413 39th Ave, Woodside, NY 11377 (Queens)

Not too many Manhattanites would trek to Woodside on the 7 train for a burn-your-face-off, please-extinguish-the-flames-in-my-esophagus spicy culinary experience, but that’s just the type of “Thai hot” you’re going to get at SriPraPhai. This cash-only joint is decorated sparingly but tastefully; the lime green walls are reminiscent of the curry you’ll order, and are a welcome addition to an otherwise ascetic dining room. The 130-plus item menu is dizzying, but the good news is you can’t go wrong with any of SriPraPhai’s traditional hot and spicy dishes. Follow your papaya salad appetizer with drunken noodles and Massaman curry, and when you can’t handle the heat anymore, give in and cool your insides with green tea ice cream, you masochist.

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10. SkyIce Sweet & Savory 63 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217 (Park Slope)

The Asian-inspired ice cream here -- done in creative flavors ranging from Thai tea to black sesame seaweed -- is one of the many draws of SkyIce in Brooklyn. Do get a ton of it, but don’t overlook the savory things, including a standout kao soy, baked chicken curry puffs, and a “no-carb” pad Thai featuring papaya noodles.

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11. Ayada Thai 7708 Woodside Ave, Elmhurst, NY 11373 (Queens)

Small storefront, big taste when you ask for the "crispy pork upgrade" that you can request on any dish. Yes, crispy pieces of pork on any dish that just add on to the already sensory punching plates. N worries if it's too hot - which it will likely be; - there's coconut water to go around.

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12. Zabb Elee 71-28 Roosevelt Ave, Jackson Heights, NY 11372 (East Village)

Great for hardcore heat-seekers, this no-frills favorite isn’t afraid of anything, be it spiciness or ingredients... iness. Skip the usual carb-loaded fare, and opt for Northern Thai classics such as crispy marinated catfish and grilled chicken livers, gizzards, and kidneys, accompanied by a tamarind sauce.

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13. Pok Pok Ny 117 Columbia St, New York, NY 11231

Andy Ricker's Michelin-starred restaurant on Brooklyn's Columbia Street Waterfront specializes in Northern Thai food, a regional cuisine that favors pork and deep-frying over spiciness and coconut milk. Pok Pok's menu is filled with family-style plates like deep-fried pork riblets, minced pork salad with crispy fried garlic, and insanely good chicken wings, deep-fried and coated in fish sauce. There's usually a wait at peak dinner times, especially for a table on the back patio in the summer.

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