Thai restaurants began popping up all over San Francisco in the 1980s, and within a decade, Thai food had become a staple for first dates and Thursday-night takeouts. San Franciscan children eat almost as much pad Thai as they do organic baby carrots, and Thai restaurateurs have learned how to adapt their food to American tastes: sweeter, gentler, far lighter on the fish sauce and shrimp paste. But a few Thai restaurants are putting out gutsier, more nuanced fare, and exploring far beyond favorite American menu items like prik king and pad see euw.
Here are SFoodie's five favorite Thai restaurants in town:
5. Marnee Thai
The original, Irving Street location of Marnee Thai dates back to San Francisco's initial fascination with the cuisine, and American tastes have reshaped many of its dishes. But the basa with chili garlic sauce, the prawn and scallop yellow curry, and the hor mok (a steamed seafood custard, served on weekends) remain charismatically aromatic. The real draw of the cramped original location, whose walls are covered over in woven panels, is co-owner May Siriyarn, whose husband Chai is the chef. May is a sharp, boistress hostess who will boss you into ordering better than you'd planned. Get to know her well enough, and you may get a psychic reading with your sticky rice and mango.