Thai cuisine in Chicago has further discovered regionality in recent years, departing from the homestyle formula that so many Americans gravitated toward. There’s more room to introduce items from Northern and Central Thailand, which allows Chicago to have a more eclectic array of restaurants. While a few Thai restaurants offer tasting menus, most have become strictly carryout and delivery; many shut down their dining rooms during the pandemic. Online ordering has been noted when possible, but most restaurants also welcome phone orders.Read More
Where to Eat Thai Food in Chicago
From spicy northern specialties to the sweeter dishes of the south region, these restaurants go beyond pad Thai
Owner and chef Patty Neumson seeks to redefine Thai cuisine at her upscale spot in Edgewater. Instead of a long menu, guests have the choice of a three- or five-course prix fixe meal. Familiar flavor profiles emerge in elevated dishes including seared scallops in spicy chili lime sauce; fried prawn with sweet and sour mango sauce; and beef or tofu with green curry. The menu also changes seasonally to highlight the freshest ingredients. The menu is available for carryout online.
Talard Thai Asian Market
This Asian specialty grocer sports a food counter in the back where the cooks serve what is possibly Chicago’s best papaya salad — totally customizable (that includes the heat level). For those who underestimate this delicacy, Talard shows the dish in a new light forcing tongues to use buds diners never knew existed. The hot bar has other dishes worth sampling, but the papaya salads are truly magical. Check out the market’s Facebook page for daily offerings including noodle soups, eggplant, and more.
Immm Rice & Beyond
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sights and smells at Immm Rice and Beyond, but don’t be afraid to dive right in. Thai street food takes center stage and if nothing looks familiar, the staff is happy to offer samples from the hot bar up front. A chalkboard behind the counter lists the day’s menu and ever-changing specials, and during lunchtime guests can opt for khao rad gang, a traditional Thai lunch plate. It comes with rice or noodles and up to three curries, stews, or wok-tossed proteins. Other favorites include khao soi, crispy pork belly rice, and several varieties of green papaya salad. Indoor dining and carryout is available.
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Rainbow Thai Cuisine
A Ravenswood favorite for BYOB and takeout, Rainbow Thai Cuisine excels at traditional Thai dishes. Catering a tad to Western tastes, the menu is speckled with items such as crab rangoon, which is seemingly a rite of passage for many Asian restaurants in America. But dig deeper — ask for the Thai menu for even more options — to find dishes like spicy papaya salad and funky nam kao tod.
Me Dee Cafe
Me Dee Cafe doles out all the tried-and-true Thai staples but its “secret” menu is what sets the tiny Ravenswood spot apart. Stop by in the evening (open until 12:30 a.m.) for a bowl of congee and complementary side dishes. The rice porridge is best enjoyed with items like crispy pork belly, sour pork sausage, and basil clams. Order pickup and delivery online.
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Even the seasoned Thai eater will enjoy finding something new at Aroy. Beef offal soup and pickled green bamboo are just a few of the funkier dishes offered here. While it’s possible to order like one would at any other Thai restaurant, venturing outside the comfort zone is recommended and yields rewards.
A longtime favorite in Lakeview, this Thai restaurant reopened earlier in 2020 in Uptown. This is a compact menu featuring food from Central Thailand. Newbies will be drawn to the crunchy fried chicken (Larb moo tod). The salad section is eye-catching and stars the green bean salad that sits in a spicy and sour sauce flanked by hardboiled eggs, ground pork, and a few tender pieces of shrimp. The grilled pork with eggplant salads is also noteworthy. It’s cold and refreshing but doesn’t compromise on the heat level. In-On is of the most unique Thai restaurants in Chicago.
A Chicago mainstay, Spoon is responsible for opening many Chicagoans’s eyes to Thai food. A long list of salads includes papaya salad topped with preserved crab and pickled fish, and yum talay covered in a spicy lime dressing and chicken larb. The Thai boat noodle soup shouldn’t to be skipped, but the secret menu should be requested and perused for some special northern Thai dishes. Call, fax, or order online.
