Getting my Thai food fix in Albuquerque

Less than 24 hours ago, I landed at the Sunport runway grateful for the dry heat and the mountains and a personal space allotment larger than 2 square feet of grungy Bangkok sidewalk.

Sure I was jet-lagged like a drunken mango, but I couldn't help but do the following things to celebrate a return home:

  • Go eat a big bowl of really great pho at Pho #1.
  • Run around town, looking to see how full the arroyos are from all the rain I missed last week.
  • Head to Talin Marketplace for Thai produce, noodles, black sticky rice, and spices.

Surprisingly, our homegrown ethnic food superstore has just about everything I could want to prepare a home remedy for my Thai cravings... Even crazy ingredients such as fresh banana blossom, green mango, and frozen mangosteen. On the shelves of the Bangkok aisle, I found chile garlic oil, shrimp-chile paste, and canned lychee, rambutan, and more mangosteen. In another section, I found fresh wide noodles. The only thing I couldn't find was fresh pomelo.

But that's only good if I'm up for cooking at home. What about authentic Thai food elsewhere in town?

Albuquerque has a decent number of quality Thai restaurants in town including Bangkok Cafe, Thai Tip, Thai Basil, Orchid Thai and more. But which are the most authentic? You know, places that have yam som-o (pomelo salad) on the menu and will prepare a dish "thai hot" if you ask for it.

Got any recommendations?

Views: 156

Comment by chantal on November 2, 2007 at 3:12pm
This story was copied from its original location on a different server. I've copied the comment thread here below.

SgtGrumbles wrote:
I wish someone would open a resturant called the Pho Sure.
07/04/06 17:07:28

Edith Grove wrote:
I have to confess my love for the Siam Cafe, especially their curries and extensive vegetarian menu. But I did recently figure out how to make coconut milk soup at home with the thai chilis, lemongrass, galangal and other assorted ingredients from Talin.
07/04/06 18:23:25

non wrote:
I thought Pho #1 was Vietnamese.
07/04/06 19:58:44

Spartacus wrote:
Odd... I just recently had an experience regarding ABQ Thai food. Here goes: a few weeks back, I had a weeklong training session down at the Hilton, and the instructor (a self-proclaimed foodie) asked us all for suggestions on good places to eat around town. Turns out, he travels constantly, and is always on the lookout for something good, especially Thai. Anyhow, among the places suggested was Thai Orchid, off Nob Hill. Some of the trainees took him there for lunch... and he came back raving. He said it was among the best, if not the best, he'd had in all his travels throughout the USA. In fact, it was certainly among the best he'd had outside of Thailand.

07/04/06 20:06:56

chantal wrote:
Non, you're right. Pho is Vietnamese.

When I was in Bangkok, I actually had a bowl of pho which, to my surprise, was not nearly as good as the pho you can get here in Albuquerque. So by the time I came home, I was really craving a bowl of the good stuff.

Spartacus, thanks for the scoop! I haven't been to Orchid Thai (http://www.orchidthaicuisin...) in at least a year. Sounds like it's time to go back.
07/04/06 21:58:42

Spartacus wrote:
My fave place is Siam Cafe, but that may change after I visit Orchid Thai. I just wish it were closer to my location (La Cueva area). I'll have to arrange a side trip during my planned inaugural visit to the new O'Neill's Pub, which is in the vicinity.
07/04/06 22:30:15

Cinderella Ferret wrote:
I love Thai Cuisine on the westside in the shopping center at Coors and Montano. It is a couple of doors down from Raley's. Easily as good as any Thai food in the state. I have been eating there since it was essentially a little fast food joint. They remodeled about 4 years ago so it is much nicer. The lunch buffett is excellent and inexpensive.
07/04/06 22:46:24

Laura wrote:
I'm not a Thai food junkie by any means, but I have found that I can grab a great Thai meal at the Baptist Student Union at University and Martin Luther King, Jr. M-F around the noon hour. I don't know much more about details other than it is usually $5 for a generous portion and I've heard some say it is the best they've found around. Worth checking out though, especially for the price.
07/05/06 00:09:42

UptownKen wrote:
I am a Thai food junkie (esp for Ginger Chicken Stir Fry), and I go to Orchid all the time. Krung Thai on Menaul just west of the Flying Star (at Utah?) is OK if I'm not able to get away for a trip from Uptown to Nob Hill...but the trip is certainly worth it.
07/05/06 03:46:24

Maggie wrote:
Orchid's my favorite, too. I'm absolutely obsessed with their coconut milk/lemongrass soups and chicken pineapple curry.
07/05/06 06:38:33

