HOME > Chowhound > San Diego >


best thai in San Diego?

What are the best thai restaurants in San Diego? Are any good for groups?

I am planning on having a rehearsal wedding dinner at a thai rest in SD, nothing too fancy but it would need to accomodate about 15-20 people.


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I think the single best meal I've had at a Thai restaurant in SD was at Flavor Thai in Kearny Mesa last week. But we went back a few days later and the food wasn't as good. Unfortunately, I think you'll find that most Thai restaurants in SD are like that. I love most things at Golden Dragon on University (Hillcrest), but I've had a few things that weren't so great. However, the owner (Patti) is passionate about her restaurant and would probably move mountains to make sure you had a good experience. So I'd probably vote for Golden Dragon or Celadon (also in Hillcrest), although neither of these is upscale.

    1 Reply
    1. re: mangiatore

      I can't remember the name of it but there is a relatively new thai place in the gaslamp. I don't recall if the food was great but the ambience, especially at dinner, was fairly nice. If someone says the food isn't that good it might be true but I liked the flashiness of it.

    2. Taste of Thai via del la valle Del Mar, used to eat at Spices but these guys keep the sodium down.

      4 Replies
      1. re: sdft

        I have to say that Taste of Thai may be the most mediocre Thai I have ever eaten. Ocean Thai in O side is considerably better.

        1. re: sdft

          I found Taste of Thai pretty tasteless. No taste, no heat. I like Ocean Thai in Oceanside, (the original Mission location) especially for dinner. Thai Garden is a little less Americanized (more fish sauce) IMHO. I liked Spice and Rice in LJ years ago but haven't been recently.

          1. re: Spike Costa

            Yes, one place I would advise you not to go to is Taste of Thai. As others have mentioned, their food is bland.

            1. re: Spike Costa

              spice & rice is moderately priced, the food is solid, and the atmosphere is much nicer than places like spices. i think it's a great choice. not too fancy, warm & somewhat intimate but still appropriate for a group.

              oh, crap. i just noticed the date on the post...i'm assuming the event has long since passed, anyway, it may not be 'the best,' but i still think it's a solid choice for decent thai food in coastal s.d.

          2. The best Thai in SD is not the best Thai you will get elsewhere (SF, LA, etc). Keep that in mind as you look. Kirk K's blog, www.mmm-yoso.typepad.com is THE guide to all things Asian in SD.

            1. As mangiatore mentioned (and as Kirk, of the Blog, has said before), I agree there is no really good Thai in town. And it's not for lack of looking.

              Celadon is a nice place, but I'm not sure if their facility can hold 20 guests in one party. Perhaps Lotus might have enough room, in the Hillcrest area, but call ahead.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Joseph

                I think the food at Lotus is good by SD standards, and the room itself is lovely and large enough for a party of 15-20. I had my wedding rehearsal dinner party in a Chinese restaurant back east, and the exotic setting really added something to the evening. Lotus has that same quality.

                1. re: Divamac

                  are there 2 lotuses? i went to one in hillcrest, but hear there used to be a good one in the gaslamp district. i'm coming from nyc so i need all the help i can get. thanks!

                  1. re: eattreat

                    Yes, there are 2 Lotus Thai restaurants in San Diego. The Hillcrest location (6th near Robinson) was recently remodeled. The Gaslamp locations is located just outside the Gaslamp area on Market Street over by 8th and 9th. The Gaslamp Lotus is more modern and airy than the Hillcrest location. It also has large windows that allow diners to look out toward the Ballpark.

                    1. re: sdtips

                      I also believe there's a Lotus Thai up in Carlsbad off of Pio Pico

              2. Over the last few months, I've found myself more and more loyal to Antique Thai in Point Loma (Rosecrans and Midway). On the down side, it's in a strip mall (gasp!). On the plus side, the atmosphere is soooo much better than you would expect for being where it is, and the food is fantastic. It's a decent size (bigger than Celadon or Bai Yook, two places that get good reviews on CH), and the management is very accomodating, so they would likely be able to arrange something special and reasonably priced for your group.

                The website is www.antiquethaicuisine.com and there was a fairly recent review of the place in the local paper: http://entertainment.signonsandiego.c...

                Might be worth checking out, especially if your guests won't turn up their noses at the "strip mall" locale.

                And congratulations on your rehearsal dinner (and the subsequent wedding!).

                1 Reply
                1. re: ohm86

                  Concur on Antique Thai. It is excellent and has a lovely atmosphere. They also have a good wine list. And dont let the strip mall aspect scare you. Just think, your guests will have no problem finding parking.

