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In Your Opinion, What is the Best Thai Restaurant in Northern VA?

Okay, so I'm kind of a Thai freak. I have been to many different Thai restaurants in Northern VA, and almost all that are located in Fairfax (where I work), Woodbridge (where I live), and Manassas (where I used to live). I've of course been to some others here and there, but I was just wondering what everyone's opinion on the best one is. If there is a really good Thai restaurant that I haven't been to yet, I'd like to try it. I saw a similar thread from 2010 and Thai by Thai seemed to get the most recommendations. Say it ain't so! I'd put it at the bottom of my list, honestly.

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  1. You could go to Bangkok Golden in Falls Church, at which I order mostly off the Lao menu (same cuisine as Northeastern Thai) , but the Northwestern or Central Thai food I've had is very good. This is one of the five best restaurants in the area. The Chiang Mai version of kao soi is excellent. It may not be on the menu, just ask. The Lao version is great as well, spicier, and without coconut milk. Also not on the menu, but just ask for it.

    My picks for Northeatern (Issan) Thai food are on many of other Bangkok Golden threads. But the one Must Order is the nam kao (aka rice ball salad).

    For most 'regular' Thai, Maryland has better choices. And I was disappointed the last time I went to Thai by Thai.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Steve

      Great! Thanks for your suggestions! I'm of the feeling that most Thai restaurants I've been to are of the "regular" Thai variety. Maybe it's time to branch out.

      1. re: SaraAshley

        I've mostly stopped eating at Thai restaurants because I find them too sweet. The Issan (northeastern) Thai does not have that prominent 'sweet n sour' component that Thai restaurants here seem to use as a crutch.

      2. re: Steve

        their som tum (thai version, not the stinkier, fishier, fermentier (!) lao version) is AWESOME, and they will give it to you THAI HOT. best som tum in area, imho.

        picture steam shooting out of your ears.

        1. re: alkapal

          For the last year (at least) I have noticed that many of the dishes - particularly the cold dishes- are much spicier than before. Rather than dumbing things down with popularity, this is one place where the spice level is more like the Thai festival in Silver Spiring. You have to cry 'mercy!'

          1. re: alkapal

            I am not sure that I can handle "Thai hot" som tom. I spent a month on a beach in Thailand and each day the lady that served me lunch made it a bit hotter. When I asked for mercy 2 weeks in, I asked her how many mouse shit peppers she was now using on my som tom. It was 4 or 5.
            She liked it with 16 or 18 peppers.
            I don't want to experience Thai hot if she is any indicator.
            I like a little forehead sweat. If my scalp starts to sweat, it is too hot.

            1. re: Ziv

              good thing they give you heat levels to choose from.

              16 peppers? yeah, that's hot! i couldn't take that --- or even close!

              i'll ask how nany peppers next time i get it….

              one time i ordered :"hot" som tum and "hot" crispy rice ball salad with issan sausage. they were watching to see if i collapsed as i was happily munching away. i was def. sweating and appreciating the lao beer. LOL

              there is something addicting about those dishes. i guess it is the endorphin rush. i noticed that particularly once when i tucked into my som tum at thai square, thinking "ah, even this first bite takes me to a HAPPY place."

        2. Have you tried Sisters Thai in Fairfax? They have (or used to have) a blackboard with a menu in Thai only.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Worldwide Diner

            Surprisingly not and by looking it up I see that it is probably only a 10 minute drive tops from my office. I think it's just that I always stop short of entering Old Town Fairfax. Not a fan of the traffic there, but I will definitely have to give it a try. Really no excuse not to with it's close proximity.

            1. re: Worldwide Diner

              Sisters is great. They grow some of their own herbs in the front courtyard!

              1. re: Hobbert

                It looks promising! Not that anyone here gives a shieeet about Yelp, but the reviews on there were very favorable.

                1. re: Hobbert

                  That's not Sisters. The courtyard herb garden is at the appropriately-named Courtyard Thai, on Chain Bridge/123.

                  Sisters is a few blocks away on University, in a small storefront shop with no courtyard.

                  Sisters has a great lunch I used to frequent, but has become quite popular after their write up in the post express or one of those pubs. Sometimes no tables available, and even asked one afternoon if we had a reservation -- for lunch!