Guitarzan wrote:
Ya gotta try the Thai Tip. Very good food. Don't forget the mango and sweet rice dessert! Pho #1 is undoubtedly the best Vietnamese food in the city. Second I'd say Cafe Trang in the old Ta Lin Market.
07/05/06 09:15:17

Don wrote:
I agree that Thia Tip's is very good.Followed by Orchids's and Thai Basil Restaurant.
07/05/06 09:41:18

maximus attentivus wrote:
Used to go to a place called Thai Rose (if I remember correctly) on San Mateo and south of Zuni. It used to be THE Thai place. I don't know if it is open, but if it is, it would at least be worth a look.
07/05/06 10:27:07

Benny the Icepick wrote:
I move here exactly a year ago today (yahoo!) and was pleasantly surprised to find some pretty good Thai. Of these, Orchid is my favorite (although I don't think I'll ever understand why the servers have flashing LED belt buckles).

One thing I really miss is good Indian food. The University of Cincinnati (and surrounds) had a HUGE Indian population. We had something like six or seven restaurants right around campus, and even the cheapy take-out place beat the pants off of everything I've had in town.
07/05/06 12:41:37

Phil wrote:
I'm a Siam Cafe fan, but Thai Orchid was really good the one time I was there.

Changing the subject slightly, is anyone else amazed by how many Thai places have sprung up here in the last few years? Tucson, which has 100K more people than we do, has only three Thai restaurants to its credit.

Benny, I feel your pain...I keep hoping that the new occupant of the old Stella Blue will magically turn out to be an Indian place after all. (Though Taj Mahal definitely ain't bad).
07/05/06 12:50:24

chantal wrote:
Benny and Phil,

Have you tried Bombay Grill on the West side yet? My desi friends swear it's the best in town.
07/05/06 13:22:21

lou wrote:
my favorites-

Thai - Bangkok Cafe on Central between Alvarado and San Pedro and Siam Cafe near Cliff's.

Indian - Taj Majal on Carlisle for its lunch buffet, and India Palace behind the Walgreens at Wyoming and Montgomery.
07/05/06 13:29:41

green wrote:
I moved here a year ago, and I have been very impressed with the quality of the Thai food. I suggest all of the places mentioned above, as well as Thai House near Yale and Central. (I can't remember the exact side street.)

However, does anyone have a suggestion on where to get good Thai Iced Tea? Everyplace I have been to serves it with way too much cream, and it is not very flavorful. Isn't it supposed to have a little kick that is cooled down with sweetend condensed milk?
07/05/06 13:37:24

Aaron wrote:
Thai Crystal is the best in town.

It is located on Gold Ave, behind the downtown Century 24 theater. It is the only excellent Thai restaurant in town. It ranks up there with some of the best places in the Bay Area.

Sorry, but Thai Orchid always has slow service and mediocre food; it is okay in a pinch.

Bangkok Cafe is horrible: they use the cheapest cuts of meat. I do not recommend this place at all.
07/05/06 14:11:17

Freekbuoy wrote:
Oh, man. I can't believe nobody mentioned Thai Ginger on San Mateo just north of Kathryn. Best I've had yet. Great food, fantastic Iced Coffee. If you go, you gotta try the tapioca pudding. Made with just tapioca, coconut milk, sea salt, and a pinch of sugar.
07/05/06 14:47:47

ABQBosque wrote:
My 2 cents-

Thai Food: Thai Ginger on east side of San Mateo between Katheryn and Zuni

Indian food: India Kitchen on the south side of Montgomery just west of Louisiana in the same strip mall as Assets....
07/05/06 16:22:43

Laurie wrote:
Don't remember the name, but there is a very good Indian restaurant in the shopping center at Coors & alameda. I think they were just reviewed in the paper on Friday. On the same site as the Sunflower market, on the NW corner of the intersection. They have an excellent lunch buffet and it's only about $6 or so if I remember correctly. Very reasonable for great food, cloth napkins and table cloth.

As for Thai, I haven't been to any Thai places since moving here, so I guess it's time to get moving past green chile (got happily stuck there and haven't been inclined to go further!) and explore the Thai side of our vast culinary offerings here in Abq!
07/05/06 18:10:56

A Flower Grows in Detroit wrote:
Thai Crystal - the worst! And Bangkok Thai? Eauuuu! I gotta go along with the majority here and say The Orchid is the best I've tried, and for cheap eats, the place on Buena Vista by UNM. Although, like Ben, I moved here from a more diverse environment and can't say I'm impressed with the Asian/middle eastern cuisine here. But hey, I LOVE the green chile!
07/05/06 18:24:20

Amy wrote:
Thai Basil has a wonderful lunch buffet, Monday thru Friday. Unfortunately it's too far away from my job to go there very often for lunch. Thai Ginger's lunch buffet isn't as good in my opinion, but their menu is excellent. Rabieng Thong, on Eubank, is excellent.
07/05/06 21:07:46

Phil wrote:
Flower - yeah, the Thai House is cheap and pretty good...and it may be the oldest Thai place in town. And it's only a block from my new abode!

