The 16 Best Thai Restaurants in NYC
From classic spots to new debuts, celebrate Thai New Year at these eateries.
Thai food in NYC is, and has always been, incredible. Classic spots like SriPraPhai have been around for decades alongside nearby Thai supermarkets and shops in the thriving Thai communities of Woodside and Elmhurst, Queens. There’s also no shortage of fresh up-and-comers throughout the city that celebrate regional specialties—sprinkled with some restaurants inspired by nostalgic and home-cooked flavors while others have more daring menus and alluring cocktail programs.
Whether you’re looking to try a completely new dish, burn your tongue off with papaya salads, or just want a reliable pad thai that will deliver sweet-tart flavors, there’s something here for everyone. And with it being Songkran, or Thai new year (Thailand’s biggest national holiday where water is splashed to cleanse away the prior year), we can’t think of a better way to celebrate than to indulge in spicy curries, flavorful noodle soups, and other Thai treats. Here are our 16 favorite Thai spots in NYC—and yes, we definitely recommend heading to Queens for a day-long Thai food excursion.
Jai Sang Ma
The owners of Thai restaurants Mao Mao in Bushwick and Lamoon in Elmhurst closed their Queens spot last August and reopened it this January with a new name and concept. With the debut of Jai Sang Ma, the Broadway space has transformed from specializing in northern Thai cuisine to Thai skewers instead with selections ranging from Nuat Pla Meuk (squid whiskers) and Moo Ping Nam Pheung (honey pork) to Kun Kai (chicken gizzards) and Gung (shrimp). The majority of skewers are priced at $2.50 and a single option of Bacon Pun Hed Khem Thong (enoki bacon) costs $7. Street food is also on offer, with dishes like Bamee Moo Dang (roasted pork noodles) and a longtime Lamoon signature, Leng Zaap (spicy pork spine soup), available to order.
It’s hard to do vegan Thai food right. Either it’s lacking the briny fish sauce flavor that is the backbone of Thai cooking, the vegan proteins are oddly chewy, or the absence of dried shrimp leaves a gaping hole in the dish. Glur Thai in Chelsea does not have this problem. Their vegan Ground Impossible Gra Prow sneakily has a pungency that reads like fish sauce but isn’t (although they won’t disclose what their secret ingredient is). The Vegan Khao Mun Gai Tod (aka Hainanese chicken) and rice tastes just as chicken and rice should: velvety and comforting—like the rice was actually cooked in schmaltz, even though it wasn’t. The hearty Vegan Curry Puff is also a stellar option, and everything can be washed down with vegan Thai Iced Tea made with oat milk. This is a great spot for vegans and non-vegans alike: the plant-based options are just as good, if not better, than the meat options.
Originally founded in Elmhurst in 2008 (but now with a second location in Chelsea Market), Ayada offers Thai food the way many Thais eat: spicy when necessary, funky with dashes of fish sauce, and always delectable. The spot’s Crispy Catfish Salad is an experience in itself, with bits of ground fish that’s deep fried until crispy and cut by strands of sour mango and nutty cashews. The larb is bright with Thai chilies, fresh lime juice, and slivers of raw shallots. Dishes marked as spicy are genuinely spicy, so be sure to order a Thai Tea or Lychee Sangria to cool off.
EIM Khao Mun Kai Elmhurst
Eim, which means “full” in Thai, specializes in Khao Mun Kai—the Thai version of Hainanese chicken and rice. And at this street food-inspired eatery, the signature chicken offerings are available steamed, fried, or roasted, and accompanied by fragrant ginger rice cooked in chicken fat, chicken gizzards and liver, and a clear broth with softened daikon to wash it all down. Take note, the storefront is takeout and cash only.
If you love seafood, add Fish Cheeks to your list right now. Happy hour oysters clock in at $9 for half a dozen and $18 for a full dozen and are topped with crispy shallots and a zesty lime and chili sauce. The signature Coconut Crab Curry is must-order: velvety in texture with ample heat and a generous amount of lump crab meat. An order of the whole Grilled Branzino is a sight to behold, with wheels of lime and slivers of fiery red chili sprinkled among cloves of garlic in a cilantro broth you’ll want to drink at the end. And if seafood isn’t your thing, well, the Grilled Pork Cheeks, zesty Zabb Wings, and Somtum Corn Salad are just as appealing.
Khao Nom—which literally translates to dessert—is one of NYC’s best destinations for those craving Thai sweets. While delicious (and reasonably priced) savory menu items all ranging between $9 to $14—from Corn Fritters to Thai-style Curry Puffs—make for excellent snack options to start a meal, the biggest draw to this Queens spot are popular picks like Black Sticky Rice Pudding drenched in sweetened coconut milk; silky Pandan Tapioca Noodles in a coconut milk broth; Thai-style Sundaes with roasted peanuts and corn toppings; and bouncy Taro Balls with a gently poached egg are all traditional options.
Known for its reasonably priced lunch menu with generous portions, Lan Larb is a no frills (and delicious) Thai eatery in Downtown Manhattan. Lunch specials range from $11 to $17 and come with either chicken larb or tofu larb, in addition a choice of crab rangoon, an egg roll, or choice of soft drink. Thanks to a sprinkling of crushed peanuts, the Tom Yum Noodle Soup features a nutty flavor and evokes Bangkok noodle stalls with warmth, comfort, and spice. The Pad Thai hits all the right notes that’s sweet, savory, and a bit tart due to lime and tamarind. And if you’re looking to try an entirely different seafood noodle soup option, go for the Yen Ta Fo with its pleasant shades of pink.
