The greater Lansing area is not hurting for Thai restaurants. The trick is knowing which Thai restaurants are worth my time and money (well, my girlfriend’s money). The answer, like my mother’s Facebook password, is simple: try the same dish, Pad Thai, at different Thai restaurants, and decide which was the best.
Now, “best” can be a tricky title to throw around, and is one of the most dangerous four letter words (after yeti) as a result. One person’s best is another’s worst (sort of like the Grammys). Taste varies from person to person, but hey, I still talk to my sister who loves Twilight
While I would have loved to visit each and every Thai restaurant in town, I am only one handsome, charming man. Plus, I don’t know if my girlfriend’s wallet, or my stomach lining, could handle going out for spicy food each day. If I overlooked a location, it was not out of spite.
A quick primer on Thai cuisine: Pad Thai is a noodle dish stir-fried with eggs, peanuts and other foodstuffs--you can get it mixed with chicken, beef, shrimp or tofu (and perhaps even pizza rolls if you ask nicely). Pad Thai is to Thailand, what a hamburger is the USA: it is seen as a national dish.
Fair warning: Pad Thai can be rather spicy depending where you go (for the purpose of this experiment, I ordered ‘chicken Pad Thai, medium spicy’ where I could).
Downtown Lansing - Thai Village
The Skinny: If you are in need of a Pad Thai fix and happen to be walking around downtown Lansing, Thai Village
is right next to Michigan Brewing Company
—both combine for quite the one-two punch of take out (food from Thai Village, a growler of beer from MBC). The décor is friendly and very inviting, and unlike the bulk of downtown’s restaurants, Thai Village is open for dinner—and rarer still, it is open on Sundays.
If you want something different for lunch, or need dinner downtown (especially on the weekend), Thai Village is worth checking out. I have heard good words about their curries, too. Head’s up though, it can be pretty packed at lunch (but they do have take out).
The Pad Thai: Enjoyable, fresh and I had enough for leftovers.
Downtown Lansing - Bangkok House
The Skinny: Bangkok House
is the first Thai restaurant I visited after moving to Lansing, so we have a bit of a history, but it is a good history. I am a regular, and while the place isn’t too fancy, it is quite tasty and offers a wide variety of dishes. Plus, they serve beer and wine, which goes great with spicy food—and there is no shortage of spicy at Bangkok House. Err on the side of mild if you don’t enjoy the heat, as they are rumored to be the hottest in town. The hot made me cry, but then, so do shampoo commercials.
The Pad Thai: One of my favorites. I always get enough for a second meal, or to share. The ‘hot’ spicy level lives up to the name here—even ‘medium’ has a bite. A good value too, as the prices are a bit lower here.
Eastside - Lamai's Kitchen
The Skinny: Lamai’s
is not your average Thai place. It is more of a buffet, and the buffet is a great way to try many different dishes (try the fried bananas). Lamai’s is quirky, which makes it another favorite of mine. Lamai herself will likely wait on you, and once she is done, she will be back in the kitchen, filling the restaurant with the sound of chopping and stir-fry.
The Pad Thai: Great—I like my Pad Thai with plenty of egg, and Lamai’s does not disappoint. Better still, some of the noodles are a bit on the crispy side, which I love. The buffet will set you back ten bucks, but you will get your money’s worth, especially if you try a little bit of everything.
East Lansing - No Thai!
The Skinny: No Thai!
can be found in East Lansing, next to Starbucks (in the space which been twenty new restaurants in the last three years). No Thai! is more of a fast-food/carry out number. Yes, there are tables, but it is everyone for themselves. Orders are placed at the counter, and picked up when ready. Great if you are in a hurry, but if you want a nice sit down experience, you may want another place.
The Pad Thai: Not only was my order finished quicker than Rich Rodriguez at U of M, it was plentiful and spicier than I expected. While not as egg-filled or crispy as Lamai’s, it was still a decent meal. I would happily go back.
Far East Side – Thai Princess
The Skinny: I have been hearing chatter about Thai Princess
on social media for a while now, so I was happy for a new reason to trek out to Okemos (as opposed to my old reason--yelling at clouds). Thai Princess is the most fancy of all the places I visited—if I wanted to impress someone (girlfriend, parents, parole officer), I would go there. While on the small side, Thai Princess is cozy with great atmosphere and decorations.
The Pad Thai: Excellent presentation, and very fresh ingredients. Pricier than the other places, (save for Lamai’s buffet), but still really good. The medium spicy here bites back.
Spiciest Pad Thai: Bangkok House
Best Value: Bangkok House (and Lamai’s if you make a few trips)
Fastest Pad Thai: No Thai! (and Lamai’s)
Best for a Date Night: Thai Princess
And, the Best Pad Thai Overall (out of the five places I visited): Lamai’s. I think they ran out of clean plates because I made so many trips to the buffet.
(Originally published Feb. 1, 2012)
Daniel J. Hogan
is a freelance writer for Capital Gains.
is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.
Thai Princess Pad Thai
Francis Yang making Pad Thai at No Thai
How hot do you want it? No Thai's heat menu
Princess Thai “Best date night” interior
Photos © Dave Trumpie