Food & Drink

The 14 best Thai restaurants in the Bay Area

Published On 11/21/2014 Published On 11/21/2014
Amphawa Thai Noodle
Trevor Felch
Chabaa Thai Cuisine Downtown
Trevor Felch
Trevor Felch
Lanna Thai Restaurant
Flickr/I am Jeffrey
Flickr/Premshree Pillai
Trevor Felch
Trevor Felch
Soi 4 Bangkok Eatery
Trevor Felch
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1. Amphawa Thai 5020 Geary St, San Francisco, CA 94118 (Inner Richmond)

This Inner Richmond spot is just a plain, comfortable restaurant that happens to serve you a superb version of chicken wings called “Angel Wings” and the ultimate noodle stir-fry plate, pad kee-mao.

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2. Benjarong Thai Cuisine 1968 Lombard St, San Francisco, CA 94123 (The Marina)

Located in the Marina, Benjarong Thai Cuisine has a calm environment that almost resembles a tea salon. They serve the best pumpkin curry in the city, and offer a lunchtime deal ($10) with a range of curry options, preceded by refreshing rice paper-wrapped spring rolls.

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3. Chabaa Thai Cuisine 2123 Irving St, San Francisco, CA 94122 (Outer Sunset)

This hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant offers delicious authentic Thai food with friendly service. Be sure to try try out the "secret menu", which they'll actually had to you if you ask for it.

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4. Khan Toke Thai House 5937 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94121 (The Richmond)

After taking your shoes off upon entry, brace yourself for intense yellow curry and the always-fun-to-construct meing com (basically lettuce wrap tacos filled with dried shrimp, among other ingredients). Serving up classic, the-way-it-was-and-should-be Thai cooking, there’s nothing avant-garde about Khan Toke. It’s the Tadich Grill of SF’s Thai establishments.

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5. Kin Khao 55 Cyril Magnin St, San Francisco, CA 94102 (The Tenderloin)

Located above the Wyndam Parc 55 Hotel, Kin Khao might be hard to locate, but its menu of even harder to find Thai dishes justifies the journey. The kao mun gai features the single best taste on the menu: a profound chicken consommé that will solve your sniffles and brighten your Tenderloin walk home. But also worth a try are the sour gaeng som curry and rare Crab sen chan made with Dungeness crab and rice noodles. The low-ceilinged space is furnished with austere wood tables and burgundy carpeting, evidence that even familial, homey restaurants like Kin Khao are worthy of a Michelin star.

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6. Sai Jai Thai 771 O'farrell St, San Francisco, CA 94109 (The Tenderloin)

In the Tenderloin, you can always find happy diners feasting on Sai Jai Thai’s grilled pork shoulder. It’s really like a sliced up version of a fatty pork chop so juicy and tasting of straight-up meat that you start feeling dizzy from the experience’s overwhelming intensity. Start with the no-holding-back, Indiana Jones Jeep thrill ride-spice of the shrimp paste dip nam prik ka pi and contrast the pork’s thunder with the graceful, tidy, and crispy fried catfish.

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7. Sabuy Sabuy II 1233 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94618 (Berkeley)

Sabuy Sabuy II gives each diner free scoops of homemade green tea-wasabi or banana-sesame sorbet at the end of the meal. That’s enough reason to BART over, isn’t it? Sabuy Sabuy II stands out because it is one of the very few Thai restaurants around where you are encouraged to forgo the menu and let the ever-gracious owner Bart create your meal. A "Thai omakase", if you will. The regular menu is no slouch either, including way-better-than-it-sounds sweet fruit salad for a starter. The second Sabuy Sabuy gets the nudge over the University-adjacent original, which’s geared more towards take out (though it has a money patio).

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8. Soi 4 Bangkok Eatery 5421 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618 (Oakland)

Soi 4’s regular menu can hold its own with the best around the Bay Area. Mustard leaf-wrapped shrimp and coconut called miang kum is the finger food you've dream of at cocktail receptions. Then go crazy for the red curry with pork shoulder and kabocha squash. Across the bridge, the owners also run Basil and Basil Canteen with nearly identical menus. Skip the decidedly non-craft cocktails at all the spots and have another round of Singha with the best bacon-free Brussels sprouts around.

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9. Zen Yai Thai 771 Ellis St, San Francisco, CA 94109 (The Tenderloin)

For just 10 quarters you can get a bowl of flat-out awesome off-menu boat noodles with a deeply layered beef broth from beef blood and bones, garnished with pork cracklings at Zen Yai Thai. Barbecue is the other signature -- not usually a strong point at Tenderloin Thai spots, but here it's obligatory. Also worth getting: shrimp spring rolls and the house tom yum soup -- just know though, those cost more than $3.