These purple flowers are actually dumplings
Tucked away in a tiny strip mall (if you could even call it that) on a side street in Wheaton, MD, Ruan Thai has been serving authentic Thai cooking for nearly 20 years. From the staple drunken noodles to the fan-favorite, fried watercress salad, Ruan Thai’s menu is extensive and does not skimp on the heat. Ruan Thai doesn’t do anything too outside-the-box, but it nails the traditional flavors and the prices are more than reasonable. Bonus points for being next door to the beloved Ren’s Ramen, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Showcasing flavors from both Thai and Laotion cuisine, Bangkok Golden dishes up tasty family-style eats -- try any of the larb (minced meat), anything ping (grilled), and the crispy watercress salad.
Even deeper into the suburban ethnic enclave of Falls Church, you’ll find Duangrat’s Oriental Food Mart. A small takeout counter in the back of a grocery store that shares a kitchen with the neighboring Rabieng Thai Restaurant (and not the similarly named Duangrat’s Thai Restaurant), the Duangrat’s takeout offers home-style Thai cooking that’s actually meant for ethnic Thai, so there is no watering down of flavor or heat. There’s nowhere to sit, but don’t be afraid to pig out on the hood of your car. It’s some of the best Thai food in the area done more quickly and affordably than most, so some sacrifices are understandable. Plus, when you’re done, you can stock up on basically any kind of Asian ingredient you can think of in the store.
Mango Tree draws inspiration from Thailand's history and tradition to bring patrons an atmosphere and cuisine that'll make them feel like they're in the heart of Bangkok. The Thai titan also opted to keep things simple by pricing everything on their happy hour menu at $6, as if you need more incentive.
If you're wanting real, authentic Thai food, this is the place to be -- chowing down under a mural of creatures created by Baltimore street artist Gaia. The sweetness of Thai-American cuisine is spared here to give you the powerful Thai found on Bangkok's Sukhumvit Soi 38 avenue in dishes like kor moo yang (grilled pork neck in lime and chili sauce) and tom yum kradook moo (spicy lemongrass soup with bone-in spare ribs and chili).
At Little Serow, the standard wait for a table is no less than an hour. The spot's prix-fixe-only menu, updated every Tuesday, offers a different series of family-style plates each week, all of which are carefully curated to create a balanced spread of Northern Thai flavors (which means you get to skip out on the painful process of selecting your own entree). Typically, guests can choose between a meat-centric or seafood-heavy meal option, but otherwise, the place offers no substitutions (even for allergies). But while L.S. won't cater to picky guests, diners rarely complain after consuming plates of mud crab with coconut husk and shrimp paste, or whole market fish with fresh turmeric and house peanut sauce. And the best part: desert is mandatory.