Bangkok 96 2450 S. Telegraph Rd., Dearborn; 313-730-8161; $: Open since 1996, this bright, warm space decorated with wall hangings and elephant imagery enjoys a steady stream of loyal dine-in and take-out customers. The menu boasts traditional Thai favorites, such as gang gai, pad prik khing, pad almond, pad kra tiem and pla lad prik. The restaurant is located between Michigan Avenue and Oxford Street and is open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Friday, noon-10 p.m. Saturdays, closed Sundays.
Bangkok Cafe 323 W. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale; 248-548-5373; $: Do an informal poll at Bangkok Café's carryout station and you'll find that most people have been coming here for years. It's all about the consistency that starts with their subtly tasty chicken and vegetable fresh rolls enhanced with mint leaves and a tangy dipping sauce and tom yum gai hot-and-sour soup. If a Thai restaurant is to be measured by its pad Thai, then we will vouch for this well-spiced but not dripping-in-sauce version. Even beyond the staples, we've yet to find a dish here that hasn't satisfied our Southeast Asian cravings. For instance, try the garlicky dish that's cleverly named "Kiss Me." Oh, sure, you can find Thai restaurants that are bigger, more pretentious or have bigger menus, but the reasonable prices, very fast service (you often needn't even call ahead when picking up) and consistent quality make this place a winner.
Bangkok Crossing 620 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-961-3861; $: As at the majority of Thai restaurants in the area, the food at Bangkok Crossing is heavier than you might prefer. Then again, at lunchtime, it's mobbed by downtown office workers, so what do we know? Several of the dishes are delightful: pla dook pad ped (crisp red snapper stir-fried with mushrooms, peppers and eggplant), pad ma kher (eggplant that's fried within an inch of its life), as well as a few concessions to the American palate.
Bangkok Cuisine 2149 15 Mile Rd., Sterling Heights; 586-977-0130; $: Montree and Somnuk Arpachinda were pioneers in bringing Thai fare to the area, and they carry on at the colorful hideaway they opened in 1983. Beef, pork, chicken, vegetable and seafood entrées come in various, delicious, spicy styles. Also, not a lot of Thai restaurants offer beer and wine — this one does.
Bangkok Sala Cafe 27903 Orchard Lake Rd., Farmington Hills; 248-553-4220; $: Bangkok Sala Cafe is quite an attractive place, and does a good job with its entrées — gingery pad king is a great choice. The best small dishes are the desserts, such as the creamy, dreamy house-made coconut ice cream.
Eat in Thailand 560 Wyandotte St., Windsor; 519-252-0159; $: "Eat in Thailand" is the command — or the invitation — and a pulsing neon arrow shows you where Thailand is. Once inside the bare-bones storefront — no travel posters, just a few small pictures of dragons and pagodas — you'll find fresh food that blends the lightness of lime juice, the richness of coconut milk, the heat of red chilies, and sometimes the grease factor (in a good way) that tends to bring North Americans back for more.
New Bangkok Thai Bistro 183 N. Old Woodward, Birmingham; 248-644-2181; $$: Medium hot will be hot enough for most here. Most entrées can be ordered with chicken, beef, pork, tofu, shrimp, scallops or squid. The fried rice dishes are even more comfort-food-y than the pad thai, with an emphasis on the fried. The beef in one companion's kow pad was super-soft, with, unfortunately, an over-reliance on onions. Fun for the younger set are bubble drinks — smoothies with a handful of soft and chewy boiled tapioca pearls that you slurp up through a special wide straw. Strawberry, watermelon, coconut, taro, green tea and black milk tea are bubble drink flavor options.
Pi's Thai Cuisine 24940 John R St., Hazel Park; 248-545-4070; $: Are you a man or a mouse? At a Thai restaurant, your fellow diners will sit in judgment. The level of heat you ask for is not just a personal preference but an index of your toughness, nay, of your authenticity. Pi's heat levels should be approached with caution. The prices are friendly, with $1.69 spring rolls that are superior. The pad kee mao (spicy noodle) has wide, slippery noodles heaped with generous amounts of smoky chicken and crisp vegetables. The gang gai (red curry chicken) has fiery red chili paste that's only slightly alleviated by the sweet blandness of the coconut milk. Limited seating. No credit cards, no booze. Call ahead 15 or 20 minutes to place your order. Open 11 a.m.-8:45 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon-8:00 p.m. Saturday.
Sala Thai 3400 Russell St., Detroit; 313-831-1302; $: Curries, fried rice, Thai salads and noodles all done in authentic Thai style. Squid and scallops, pork, beef and chicken Thai dishes. Extensive appetizer selections and tasty soups. Vegetarian entrées also. Lively setting.
Sukhothai 25226 Greenfield Rd., Oak Park; 248-968-9495; $$: Like all the best ethnic restaurants, you'll find Sukhothai in a seedy strip mall. Here you'll find koong houm pa, an appetizer in which a spring roll wrapper is folded into a triangle around ground pork and a jumbo shrimp, with the shrimp tail forming a handle (think of a flat ice cream cone), then deep-fried. It is served with a sweet plum dipping sauce. The crispy spring rolls were also delicious.
Sy Thai Cafe 315 Hamilton Row, Birmingham; 248-258-9830; $: This is one restaurant where you ought to take the hot pepper rating seriously; even the mild spice level will prickle your taste buds. The little storefront eatery is a busy, noisy, friendly place, also doing a brisk take-out business. Each of 14 traditional entrées is offered with a choice of chicken, beef, pork, tofu, vegetables, shrimp, squid or imitation crab — noodles, curries, fried rice and other dishes load up the menu. Especially notable are the fresh steamed mussel appetizer and curry noodles with squid and the tom kha soup (coconut milk broth laced with lime, with little straw mushrooms, scallions and fresh basil floating within).
Thai House Express 32166 Woodward Ave., Royal Oak; 248-549-4112; $: Thai House Express in Royal Oak is an offshoot of the original on Gratiot in Roseville. In general, the management encourages substitutions; the menu says any dish can be vegetarian, even giving an example of how to convert a chicken dish into a vegetarian one. Bear in mind that Thai House Express is basically a carryout joint, and that portions are enormous.
Special thanks to editorial intern Ali Harb for assistance with compiling this column.
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