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A spread at Soi (Image by Naomi Tomky)

Five best places for Thai food in Seattle

Seattle’s Thai food has always been exceptional — it’s our town’s second most-consumed cuisine, after all. And I’ve done my fair share of researching the best of it, from my early days as a kid with my nose pressed up to the fish tank at Siam on Broadway while I ordered mee krob, to discovering the delights of Northern Thailand in southern Seattle. So, whether you’ve got a craving for pad Thai, for boat noodles, or for khao soi, I’ve got a recommendation for you.

Best with a cocktail: Soi

A grand Capitol Hill space with the modern feel of concrete and dark wood, the ambience implies little about the food, but underlines that this is a good place to have a drink. And the cocktails live up to that, offering beer slushies, bottled cocktails, Pimm’s Cups for two, and a menu of Mules from the house-made ginger beer on tap. Luckily cuisine — which includes a whole section of “drinking food” — keeps up both the variety and the quality with specialties like fried chicken skin, claypot baked prawns, and chicken-stuffed chicken wings.

Best use of spice: Noodle Hut

For someone who had long-since given up on getting an appropriately spicy dish of Thai noodles in this city, this Edmonds gem is a chile-spiked wake-up call. Consider yourself warned: if you ask for your food spicy here, it will blow you away — both in how good it is and in how hot. But, perhaps even more impressively, it will still taste as it should: the basil will still shine, the flavors still peek out from under the cover of heat. The house noodle soup is a must-order, but the specials board is often full of gems, like a recent crab fried rice.

Best street-food style: Little Uncle

After bouncing around a few locations, this counter-service gem seems to have finally found a spot for its small but powerful menu of Thai street-food classics. It’s one of the few places in town that neither completely eschews the oft-Americanized dish of pad Thai nor considers it an afterthought to placate those uninterested in the more intriguing menu offerings. So, while the intense broth of the dom yum wun sen will blow away your tastebuds in the best kind of way, the pad Thai offers a gentler, but still impressive, demonstration of the restaurant’s mastery of Thai cuisine — with a side of peanuts, chilies, and sugar to customize to your liking.

Most intriguing menu: Mai Thaiku

This Phinney Ridge spot’s menu finishes with a phrase that has always intrigued me: “Feel free to order off-menu and we will do our best to satisfy your request.” It’s quite the generous offer and I’ve always wanted to take them up on it, but, frankly, the items on the menu are so interesting that I can’t think of anything I’d rather have. The goong che nam pla, a gulf prawn ceviche, comes with bitter melon, a combination I’d never considered, and I’m not quite finished working my way through the half-dozen varieties of papaya salad. Maybe someday I’ll come in and ask for something else, but every time I try, I’m distracted by the street-food cart serving noodles out front, or the jackfruit soup in herbal broth.

Best for a big group: ZapVerr

Fremont’s glut of Thai restaurants is almost comical, and this one—with the ambiance of a barely-remodeled nightclub—hardly seems to stand out. Until you start eating, that is. With plenty of room, you can pack in the people, sharing the many large dishes you’ll want to order among the group. Because with too few people, you might have to choose between the nam kow tod (crispy rice salad) and the roast duck curry, or the shrimp paste fried rice and the crispy garlic chicken. And trust us when we say you do not want to have to make those cuts.