                  Courtyard also serves good food, but Sisters is better service (less eccentric) and not as slow.

                  1. re: rachelcp

                    Well, crap. Ok then I recommend Courtyard Thai! Never been to Sisters.

              2. Thai Ghang Waan in Alexandria just west of I 95 a bit outside the beltway. Not everything I've tried, but things from the translated Thai menu (beef noodle soup whose name I forget, crispy rice salad), goong gleur (although that one is fairly sweet), and larb have been great.

                Perhaps not as good as Thai Square at its peak, but that peak was years ago at this point.

                16 Replies
                1. re: noamb

                  Thanks for the recommendation! What's Thai Square? Never heard of it. Is it no longer in business?

                  1. re: SaraAshley

                    It's in Arlington on Columbia Pk just east of Glebe. Used to be amazing, in my opinion, then down do just OK. It's been a couple of years since I've gone, and reports (don't remember if here or on donrockwell.com) made it sound like it wasn't recovering, so I haven't had an urge to try it again. If you try it I'd be interested to hear a more up to date review.

                    1. re: noamb

                      No problem! I will for sure let you know if I make a visit.

                    2. re: SaraAshley

                      Thai Square is a longtime favorite that some people are not so fond of anymore. I think they haven't changed; some things are still exceptional and some things were never all that good to begin with.

                      Their yum pla dook foo and the yum pla krob are both great starters. From the Thai-language menu, they have a great duck noodle soup and a sour curry. You'll have to ask about those.

                      1. re: Steve

                        Thanks again for your input. I checked them out on Yelp, as well, and the pictures of the food certainly looked delicious, but as we all know, looks can be decieving!

                        1. re: SaraAshley

                          their seafood salad is delicious.

                          their som tum is very good. usually it is better when the papaya is super fresh, so a friday or saturday is more likely to get you nice and crispy papaya salad.

                          their kee mao is good, and they will mince the chicken for you, and give you wok char (tell them "well done").

                        2. re: Steve

                          Thai Square (Columbia Pike) is one of my favorites. The Tom Kah Gai is fantastic, as is the squid with fried basil. OP--Columbia Pike in Arlington might be work a quick visit, as you could hit 2 exceptional Thai places within walking distance between Glebe and Walter Reed. The other, Bangkok 54 is good. My husband lived in Bangkok, and that's his favorite place for authentic food in the area.

                          1. re: gastro nomad

                            We frequent Bangkok 54 and always enjoy it. The five spice stewed pork is a favorite dish. Crispy fish also good.

                          2. re: Steve

                            Steve, I have to agree. My go to dishes have not changed much from its hey day. I usually order the papaya salad with shrimp paste and pickle crab, yam poo dong, plaa goong, and pork jerky with sticky rice. Recently, we tried their boat noodle soup. The soup has improved tremendously from the last time I had it which was a couple of years ago.

                        3. re: noamb

                          Thai Ghang Waan is in Springfield, not Alexandria, but it is excellent.

                          1. re: xdcx

                            Alexandria and Falls Church are kind of amorphous entities. I think the only criteria for belonging in one or the other is a desire to put the name on your letterhead. I believe I have seen Alexandria addresses down near the North Carolina line and Falls Church out near Skyline Drive...

                            1. re: Ziv

                              City of Falls Church is a specific entity. One of the "cities" proper in Northern Virginia. Falls Church in Fairfax County is a broader entity. Alexandria is also one of those cities proper with a broader "persona" so to speak. Also, is a City of Fairfax. City of Falls Church actually uses Arlington's court system. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_...

                              How those addresses work -- I've never seen that (the examples you cite. That is a bit extreme, if they do that!).

                              1. re: alkapal

                                I was engaging in a bit of hyperbole, sorry! I am a Realtor and I show "Alexandria" homes down all the way down to Mount Vernon and "Falls Church" homes out almost to Fairfax City. It is just odd. Someone says they love a little cafe in Alexandria and I am thinking Alexandria City and it turns out I am so far down Rte 1 that I am fairly close to the Ft. Belvoir.
                                And back to the subject... ;-)
                                I have to enter these Thai places into my iPhone and have them on hand. I wish Chowhound had a Yelp-like App. The recommendations here are so much better than the reco's on Yelp.

