In a city of $12 sandwiches, I find myself excited about a lunch special. Manora's Thai has been on Folsom and 12th St. for twenty years. The Zagat and Michelin awards hanging on the wall fade out around 2010, so I went hoping there was still some magic that's kept people coming in. I'd bet it's the $8.95 lunch special.
The lunch combo menu offers rice, soup, a sweet cucumber salad and two main options. Most are the usual Thai staples, like fried imperial rolls, BBQ chicken, satay and a few curries. There's nothing you haven't seen at your regular neighborhood Thai restaurant before.
But, Manora's is still winning, faded curtains and all, because it does certain things well. The gai tom ka, a small bowl of lemony coconut chicken soup, was much better than most versions (I'm used to wondering if a few sad mushrooms were just dropped into a can of coconut milk). The broth was silky, the lime tamed by the coconut and the hunks of tender dark meet. The yellow curry was mild, but laced with roasted spices and bone-in chicken pieces and potatoes. I'd definitely come back for it and order the whole entrée. The rice, cucumber salad, and familiar orange slice are nothing to write home about.
Service is hurried, which is a bit ironic considering the brightly colored Hawaiian shirts all the waiters are wearing. The floral carpet and painted bar stools are showing a little wear, but ornate wood carvings hanging around the room and orchids on each table manage to brighten things up.
Lunch hours are Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m to 2:30 p.m.