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TAC QUICK THAI KITCHEN vs SPOON THAI

I have read the posts on both restaurants, but was looking for comparisons or why you like one over the other. I am coming in from out of town (use to live in Chicago) and would like to go to the best thai restaurant around. I am not interested in americanized dishes, nor do I care if one restaurant has better ambience than the other.

Also, any recomendations on dishes? I have ideas, but anything outstanding I need to try? I will be ordering off the Thai menu.

thanks,

Brian

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  1. Hmmm - have you narrowed your choices down to just these two Thai restaurants? We've never been to TAC QUICK, but our experiences at Spoon Thai - have been OK but nothing special. We go there mostly becauce of the BYOB policy.

    1. First of all, visit http://www.silapaahaan.com/ for Erik M.'s translated Thai menus. I'd also throw Sticky Rice into the mix -- personally, I think Spoon Thai, Sticky Rice and TAC Quick are fantastic, and they offer many different choices so check out the translated menus and see what appeals to you.

      My usual choice is Spoon Thai, but that is really because it is so close to my home. Some of my favorite dishes at Spoon are the banana blossom salad, the dried beef jerky, the spicy wild boar stir fry, the Isaan-style fish, the fried chicken with tamarind dipping sauce and the mango and sticky rice.

      Here are links to some wonderful pictures and reviews of both Spoon Thai, TAC Quick and Sticky Rice:

      http://www.lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic....

      http://www.lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic....

      http://www.lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic....

      http://www.lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic....

      http://www.lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic....

      1. I live a block from Spoon Thai. It was better a few years ago and now is nothing special. TAC Quick is very solid, and the people are very nice, although I have not been in a year. Do make a point of trying Opart Thai, on Western south of Lawrence, which I think is the best casual Thai place in the city. Try the Tiger Cry and Moo Ping appetizers, the Nom Sod salad and a catfish dish. Sticky Rice is at Western and Irving Park and features more Northern Thai dishes. All of the above are BYO. Also, use the Chicago Reader and Metromix websites as references. Both have extensive restaurant reviews.

        1. You will find my translation of Spoon Thai's current (2006) menu here:

          http://lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?...

          And, you will find my translation of TAC Quick Thai's current (2006) menu (including the current special offerings) here:

          http://lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?...

          These two restaurants are remarkably different, with the offerings at Spoon *greatly* outnumbering the offerings at TAC Quick. Me, I happen to like the aggressively sour and sweet flavour profile that marks the TAC Quick Thai style, so, where there is any menu overlap between the two restaurants, I tend to prefer the versions made at TAC Quick Thai. These items include khanom jiin naam yaa, khao khaa muu, kuay tiaw reau (boat noodles), yen ta fo, sukii, neua naam tok, sai krawk isaan, kai thawt, muu ping, neau taet diaw, thawt man, kaeng khiaw waan (green curry), kung chae naam plaa, kaeng som, naam phrik ka-pi, and somtam.

          Spoon is where I go when I want laap, luuk chin plaa (housemade fishballs), soups (spicy or bland), kaeng karii, kaeng phanaeng, and dishes which include exotica like muu yaw (steamed sausage), sator beans, bitter melon, "wild boar," banana blossoms, and gouramy fish (plaa salid).

          As you may already know, we are blessed with a number of very good Thai restaurants in Chicago, and each one does a distinct set of dishes exceedingly well. Your choice is a difficult one. Lucky you.

          E.M.

          1. Two good choices food-wise. I guess I'd narrowly favor TAC because it is a more spacious layout. My only gripe about TAC is their TomYom soups which are made with a chili-paste base rather than clear broth and chilis. That's about the only dish that isn't extremely authentic there... but most of Chicago's great Thai restaurants make it with Chili paste so that's not a knock on them really.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Chicago Mike

              Did you ever think to ask that the tom yam be made otherwise? It's really that simple.

              E.M.

              1. re: Erik M

                Erik... I've asked many times... at all these restaurants (my ex is Thai)..

                The only place I currently know that you can get clear-broth Tom Yom is at Tie Me Up on Diversey... they often have excellent authentic Thai, but they don't offer it as a "mainstay" and it does depend on who's in the kitchen...

                1. re: Chicago Mike

                  Mike, if you ask Andy (directly) to make tom yam without naam phrik phao, I know that he will happily accomodate you.

                  At any rate, my very favourite version of tom yam can be had at Thai Avenue. It contains bone-in chunks of chicken and the broth is made without naam phrik phao, just as you describe. You won't find it on either menu, but just ask for, "tom yam kai mai sai naam phrik phao."

                  Oh, and for good measure, here is my translation of the Thai Avenue Thai language menu:

                  http://lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?...

                  Regards,
                  E.M.

                  1. re: Erik M

                    Fantastic, I appreciate that tip. But I can tell you that I have asked several times and never been offered it... But next time I'll have the ex ask Andy (is he the owner or chef or ??)

                    Because clear tom yom is alot better and more authentic, in our opinion.

                    The Thai Avenue version(s) are okay, but again, we were just there a month or so ago, it was made with chili paste OR with the "bone in chunk" version you speak of...

                    So we tried the bone-in chunks and I found it almost inedible. It was like 80% bones!

            2. If you happen to be close to Evanston, I highly recommend that you check out Thai Sookdee. They've been consistently excellent for a while now - significantly better than Spoon Thai. I love their tom kha gai soup, the panang is outstanding, and in season, they have wonderful khao neeo mamuang (mango with sticky rice) for dessert.