As for your general attitude re: ABQ's Asian food, I think you need to visit a few more of the city's Vietnamese places!
07/05/06 21:09:05

chantal wrote:
Just got back from Thai Tip, upon everyone's recommendation. Great place! The papaya salad is excellent. And, if you ask for it, they'll bring out the chile-vinegar sauce for additional heat.

Also, I'm with Phil on Albuquerque's Vietnamese food. It's definitely the best I've had no matter which big city I've lived in or visited.
07/05/06 21:41:02

Spartacus wrote:
RE: Vietnamese cuisine, Phil is right. We surely owe them a debt of gratitude for bringing their culinary delights to ABQ. The initial wave of refugees arrived here in '75 under the resettlement program, followed by waves of other family members. Many cities have a Chinatown area; we're blessed with a unique 'Little Saigon' area in the vicinity of Louisiana and Central.
07/06/06 07:29:16

Erik wrote:
Orchid is good, certainly the best I've had in Albuquerque. But it does not even begin to approach the quality of even the cheapest street eats in Thailand itself. Not even close. When I get back to NM, I doubt I will be able to stomach any of the Thai food there for a long time because it's just not really very good.

Other than Orchid it's grim, as Albuquerque is for Asian food (except for Vietnamese I guess) in general.
07/06/06 07:47:06

Uptown wrote:
A moment of mourning for Thai Pepper formerly on Wyoming and Constitution. I think where Thai Tip is now. Great good, and some of the most pleasant service around. Even better than the John Brooks on San Mateo and Zuni. But I digress. Thai Pepper - we barely knew ya.
07/06/06 08:20:28

C.C. wrote:
Erik- I think you should just not come back to NM- things here being so grim and all. We'll miss ya, but pony-on somehow without you.
07/06/06 09:39:02

maximius attentivus (Gil-s Take on Thai) wrote:
Thai Ginger...not Thai Rose. Thanks for the correct name.

Gil's take on thai:
07/06/06 10:17:37

akoolstik wrote:
try the thai iced coffee instead.
07/06/06 13:14:14

Phil wrote:
So Albuquerque's Thai scene is "grim" because the food here doesn't stack up to the street food in Bangkok? Does that strike anyone else as an absurdly unfair comparison?

I'm not ready to consign Erik to exile, but hopefully most of us can recognize that with somewhere between 10 or 15 Thai places and probably more than 25 Vietnamese places, Albuquerque has a pretty damn enormous SE Asian dining scene for an American city its size. And a lot of it's good, too: I lived in the Bay Area for six years and have spent considerable amounts of time in other US cities with a rep for good Thai and Vietnamese food, and Albuquerque's offerings are nearly as good as anything I've tried, especially where Vietnamese is concerned.
07/06/06 18:52:00

Erik wrote:
No, Asian food in Albuquerque is grim compared to nearly every other American city I have ever been to. It's patently absurd to say that Albuquerque's Asian offerings are as good as the Bay Area. God forbid someone say something that could possibly be construed as negative toward Albuquerque since as we all know, it's the greatest city in America.
07/07/06 01:42:12

Dan wrote:
Sounds like someone has issues.
07/07/06 08:33:28

Spartacus wrote:
Agreed. I think that Erik somehow confuses "unsanitary food preparation under sketchy health codes" with "genuine delicious flavor".

Hey Erik... I have some leftover pad thai that I accidentally dropped in the wet gutter this morning. It's yours if you want it. Heck, I'll even let you dig it out of the trash yourself if you like. If it still doesn't have enough authentic flavor for you, I can call up my friend at Defined Fitness and see if she can sop up some sweat off the bench press with it before I hand it off to you.