Look by Plant Love House
Look is part of the Plant Love House restaurant group, which also runs Noods N Chill in Williamsburg. Both joints are a family affair and this homestyle aspect is also honored in the cooking, with meals that are comforting in taste while still having a flair for flavor. Dining at Look (which in Thai translates to child), can feel like snagging a meal at a Thai grandmother’s house.
Pure Thai Cookhouse
Shophouses in Southeast Asia are a common architectural style where the ground floor space can often have a generations-old family run business. Pure Thai Cookhouse takes inspiration from this approach for a cozy experience in Hell’s Kitchen with family recipes and noodles made inhouse. Choose from Root Vegetable Puffs with curry, wok braised proteins of your choice, and five signature noodle dishes like Ratchaburi Crab & Pork Noodles served without broth; Pa-Yao Beef Noodles; and Sukhothai Pork Noodles
Opening a restaurant in NYC already comes with its own unique set of challenges, but doing so during the pandemic requires tenacity—just like the East Village Thai noodle bar, Soothr, and the generations-old recipes they cook with. After debuting as a takeout joint in May 2020, the eatery has since launched onsite dining and delivers on incredible Thai flavors and an enticing cocktail menu inspired by precious and auspicious gems in Thai culture. Here, chef Nate Lingwan’s (Fish Cheeks) menu is known for everything from small bites and soups to wok-fired or entrees, but a dedicated menu of signature noodle dishes—that include broth-less dry noodle specialties like the Ba Mii Pu (crab noodles with tom yum flavor)—are some of the most memorable.
Thanks to its consistency, expansive menu, and genuinely delicious food, since opening in 1990, SriPraPhai in Woodside is considered as one of the greatest OG Thai restaurants in NYC. Yes, favorites like Pad Thai, Drunken Noodles, and vivid Tom Yum Soup can be found here—but the popular spot carries some heavy hitters, too. Go for the Shrimp Paste Fried Rice for a unique and umami-forward dish; Tom Zap Soup for a more adventurous version of Tom Yum with liver and tripe; and Rad Na for the saucier version of Pad See Ew. Bonus points: SriPraPhai has amazing vegetarian options for all your plant-based friends and everything is cash only.
Somtum Der originally hails from Thailand, and offers the same flavors and experiences one would find at their Bangkok locale without having to travel thousands of miles. The restaurant specializes in dishes that are northeastern Thai, or Isaan, so be sure to get the classics like Larb and Grilled Pork Neck. In addition, there are eight versions of papaya salad to choose from (including one flecked with salted duck egg). And for anyone looking to really do it up Isaan style, be sure to accompany your meal with a basket of sticky rice.
Opened in February of 2020 by wife-and-husband team (formerly of Uncle Boon’s) Ann Redding and Matt Danzer, Thai Diner offers Thai dishes with a mix of diner-inspired classics in a vibrant setting surrounded by plants, lacquered wood, and pops of color and excitement comforting from all sides. Breakfast items like the Thai Tea Babka French Toast with salty condensed milk are served until 5 pm, and for dinner, choose from seafood platters, Thai Disco Fries smothered in massaman curry, Classic Hamburger with an option to add American cheese, a spicy Lobster Omelette Chu Chee, and more.
After initially delaying its opening to August 2020 due to the pandemic, Tong in Bushwick is a stellar spot for Isaan cooking hailing from Thailand’s northeastern region bordering Laos. Here, executive chef Chetkangwan “Jade” Thipruetree’s hometown of the Thai city, Khon Kaen, is reflected in the menu with dishes like the Naem Khluk, a tongue-tingling crispy rice salad with lumps of fermented sausage that’s properly spicy. Diners can also deviate from the typically sweet and nutty papaya salads of central Thailand and get Tum Poo Plara instead, made with funky fermented anchovy paste and deeply savory crab.
Ugly Baby is from the team behind the now-closed Kao Soy in Red Hook. This small, colorful, and unpretentious restaurant draws inspiration from several different regions of Thailand. The menu here features complex dishes and serious spice-lovers should pay special attention to the Kua Kling, a dry shank beef curry from the South which even gets the classification of “brutally spicy” on the menu. Additional menu items include the Nuey Foy (sweet shredded beef), Yum Tua Pa (wing bean salad), and limited-time specials like Peek Gai (ground pork stuffed chicken wings).
Wayla is all about homestyle Thai food in an atmospheric setting. Here, the restaurant’s basement-level seating is moody in a romantic way, with private booths on the sidewalk for some seclusion and an outdoor backyard garden perfect for al fresco dinners and summer brunches. With the kitchen helmed by Bangkok native, executive chef Tom Naumsuwan, dishes can range from the very traditional (Moo Sarong is considered to be an ancient recipe passed down through generations), to the adaptive (Kanang Pad Krapow with brussel sprouts aren’t common in Thailand, yet this version is worthy of your attention). Pair it with signature cocktails infused with Thai flavors like pandan and tamarind.