              Thai Sookdee
              1016 Church Street
              Evanston 60201
              847-866-8012
              http://www.thaisookdee.com

              3 Replies
              1. re: nsxtasy

                What have you tried and been so "underwhelmed" by at Spoon Thai? The same items you listed over at LTHForum, namely kaeng phánaeng, phàt thai, tôm khàa kài, and khâo nĩaw má-mûang? If so, that's hardly an adequate sample of Spoon Thai's relative strengths. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that with such a list you are fairly playing into Spoon Thai's relative weaknesses.

                Have you tried anything from the new seven page Thai language menu?

                [Here is my translation of it: http://lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?...

                ]

                Or, even any of the things that they are most widely noted for, here, at LTHForum, and in the wider Chicago media? The banana blossom salad, the "one-bite" salads, the fried chicken, the "bland" soups (kaeng jèut), the tamarind-flavoured soups (kaeng som), the various stir-fried meat and vegetable dishes, etc?

                I've been to Thai Sookdee a couple of times in as many years, and as someone passionately devoted to the food, language, and culture of Thailand, I found the food to be highly Americanized. Sure, it's better than anything else in that general vicinity, but, IMO, it remains at great remove from the rich bounty to be found at a number of other establishments in the greater Chicagoland area.

                For an idea of the sorts of establishments that I am talking about, please refer to my site:

                http://www.silapaahaan.com/

                Regards,
                E.M.

                1. re: Erik M

                  If the dishes I like aren't done as well at one place than another, then I like the other place better. And that's why I like Thai Sookdee a lot, and prefer it over Spoon Thai. It's as simple as that. In fact, I would say that Spoon Thai remains at great remove from the better quality at Thai Sookdee for the dishes I prefer, to borrow your derisive terminology.

                  Just because YOU like certain other dishes, doesn't mean everyone else wants to eat the same things you do. Remember - different folks have different taste, and not everyone likes exactly the same things.

                  You asked, "Have you tried anything from the new seven page Thai language menu?" Based on your translations, everything I usually get is on that same menu.

                  Another way of saying what you said is, if other people like different dishes from the ones YOU like, they too might prefer Thai Sookdee over the places that you have posted over and over about, here and on LTH. I would encourage anyone who likes Thai food to give Thai Sookdee a try, and form your own opinion.

                  1. re: nsxtasy

                    this is a contemporary malaise...everyone's always right, sigh

                    I beg to differ

                    the dishes you enjoy, so do I

                    however, the width and breadth of Thai cuisine is such that it's unfortunate that it's often relegated to a few paltry dishes: phat tai, laab kai, tom yum, woon sen, nam sod, etc.

                    I encourage afficianados of Thai cuisine*s* to expand their horizons beyond the usual suspects which, as Erik M opines, might not even be the strength of the kitchen of whatever restaurant.

                    It's like expecting a Cambodian joint to offer killer pho(because the countries are neighbors)

              2. That's a great website. I notice you have Siams House on the list... I haven't been there in over 5 years, is it as good as ever?

                Probably the first "authentic" Thai I ever had in Chicago. I notice you don't have Siam Noodle on Sheridan on the list OR Thai Avenue OR Roseded... we've found authentic dishes at those places also.

                5 Replies
                1. re: Chicago Mike

                  Rosded is an old favorite...and just around the corner(so to speak)...Opart.

                  1. re: Chicago Mike

                    Thanks, Mike. Siam Noodle & Rice isn't on the list because, IMO, it is no longer worthy of note. As for Thai Avenue and Rosded, well, I haven't gotten around to putting the tranlations on my site, but they can be found at LTHForum.

                    Rosded: http://lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?...

                    Thai Avenue: http://lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?...

                    Oh, and when it comes to Siam's House, it's as good as ever, IMO. But, unlike you, my visits have all been limited to the past five years.

                    E.M.

                    1. re: Erik M

                      wrt Siam Noodle... to me it's just a real "basic" place... nothing extraordinary, but the majority of the food is/ (or was) in an authentic thai style. The pad priks were great, the basil chicken was great, the smallish papaya salads were good to very good... and the setting is authentic to the bone with all the old thai magazines, etc... has it changed ?

                      1. re: Chicago Mike

                        No, it hasn't changed at all in that regard, Mike. I think that what has changed is the Thai restaurant scene in Chicago, and my palate along with it. Now, there are a number of other places in town which offer the same authentic/traditional dishes, but they are made with higher quality ingredients and a greater measure of care. SN&R seems to have painted itself into a corner, as it were. In an effort to please their loyal/longstanding customer base--which still includes a good number of Thais--they've placed a rich premium on their "rollback" prices circa 1985, and the cost--in terms of quality and taste--has been steep.

                        E.M.

                        1. re: Erik M

                          Right, they are more pedestrian, i'd agree with that. Nothing fancy...

                          ALSO... you might want to include BYOB policies on your website. There's few gourmet meals that are better than an exceptional Thai dinner and appropriately matching wine (and beer, for that matter).

                          The typical thai spread matches phenomenally with the following wines: Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Scheurbe, and quite surprisingly well with a fine plain wheat beer.

                          Almost all the great thai restaurants in chicago have either free corkage or a very nominal charge making them probably dollar-for-dollar the best food/wine gourmet experiences in the city.