"A sewer rat might taste like pumpkin pie, but I wouldn't know, 'cause I wouldn't eat the filthy m**********r." -Jules Winnfield
07/07/06 08:55:21

Phil wrote:
Erik, Erik, Erik - who spit in your gluay bahn? I say plenty of negative things about Albuquerque on this blog, and obviously the best of California's Asian food puts ABQ to shame, but I've had really good Thai food in Albuquerque that just about stacks up. Ranting that the SE Asian food here is "grim compared to nearly every other American city" suggests you've had a bad experience or two that's severely colored your judgement...
07/07/06 11:55:09

Sam wrote:
I dunno peeps, the Thai food I've had in random holes in the wall on the west coast has been better than anything I've had here, hands down. Even simple stuff like pad thai- just bursting with flavor.
07/07/06 16:44:42

Spartacus wrote:
Sam, I wouldn't go that far. In this day and age, everyone has a tendency for massive overexaggeration. Is it merely more flavorful, in your unofficial personal opinion? Then say so. Is it hands-down better? I seriously doubt that. To say that would be to completely discount the wide ranging experiences of most everyone writing followups to this post. Have you partaken of the cuisine of Thailand, in-person, in the finest restaurant in Bangkok? Just what makes you an expert, and the rest (read: majority) of us completely clueless as to what tastes good?

Steer away from massive overexaggeration, and keep your comparisons realistic. You'll find that people here are open to hearing a rational, reasonable opinion. Maybe (though it's highly doubtful now) you might know a teensy-weensy bit about Thai cuisine; you'll never convince anyone by comparing their favorite local restaurants to hyena feed lots.
07/07/06 19:03:24

maximus attentivus wrote:
No. West Coast definitely better because I said so (even *if* I live in the midwest and barely remember my time on the West Coast).

I mean, why WOULD an immigrant dumb down their food just to fit the fast-food tastebuds of your typical car-commuting, no-money-for-anything-but-the-mortgage Californian. It just isn't possible, I tell you!
07/08/06 15:37:21

sweetviolets wrote:
I'm half-Thai, spent summers growing up in Thailand, have eaten at the best traditional Thai restaurant in Bangkok, and I can reasonably say there is no Thai restaurant in ABQ I have eaten at I would bother taking my mother to.

It's possible to get adequate Thai food here, but I have tasted nothing stellar so far. I think the best I've had in the west is Bai Tong, in Seattle, near the airport. It's where the Thai Airways flight crews used to eat.

According to my mother, a friend of hers says there is a restaurant owned by a member of the Thai nobility who has made a study of classical Thai cooking, either in ABQ or Santa Fe. If I can pry the name out of my mom, I'll let y'all know. Now that should be stellar!
07/08/06 19:58:39

Laurie wrote:
I read all the comments posted here as of 7/7, and that night we went to Thai Tip on Wyoming and Constitution. We really enjoyed our food, and Tip's husband seemed to genuinely care whether or not we were enjoying our meal. I love Thai food and used to have it regularly when I lived in CA and Thai Tip was just as good as any there. Maybe someone from Thailand wouldn't take their mom to any of the Thai places here in Abq, but why would you want to? She can eat Thai food when she goes home. Have your Mom try something original from NM!! Take them to Padilla's Kitchen for something with green chile!
07/11/06 20:18:00

sweetviolets wrote:
I didn't say I was from Thailand; my mother is. I'm a Seattle native.

She likes to sample Thai food in various places for the sake of comparison; it's familiar and she knows it well - from street food to haute cuisine. Trust me, the food here is decent home-cooking/comfort food, just not out of this world.

I would never take my mom out for NM food; she doesn't care for 3/4 of the ingredients used.
07/13/06 13:41:17

briana wrote:
This is a great forum. So sad to see there are a few people with nothing positive to say. The question posed was for recommendations for Thai food in Albuquerque. If you can only recommend something on the West coast or in Asia-proper then why bother?

Personally, I throw my vote in for Siam Cafe. I've never had a bad meal there and their Tom Kha Gai soup is the best I've tasted in the city. Their service is always polite and quick and they give you generous portions for a reasonable price.
07/19/06 10:23:08

Doug wrote:
I have to agree with Sweetviolets. Having once lived near Seattle myself, Bai Tong, Indochine, Chantanee and others set a standard for Thai that I haven't found so far in ABQ. But... there are more places to try.
08/01/06 21:37:49

jamila wrote:
I find the Thai cuisine resaonable here in Albuquerque - preferring Bangkok Cafe and avoiding Thai Crystal. We go for the vegetarian fare.

Though i can enjoy some of the North Indian food in ABQ - there is absolutely no worthy South Indian food. Annapurna is truly more aryuvedic cafe than southern Indian cooking. There is nowhere you can get your traditaional thali of sambar, rassam, curd, and then all the sides. I pine for this. I miss Devon Avenue in Chicago.
10/28/06 17:47:09

chantal wrote:
Jamila, amen to that! I too long for South Indian and head straight to Devon whenever I hit Chi-Town.

Maybe one day we'll get a dosai shop here in Albuquerque...
10/28/06 18:01:53


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