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Jan 29, 2012 10:21 AM

True Thai needs a face lift and it is not alone

We had dinner at True Thai last night. The food was good, (especially the Thai Duck), but the place is in need of a good cleaning and new carpet and they were out of half the beers on their list (which was stained and food-covered.)

I have noticed that a lot of places have let some of the aesthetics go. Bathrooms not maintained, walls not cleaned by tables. etc. Is this a product of the economy? Is this a sign of a restaurant on its last legs? I am not clean freak, but I do like my dining choices to be at least relatively clean.

I think True Thai will be a take out choice going forward. Anyone else noticing this issue?

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  1. I think I have a higher tolerance than many for less-than-sterile cooking and serving conditions -- after all, people have survived -- even thrived in -- less-sanitary conditions. There are some people I know (with whom I eat rarely) who will discount an entire restaurant because they see threadbare carpet as soon as they come in the door. And yet I sometimes wonder -- if the front of the house is not in good shape, what corners are being cut in the back?

    [EDIT] I'm not singling out TT here, and, IMHO, the owner/management deserves an opportunity to respond. But the customer-accessible places in a restaurant should be an area of emphasis -- best foot forward. And, in that respect, I think rockyd raises a good point.

    1. From what I learned several months ago from their employees, True Thai has been going under. The management is pretty lacking especially their inventory control system. They didnt even continue their liquor license yet still sell those beers and wines that are still in the restaurant. This is from several months back though so I dont really know how they are now.

      To be frank, I dont even care. I'm Thai and I dont think Thai food at True Thai is any good. I ate there only once several years back and vowed that I would never return.

      3 Replies
      1. re: moomon

        This might have something to do with their liquor license:

        If you look at #1 under recommendations, it alludes to the fact that the restaurant was in financial trouble as early as 2009.

        I've eaten and gotten take out from True Thai three times in total. Every time the attitude I've received from various staff has been snotty, indifferent and at the worst, unwelcoming. The food was overpriced and under-flavored. That was two years ago and I haven't been back since.

        1. re: DongerDaddy

          I once tried to eat at True Thai once. We were told 15 minute wait, people came and went in front of us, so we left after wasting an hour. Will never try to go back.

          I would've posted this earlier, but I forgot if it was at True or Amazing Thai that this happened.

          1. re: DongerDaddy

            Just found this article as well regarding True Thai's unpaid back taxes and fines for illegally buying alcohol.


            From the description of the original post and the fact that no alcohol should have been sold to True Thai since Jan. 13th according to the state record, it sounds like they may still be up to the same thing.

        2. Not in regards to True Thai, but my cousin is an executive chef, and he said the best way to know what is going on in the kitchen is by how clean the bathroom is.

          1. Oh, piffle! True Thai is going strong. Keep in mind that they've had some really horrible events in 2011 - the owner was mugged (with injuries), and the head chef was killed in a tragic hit-and-run accident. But the food is great and the place is popular. Yes, the carpet shows some wear (who among us hasn't made a poor choice of material/color for the weather and usage), and the beer selection varies. But if you judge a Thai restaurant by the beer selection, you're really missing out.

            I'm a long-time patron of True Thai, and I love the place. I usually take out-of-town visitors there, and they love it, too. (The last bunch was from Toronto - which has its share of good Thai places - and they're still raving about True Thai.) So take my comments with the appropriate grain of salt.

            4 Replies
            1. re: AnneInMpls

              Sorry Anne, but I have to really disagree with you on this one. True Thai is simply awful. TT is to Thai food what LeAnn Chin's is to Chinese. Poor excuses of sad dishes revamped for people who have no idea what Thai food should taste like. There is not even a single Thai person working in the kitchen, they are all either Hmong or Lao. Zero authenticity, and I do agree with comments above on service, it is one of the worst places in the city. I can't even get a refill without going through the exercise of literally flagging down one of the many waitstaff who stand around doing nothing other than chatting amongst themselves. Truly Awful.

              1. re: doctor k

                I agree, doctor k, the service was so bad the last time I was there, it'll be awhile before I try it again. The table next to me got up after a long wait before ordering, and left. I was dining solo and had to find my own silverware from an empty table and beg for refills of water. And the Thai beef jerky was served to me raw in the center and had to be sent back. Not worth the effort.

                1. re: jaycooke

                  Oh, man, this is terrible news. I haven't dined there for a month or two; I've been ordering take-out for a few months (crazy-busy life), so I haven't experienced the service since fall. I wonder if there has been yet another tragedy or serious problem for the owner that has taken her away from the day-to-day operation.

                  My most recent take-out (pineapple curry) was really good, so I'll continue as a patron and hope that True Thai can solve the service and decor issues to restore their reputation with non-regulars.

                  P.S. To return to the issue in the title: No, TT isn't alone - lots of small places have faded decor and less-than-sparkling surroundings. But I'm so focused on the food that I usually don't notice shabbiness and moderate griminess; a place would have to be really filthy to get my attention. But I probably would continue to eat there anyway. To paraphrase Calvin Trillin, I'd eat in a coal mine if the food was good. :-)

                  1. re: AnneInMpls

                    I agree with the phrase you quoted there .. Id eat in a coal mine if the food was good.

                    However, in TT case, Id never eat there even if the place was built with pure gold, or even if they moved their restaurant in a castle, or even if it was free, or even if the servers treated me like a royal. The food there is absolutely horrible. TT is just like Sawatdee. IMHO, ppl keep going there because the places have been around for ages when there werent that many options for Thai food years and years back, and that's probably how 'some' ppl learnt and got familiar with (supposed-to-be) Thai food, when most of the food there isnt really how Thai food is supposed to be and supposed to taste like. Id prefer cooking my own Thai food than wasting my hard-earn money at TT.

                    I know that it's really a matter of personal preference when it comes to the taste of food, but when it comes to Thai food I think I know a little bit about what's good and what's not. After all, I was merely born and raised in Bangkok for my first 25 years.

            2. Origami is another example of a restaurant that seems worn down and thread bare lately. We hadn't been for about a year and then went a couple of months ago and I was surprised by the shabby feeling. What stuck out to me especially were the scuff marks all along the hallway and stairwell. I mentioned the feeling to my husband and he agreed that the decor was past its prime. While certainly I don't need amazing decor to make a restaurant worth while, I feel like if you're paying a certain amount for the food plus ambiance then you shouldn't end up looking around and feeling depressed about the state of things. I think Origami has some of the better sushi in the cities and I would be sad it if ended up feeling as dated and unclean as Kikugawa.

              2 Replies
              1. re: katebauer

                Kate, you stated my thoughts far better than I did. I have no problem with restaurants that have ZERO ambience (e.g., Hickory Hut, Lion's Tap, etc.). But when I see obvious maintenance issues (dirty bathroom, scuffed paint, etc.), I have to wonder what else isn't being kept up.

                1. re: steve_in_stpaul

                  My observations have been the same. Bad management is bad management. If no one pays attention to the bathroom, then there's likely no supervision over the kitchen either.

                  Note that the economy is recovering and foodservice is typically a leading indicator. Restaurant business is either firm or increasing. The economy is a poor excuse for a lack of customer service.