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Arun's Thai Restaurant
While most Thai spots in Chicago lean toward the casual side, Arun’s serves a pre-fixe menu with eight-, and 12-course options. Each is elegantly presented and served in an equally adorned restaurant space filled with chef Arun Sampanthavitat’s Thai baubles. A dungeness crab cake and a poached lobster tail are a few menu highlights that exemplify his ornate take on Southeast Asian flavors. In addition, interestingly crafted cocktails that contain intriguing ingredients like pineapple and peach barbecue sauce purée make for a fascinating meal. While Arun’s remains open for dine-in service, customers can also order to-go online.
Spice lovers praise Sticky Rice, which specializes in northern Thai cuisine alongside house creations. Find a spicy sai-ua, or northern Thai pork sausage served simply with a smattering of veggies on the side, and larb, made with ground pork and intestine with spicy Thai herbs. The restaurant’s own dishes provide seafood lovers with an array of sole fish, snapper, and more. Order online.
TAC Quick serves a large menu of Thai food along with outstanding “secret” dishes such as roasted duck in spicy red curry with bell peppers, tomatoes, pineapples, and grapes. Excellent renditions of traditional staples are also available, such as prik king with crispy pork, string beans, and jalapeño.
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Bangkok-style street food is the specialty at Same Same in Roscoe Village. Find fried chicken — which smells terrific thanks to the coriander root — the comes with a spicy honey sauce. There’s a nice selection of curries and noodles. This is drinking food, and the cocktails here are available to drink on a sidewalk patio. Order pickup and delivery online. There’s also weekend brunch with fusion selections like tiger cry and eggs.
Tuk Tuk Thai Isan Street Food
The owners of Green Tea, a Lincoln Park sushi restaurant across from Parker School have opened a northern Thai restaurant that’s been the talk of the town since the summer. Tuk Tuk serves a killer pad Thai, and that can’t be ignored, but this Northern Thai restaurant has devious laab, tasty chicken wings, and a delectable assortment of curries.
Andy's Thai Kitchen
Andy Aroonrasameruang’s Lakeview spot brings the tastes of central Thailand, right outside of Bangkok, to Chicago. The menu is extensive, including dishes that can be found all over Thailand, like spicy tom yum and pad khe mao. It’s hard to go wrong with any of the choices as chef Andy learned his craft from his mom. Just be ready to leave with a full belly. Andy’s has moved to a bigger location, a few blocks north of the original. Order online.
Paula's Thai Kitchen
This Lincoln Park restaurant, in the original home of Taco Burrito Place No. 2, has been noteworthy for years for its convention menu, and a “secret” menu. The conventional menu is available online and it’s formidable with all the classics: papaya salad comes topped with pork belly. The crispy rice with sausage and grilled meatball are favorites. There’s also outdoor seating.
Opart Thai House - West Town
Beloved Opart Thai House has served for several decades and continues to operate with consistency. The Thai stalwart has a newish location on Chicago, just east of Ashland, rife with classic dishes like pad kra praow and pad prik king. But make sure to start with an order of “tiger cry,” charbroiled beef served with house-made spicy sauce. Order online.
Noble Thai exists in the former Opart Thai House space (the owners split with Opart moving a few blocks west). The menus are similar with a few different ingredients. That space is comfortable and good for big groups.
JJ Thai Street Food
Perhaps one of the best examples of Thai street food in Chicago is JJ Thai. Sticky rice comes wrapped in banana leaves, gyo tod is crispy and unctuous, and bamee haeng moo dang arrives with a side of soup. Anyone who’s ventured through street vendors in Thailand will harken back to those experiences at this West Town restaurant. Order pickup and delivery online.
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Star of Siam
For a place that satisfies all types of palates, check out Star of Siam. The lengthy menu has something for every diner to love, and the atmosphere is cozy and unique. Dishes on the “Star recommendations” section are a sure bet, as is the hearty and comforting sesame-oil-topped chicken rice soup and the lard nar. Order pickup and delivery online.
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Over in Pilsen, this casual eatery makes a mark with Northern Thai street food and other home-style dishes since its debut last year. Owner Nova Sasi cooks up a modest selection of delights, including green papaya salad, crab fried rice, grilled pork shoulder, and fried pork belly served with Jaew sauce. Delivery and carryout available via Caviar.
Legend Tasty House
Ice cream comes in many different forms. At this Chinatown shop, workers pour ice cream mix over a frozen pan and form it into rolls in front of customers. The frozen treats, popularized in Thai street markets, are then topped with mix-ins such as fruits, candies, syrups, and whipped cream. Order online for carryout.