                                1. re: alkapal

                                  Godfrey Daniel! Every time I was in court, it was at City Hall in Falls Church. Judge Vail Pischke presiding. I wonder when they started doing business in *gasp* Arlington?

                                  1. re: flavrmeistr

                                    circuit court, i should limit it to.

                            2. re: noamb

                              Thai Ghang Waan is serious, authentic Thai (not the place for pad thai or americanized curries but for serious hot, amazing stuff.). It is really, really great, the best I've had since leaving California.

                              I think there's a "market soup" and the green papaya salad on their thai menu are both fabulous as are many other things. Feeling hungry now just thinking about it.

                            3. Since you're in Woodbridge, I recommend Thaibox in Lorton. Separate Thai and Creole menus that compliment eachother nicely. Tiny place and pretty cheap. I've had worse Thai at three-times the price.

                              http://thaiboxcarryout.com/gallery.html

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: monkeyrotica

                                Never heard of this place, but I will certainly add it to my list. Right now, out of all the Thai places I've been to in the area, I live next to my favorite, so lucky me! I love trying new places, though!

                                1. re: SaraAshley

                                  Did you say which is your favorite? What do you like there?

                                  1. re: Steve

                                    This one is my favorite: http://www.siambistrothai.com/

                                    I admit that I've never gotten too adventurous with my Thai dishes. At this place I've had the Pad Kee Mau, Pad Thai, Chicken Rama, Chicken Satay, Cashew Chicken, Green Curry, Spring Rolls, and Mango Sticky Rice. My favorite Thai dish has always been Pad Kee Mau. If you go to check out the menu, they've listed separately their chef specials under the "Specials" section and not on the regular menu, even though they're on the menu everyday.

                                2. re: monkeyrotica

                                  I finally made it to Thaibox on Friday. I had the popcorn crawfish and the pad kee mao (diunken noodles). The server suggested a '3' level of spice (on a 1-10 scale) so I could taste the other ingredients, but gave me a spice tray so I could add my own spice as I liked.

                                  The popcorn crawfish was masterfully fried, and the accompanying remoulade was addictive.

                                  I haven't ordered drunken noodles in years and years, worried that it would be too sweet. It was here. Deadly sweet. Gorgeously stir-fried, but even adding spice was hard to cut through the sweetness. I would go back for their cajun/creole specialties. A '3' level of spice was decidedly tame.

                                  1. re: Steve

                                    Sweetness is an issue for me w/ most Thai places in the area. I don't know if they're catering to a more Americanized palate that enjoys it but it's just too common.

                                    1. re: Steve

                                      I think the best cajun item is the crawfish etouffe. The crawfish po boy is basically a storebought roll stuffed full of the popcorn crawfish. I wish they used Leidenheimer's rolls like Bayou in Foggy Bottom, but Bayou doesn't do crawfish.

                                      1. re: Steve

                                        My favorite is the spicy chicken basil (kaprow)- deceptively simple, yet seriously spiced, w/ an egg on top. The shrimp po' boys are also good.

                                        1. re: thistle5

                                          It is amazing how something as simple as an egg on top just adds to the meal. I used to get minced pork with basil on Ram Buttri in Bangkok all the time and the egg on top was the perfect complement.

                                    2. Have you tried Thai Cafe in Springfield? It's solid, less sweet than most around, It's kind of a hole in the wall place. Spicy can be very spicy there.

                                      We haven't been to Rice and Spice in a while but we discovered it through Jim Leff's chow tour:

                                      http://jimleff.info/chowtour/tour/106...

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: chowser

                                        Speaking of Springfield, Bangkok Noodle House does some solid soups. I haven't tried the rest of the menu because I can't get past the Doo Dee and Floating Market Soups. Perfect in this weather.

                                        http://www.bangkoknoodlehouse.com/

                                        1. re: monkeyrotica

                                          i'm sorry, but reading "doo dee" and "floating market soup" together just made me pause…. LOL

                                          1. re: alkapal

                                            I have the same problem with "puu puu platter" and "Lake Titicaca."