                2. I ate at Celadon this past weekend and have mixed feelings about the place. The ambiance is nice, although anytime I go to "upscale" asian restaurants I'm always skeptical about the food quality. The prices certainly reflect the upscale appearance of the place. The food was decent, but not spectacular, however the service we received was pretty bad. First off, my GF ordered a shrimp dish and we specifically asked the waiter if the shrimp was peeled or not. He went to go ask the chef and told us that the shrimp was peeled, but when the dish arrived it wasn't. When we complained about it he denied telling us that the shrimp was peeled and insisted that we had misunderstood him. To add to that, I ordered a beef rib dish and it was taking forever (most of the people in our party had already gotten their food). 15 minutes later after most of them were done eating I was told that they were out of the beef ribs (keep in mind this was about 45 mins after I had ordered) and had to order something else. I didn't want to make my friends wait so I opted to not order anything after all that.

                  So in conclusion, the food was decent (I ended up sharing with everyone else since the portions are huge) but the service was bad. I don't think I would go back since even if the service had been fine I can get the same quality food for cheaper elsewhere.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: mliew

                    yeah ... I think the service at Celadon actually got worse and worse every time I've gone in the last year. I pretty much gave up on that place. <sigh> I know they have/are going to move locations, and I can only hope that they get their act together once in the new place. I've had the same experience as you - half of our party being served 20 minutes before the others, etc. Once our waiter brought the wrong bottle of wine to the table and then gave us a hard time about replacing it because it "was opened." !!!!
                    So, yes. Food is good, service just isn't.

                  2. Best Thai is easily Saffron, but it is not suitable for a party of 15-20.
                    They do cater, so you could order the food and have the dinner at home if your place is big enough.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: pantani

                      I think Saffron may qualify as the WORST Thai restaurant in San Diego. Every time I've been there the food has been drastically overcooked. The worst was chunks of burnt ginger that I couldn't pick out. While many of the Thai restaurants are hit and miss, I'll never go back to Saffron.

                    2. I would have to third Antique Thai. I had never even noticed it before meeting someone there for a business lunch, now I'm hooked. I have also heard good things about Rama in the gaslamp, but have not yet been.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: bythenumbers

                        Three of us had dinner at Antique Thai tonight. The food was very good, and the service was excellant. I think the prices are fair for the portions of the dishes we ordered. Highly recommend and will go back. And being located in that strip center is not a negative.

                      2. If you're looking for real Thai food, then DEFINITELY Spices Thai. And they do have room for big parties. Their sauces are very authentic...so you can taste all the thai spices and fish sauce (nuoc mam or namla). My favorites are Tom Kha Koong (soup) and duck panang curry. They will make your dishes as spicy as you specify it on a scale of 1-10. I'm Asian and have grown up eating Vietnamese and Thai food all my life and can handle as high as an 8....anything beyond that, beware!

                        If you're looking for more Americanized, blander Thai, then Celadon should be fine.

                        1. After reading all the replies to this post, we can offer the name of a Thai restaurant in Hillcrest that has not been included in the best Thai discussion. The name of the restaurant is Amarin Thai. The little hole in the wall restaurant is located on Richmond near University, right next door to the Alibi Bar. The food is consistently good as are the portions. The service is efficient, the decor is pleasant, and the prices are reasonable. The food is not overly salted and when you ask for a level 9 or 10 in spice level, you actually get it. This is not always the case with some of the other Thai restaurants in town. Amarin is the Thai restaurant that Antique Thai took over at Midway and Rosecrans.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: sdtips

                            I would have mentioned Amarin, except that the OP wanted a place that could seat 15-20 people. Amarin is good. We also tried Thai Grille (next to Wit's End, 4th & Robinson) a couple weeks back and it was good.

                          2. Finally had a chance to try Antique Thai over the weekend. We had the crab fried rice and the thai BBQ chicken and both were very good. I think I would definitely go back again except that the location is a little out of the way for me.

                            My usual go to Thai restaurant is Thai House on Convoy, although it seems like most people here tend not to think too highly of it. I think I recall KirkK saying that they used frozen vegetables in their dishes, which I don't think I've ever noticed except maybe for the carrots. Overall I think Thai House is pretty good although it depends a lot on what dishes you order.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: mliew

                              I'm surpriised no one here has been to Rama. I've been there for 2 birthday paries in the past 6 months and it's a lovely place for a group. The food is really good too - same owners as Celadon so the menu is similar. I'm afraid I have to agree with Mangiatore regarding Saffron....I don't see what the hype is all about. I've tried it multiple times in hopes that I will grow to like it, but it just seems...bland.

                            2. I've had many great meals at Karinya Thai which is right at the end of Garnet in Pacific Beach. Then you and your guests could cruise the beach. Good luck with parking though.

