Homeroom Racing Café Thai Cuisine (Alameda)
I finally had a chance to try this odd hybrid model car racing track/Thai restaurant and was pleasantly surprised by the food. The restaurant has an appealingly homespun quality to it, like hanging out in the basement of a childhood friend whose mom happens to be a really good cook.
The eating area is screened off from the track, and covered in model car and racing memorabilia. Plastic flowers and random children’s toys complete the décor – we dined with a miniature plastic Toucan Sam hovering over our heads.
The menu is limited – aside from a beef salad, the only protein option is chicken. We had papaya salad, chicken and green beans, and pad kee mao. I particularly liked the chicken and green beans - I admired the perfectly crisp-tender texture of the beans, and the fresh, complex paste of pounded aromatics flavoring the whole dish. The pad kee mao was a touch sweeter than I generally like, but still delicious. The papaya salad was good but didn’t particularly stand out one way or another. We ordered everything spicy, which ended up just pushing my upper limits of heat tolerance. They have a “Thai spicy” option as well. Everything had a slightly rough, homey quality that I really liked – I’m definitely planning to go back.
Homeroom Racing Cafe
1305 Park St, Alameda, CA 94501
Have been back a few times since, and have to say this place is now one of my favorite Thai restaurants in the Bay Area. The menu is limited, but everything I've had has been good to terrific. The spicy fried rice is fantastic, and the pumpkin and beef curry is probably the best pumpkin curry I've tasted - their curries tend to be thinner bodied and less sweet than most (also - looks like I'm wrong about only chicken being available). Not sure how to explain what it is that I crave so much about the food here - everything tastes like it was carefully cooked. Can't exactly articulate what it is that makes me feel that way.
The slot car racing (thanks chefj) has been moved to another space - while I appreciated the novelty, I did not enjoy the noise.