                                        2. re: chowser

                                          See, I was actually going to mention that I like sweet in my savory most of the time, so I doubt anything being less sweet would be much of a draw for me, lol.

                                          1. re: SaraAshley

                                            In that case, try Panisa Thai in Burke. Sweet and good seasoning. They do better w/ specials than they do w/ dishes off the menu. And, there is also Pasara Thai in Kingstowne. It's more Americanized w/ the sweetness in their dishes and Thai Cafe is more authentic, for lack of a better word.

                                        3. what happened to the sakulthai people? did they move to another restaurant, or just leave the business altogether?

                                          1. I'm curious what you and others (Steve) dislike about Thai by Thai in Fairfax. I usually order the same things when I go, so I can't comment on the majority of the menu, but I really like the following from the Thai menu (sorry I can't remember the exact names and the Thai menu isn't online):
                                            beef and duck noodle soups
                                            Chinese broccoli with pork
                                            Pork ribs (only tried this once)
                                            Papaya salad

                                            I've also tried and like their Pad see-ew and Pad cha from the regular menu-- both are standard American Thai fare. Also their papaya salad from the Thai menu might be the same as the one on the regular menu, I'm not clear on that -- it is standard but good.

                                            The only thing I don't like is the Panang Curry.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: KeithW

                                              Iv'e been to Thai by Thai twice. Loved it the first time, very fresh ingredients and spicy (loved the stalk of green peppercorns) but thought it was weak and lukewarm the second.

                                              1. re: KeithW

                                                I was disappointed in their Tom Yum. It was not as intensely flavored as I prefer, but that might be just my taste -- I am not an expert in the authenticity of Thai cuisine by any means, just a frequent consumer.

                                                And somewhat trite, but I didn't care for the order at the counter setup when I'm paying about the same prices as any of the other full-service spots nearby. And their parking situation is horrid, but I realize that Fairfax in general spoils you in that regard.

                                              2. I like Crystal Thai. Their pad see ew with beef, spicy eggplant with shrimp, guay dew kaw (not on menu but you just ask for it), pad lard na, pad lard na talay, and tofu tod --all excellent.

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: Mulan

                                                  I thought I heard they closed. Not true?

                                                  1. re: flavrmeistr

                                                    we were by that shopping center about five months ago, and they were still there.

                                                    i went a couple of times a few years ago, and wasn't impresses, so consequently didn't go back.

                                                    ~~~~~
                                                    OT, but the four sisters (vietnamese) at merrifield's mosaic center makes a terrific baby clam and pork (with sesame crackers) appetizer, FYI. SO FRESH and tender….better than the one i loved at rice paper. lovely interior and excellent service. the noodle soup with shrimp wonton was good enough, but i find the viet soups are too bland for me…and i like wide noodles. will order a ginger chicken stir fry next time. husband had beef on vermicelli, and the beef was extremely tender and flavorful. nice!

                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                      If you feel like it, go back to Crystal Thai and try the dishes I mentioned.

                                                  2. My #1 is a Thai/Laos placed called Bangkok Golden. Hands down.

                                                    I also like Thai Square a lot...but haven't been there in ages. Sounds like it might have gone down.

                                                    Jason
                                                    www.dcfud.com

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: Foodgeek

                                                      I got takeout lunch today at ThaiBox, chicken ga prow, it was delicious, maybe a bit smaller than I would have liked, but a fried egg on top, & very spicy.

                                                      1. re: thistle5

                                                        I like their Thai, but I think their Louisiana dishes are an excellent value, especially the crawfish etoufee. And they know how to fry seafood and fish.

                                                    2. Neisha just opened in Tyson's Corner.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: WellDined

                                                        it moved from tyson's mall to the old borders building across rte 7.

                                                        they used to have a great seafood kee mao. have to go again and check out new location. their decor was "creative" in the mall version.

                                                        do they still have the one near bailey's crossroads area?

                                                        1. re: alkapal

                                                          The Neisha Thai restaurant near Bailey's Crossroads closed several years ago. It was another restaurant for a while, and now I think it's something else (not a restaurant).

                                                          1. re: MikeR

                                                            It was Vannipa Thai, but apparently that has closed now as well.

