Bahn Thai is terrible! If you want really good, authentic Thai food, go to Reang Thai, on Capital Circle near Calico Jack's. It is amazing! Try the eggplant in brown sauce, the fried tofu, the spring rolls, and any of their scallop dishes. They sometimes have a special that is scallops cooked three ways served over rice. They have recently upped their prices a little, but the food is definitely worth the price. You get what you pay for.
Samrat is excellent as well. My favorite dish is the palak paneer, which is not particularly adventurous, but they do it extremely well. There is a large selection of Indian breads, and the desserts are delicious.
If you ever get the chance to go to Gainesville, there is a great Thai place there called Tim's Thai. It's been around for a while, and I'd say that while the food isn't BETTER than Reang Thai's, it's of a different style... there is less seafood. Maybe Reang Thai is coastal-style cooking and Tim's in more inland food.
Bahn Thai is ghastly. I want to like them, since they're nice people and they're close by, but I can't.
Essence of India had a very decent vindaloo when we tried it a couple of months ago, with unusually nice rice, and though the service can be shaky I felt the food was better than Samrat's. I am spoiled by having lived in the vicinity of great Indian food for a long time, but even after a year here, with my standards declining, Samrat's was disappointing. The vindaloo sauce lacked complexity and punch. It was hot, but not in an interesting way.
Lots of good Cuban choices in Tallahassee: Gordo's, Carlos' Cuban Cafe (had a Cuban pork sandwich yesterday... serious yum), Black Bean.
I appreciate the pho recommendation (having serious pho withdrawal) and will report back in detail!
Replying to myself ;-) ... we went tonight, and Far East does have decent pho. The broth could be brothier and the sprouts could be fresher, but it was good enough, and the waitress made our evening when she said she was from Tsingtao (I had picked another beer, but of course then I had to order the beer that made Tsingtao famous). Someone had recommended the spring rolls, and even to our snobby palates they were quite good. (We split the pho, as it's a huge bowl.)
I also second the comment about Sahara. I have been there twice and the stuffed grape leaves are so good I ordered them the second time as well. Each time I asked for half vegetarian and half meat, and each time had a hard time deciding which was better... the clean lemony taste of the vegetarian version, or the melting rich spiciness of the meat.
Samrat is solid Indian, the menu items are better than the buffet, which is vegetarian on Saturdays.
I would also suggest "Far East Cusine" which is the restaurant recommended above in the Kinko's shopping center at Thomasville and Capital Circle. Prices are great, and the Pho is fresh and spiced nicely.They serve Vientamese and the generic chinese.
Rang Thai is good, but would be in the high price range. Also if you see a large party being seated, walk out. The staff gets easily frazzled and can't keep up with smaller tables and a large table at once.
There is a new Indian restaurant behind the Olive Garden on Apalachee Parkway. The food was okay, but they were a little stingy on the chicken, and the bread is better at Samrat.
IHOF and Sahara are good if you are looking for Middle Eastern.
I would stay away from Bahn Thai at any costs. Lucy Ho's was good at one time, but last time I went (summer 2006) it was mediocre.
For great ethnic food, I would recommend International House of Food (what I call IHOF). It’s not Indian, Thai, or Vietnamese, but it is truly ethnic. The cuisine is Middle Eastern, and has a highly unusually flavor. IHOF has some typical Greek dishes like Gyros, which are nothing special (for Greek food I would recommend Pitaria, another restaurant in town). The dishes at IHOF that are spectacular are the daily specials. The man who runs the restaurant prepares them from scratch, and uses intriguing yet delicious spices and flavors. He usually offers two to three of these daily specials, which usually change daily. So you have to keep coming back to try all the exotic meals. One of my favorites is the Pomegranate, Walnut, and Beef dish. The Pomegranate adds a slightly sweet taste, while the walnut and beef add depth and interest. All of the daily specials are served with a traditional cucumber and tomato salad, and basmati rice, and warm pita bread.
The décor is rather drab and uninspiring, but don’t let that turn you away. The food is too great to pass up, especially since it’s extremely affordable, usually about seven dollars for a daily special and a drink. Another bonus is that the restaurant doubles as a little ethnic market, which used to house unusual spices that could not be found anywhere else in town (although I’m not sure if the store still carries the wide variety of spices that it once did). Additionally, there is a little Asian market a few stores down, which supposedly has great Kim Chi (although I’m not sure how to spell that, and have not tried it myself, yet) Overall, IHOF may be an interesting, and assuredly delicious option for you and your friend.
PS- it's located in an unassuming store on North Monroe, across from Hooters.
Rhengtai is pretty good off of Capital Circle NE. In the little strip mall behind Calico Jack's.
Samrat is also pretty decent Indian. On Apalachee by Sonny's.
I've heard that there's a place called "Eastern Cuisine" or "Asian Cuisine" something like that which is in the Kinko's/Brugger's/Starbucks/TJMax plaza near Thomasvile and Timberlane, that's supposed to have really good Vietnamese and other Asian foods.
(PS - I heard about this site for the first time on PRI's Open Source tonight. Very interesting creator!! Well spoken!!!)