                              1. We were looking for some new Thai to try in SD today and after looking through this discussion decided to try Antique Thai - big mistake.
                                As starter we tried Thai rolls with crispy fried shrimp, satay chicken and crispy calamari. None of them were anything special. Satay without much flavor, calamari the best of all three.
                                Entrees were red curry with duck, panang curry with duck and "Four Friends" (Pan-seared chicken, beef, pork and vegetables). All entrees were without any flavors, with mediocre duck and just bad.
                                Somehow we decided to order some dessert which we thought were some safer bets - house fried ice cream, fried banana with coconut ice cream. Some of the worst desserts we have ever eaten. The fried ice cream was never fried but were some ice cream between some pieces of really old cake and the fried banana was dough with hardly any banana inside and old, low quality ice cream.
                                SD doesn't have many great Thai restaurant but still some good ones where you can good Thai dishes (Thai Garden in Oceanside is still our favorite) but Antique Thai one of the worst Thai restaurants ever (not only in SD) and I am surprised how they can stay in business (I don't even want to start discussing about the lousy service). Definitely our worst meal in 2007 so far.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: honkman


                                  Though it probably exists in dozens of threads, do you have a list of Thai restaurants you find acceptable, perhaps ranked in some sort of order (with Thai Garden at the top, obviously)? Thank you.

                                  1. re: RB Hound

                                    try rama. amazing atmosphere and really great thai food. i love there yellow curry with chicken and phad thai.

                                    1. re: RB Hound

                                      RB Hound,

                                      I am far from a true expert in Thai cuisine (or any other cuisine) but I just follow my taste buds. In addition my work schedule unfortunately doesn't allow me to visit all the restaurants I would like to visit so that I often base my opinion on one visit which has the risk that it might be just the one night a normally good restaurant is underperforming. I have tried so far, (but not really ranked):

                                      - Thai Garden: so far the best Thai for me in SD
                                      - Spices Thai: inconsistent but can be pretty good sometimes. I made the experiences that they are better for dinner than lunch.
                                      - Lotus Thai: bland, disappointing
                                      - Royal Thai: not bad, but unfriendly service
                                      - Saffron: don't understand why people are often so excited about it
                                      - Spice & Rice: good but sauces are sometimes too sweet
                                      - Thai Time III: too americanized
                                      - Sala Thai: not outstanding but I like it from time to time
                                      - Ocean Thai: gets good reviews on this board but was very disappointed, very bland, very low quality seafood.
                                      - 9 Star Inn Thai: Average
                                      - Nattiya's Thai: above average. They had a good piano player which was a nice plus
                                      - Tamarind: Similar to Spices Thai can be very inconsistent but sometimes very good.
                                      - Poway Thai: one of the better ones in SD (but not sure if it is still open)

                                      If you are ever in Las Vegas I can highly recommend Lotus of Siam. I could never understand why people were so much hyping this place but after I went there last year it changed my understanding of Thai cuisine. Which is now a problem for me in SD because no Thai restaurant comes even somehow close to LOS. It is amazing to see which differences are between LOS and Thai restaurants in SD. It is like eating once at French Laundry for innovative cuisine and then having only Applebee's as the only option for innovative cuisine.

                                    2. re: honkman

                                      I agree with RB Hound, you might went to wrong day or wrong mood. I went Antique Thai mostly at lunch time with my Thai co-worker, she said the food is pretty good taste and good quality. And be careful, it's pretty busy at lunch time.
                                      Besides, I just invited my friend's relatives which they are all Thai people to have dinner, the menu is variety more than lunch time, we ordered pad thai noodle with shrimp, crab fried rice, green curry with chicken and crispy flake fish, all are delicious, yummo! Dont' forget to save your room for sweet treat, Mango with sweet sticky rice is really really delicious. Service was good though.

                                      P.S. I've ever had Thai food from all other place in SD Dowtown and Hillcrest, and I think Antique Thai is not worse as you described as above, but I think it's good enough to go back again and again.

                                      1. re: joeroski

                                        Karinya in PB is my favorite--right next to the beach. They have several rooms and are big enough to accomodate a party. There actually is free parking with validation in the lot right behind it, so parking has never been a problem. And when you ask for spicy, they will certainly give it to you!

                                    3. Amarin Thai in Point Loma is very good.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: nessy

                                        As I know, Amarin Thai in Point Loma is Antique Thai Cuisine, they took over from Amarin and change the name to be Antique Thai Cuisine. And Food is still be the same and add more items too.

                                        1. re: joeroski

                                          I've said it before in another thread and I'll say it again -- Lotus Thai in Carlsbad is hands-down the best Thai I've had in SD. Complex flavors, fresh ingredients, and great menu. Not just the run of the mill Pad thai type stuff, although they do offer it and it is good. If you're lucky, they'll have fresh coconut icecream (they make it in-house), which is a great way to top off your meal.

                                          This restaurant has no affiliation with the Lotus Thai in downtown.

                                      2. I become drowned in reading this thread. It is pretty hard to decipher where one can have a decent Thai meal.

                                        Is anyone aware of a restaurant that caters primarly to Thai clientele?
                                        What is your baseline standard that you are comparing the Thai restaurants in SD to? Lotus of Siam? Jitlandia? Wat Thai?

                                        All I can say/contribute is that I will alert you all when the Thai Songkran fest in Escondido occurs - it is interstellar!