                                                      2. So I tried Sisters Thai in Old Town Fairfax today for the first time. I only got Drunken Noodles to go, so my review might be a bit limited. First off, I thought the place was very cute and the women who got my order was very nice. I also thought the drunken noodles were excellent. Here's what I didn't like. The portion!! It was so small. I'm not sure if this is because it was the lunch portion or what, but my gosh. Even for the lunch portion it was still $9 before tax, which is about what I pay for the same thing anywhere else for double the amount of food. This is the only thing that would make me think twice about visiting again.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: SaraAshley

                                                          Try Monkeyrotica's suggestion in Springfield, Bangkok Noodles. I was seriously impressed. It's tucked away but worth the find.

                                                          1. re: chowser

                                                            I'll have to see if I can get around to trying it. I'll admit I'm a little lazy when it comes to traveling for food, even if it is good.

                                                        2. Elephant Jumps. The owner just retooled his menu to include some more northern Thai options. The Yum Pla Dook Foo (fried ground tuna and mango spicy salad) and the Gang Hung Lay (slow roasted pork curry with tamarind and ginger and sticky rice) are amazing. I can't stop ordering them, which stops me from trying the other new items!

                                                          10 Replies
                                                          1. re: BellaDiCali

                                                            Agree 100%. The place is small but lovely and the food is great. Especially if you order from the "more Thai, less Americanized" part of the menu (first half of the menu plus the chalkboard specials and the specials on the laminated sheet). However, you can order anything as the food is exceptionally well-prepared. We have stopped going to any other Thai restaurant - even Nava Thai and Ruan Thai - because EJ is so incredible.

                                                            That being said, now we have to try Bangkok Gardens.

                                                            1. re: Just Visiting

                                                              Just went there on Monday, for the 4th time since March. I just can't get over the Gang Hung Lay, which in my opinion is the best pork dish of its type in the area. The subtlety of tamarind reminded me of pork curries I've eaten from Nagaland.

                                                              The Yum Pla Dook Foo is delicious, and its quite a complex thing to make. Tom, the owner, says he tuna instead of the catfish that the name suggests. Its difficult to get catfish of the same texture and taste as the riverine variety in SE Asia.

                                                              1. re: altan

                                                                How did you eat the gang hung lay? I wasn't sure about the romaine lettuce on the side.

                                                                1. re: chowser

                                                                  With rice...the Gang Hung Lay is a curry after all...

                                                                  I think you may have been confused with the lettuce on the side that comes with the Yum Pla Dook Foo. You just layer the salad ingredients in the leaf, and add a bit of dressing and eat it directly...much like you would eat tabbouleh, or for that matter lettuce wraps.

                                                                  1. re: altan

                                                                    I was given the side of lettuce w/ the gang hung lay and the side of rice. I layered rice w/ sauce and pork on top--I thought it was better than the pork w/ rice alone. It added a nice cool crispy element to the dish. I wonder why they served the whole lettuce like that.

                                                                    1. re: chowser

                                                                      I have often ordered that pairing together, the last time just a week back, and the waitress (not the usual one) took care to mention that the longish lettuce was for the salad. Of course, I am sure it would taste good with the pork as well.

                                                                      1. re: altan

                                                                        That's what she said to me, but are we supposed to just eat the lettuce plain? That seemed odd to me, too, kind of rabbit like.

                                                                        1. re: chowser

                                                                          What I did was to spoon some of the fried dook on to the lettuce leaves with mango and nuts, and some dressing and ate it like an unwrapped lettuce roll. In Thailand, as I understand, and previous times I've had this, you get a big round fried dook cake, topped with mango and nuts, so you break off how much you want, place it in the lettuce, dress it, and eat it, so I just did that here.

                                                                          1. re: altan

                                                                            Hmmm, I only got the gang hung lay and nothing else, I would have asked but it was packed and the server was all over the place. The fried dook w/ mango and nuts sound good.

                                                            2. re: BellaDiCali

                                                              i must get there and try their food. their photos are too tempting!

                                                            3. The best Thai food is the food at Wat Thai temple in Silver Springs during the New Years Festival in April. Sorry, but it is only once a year and you just missed it. There are no food vendors there at other times, sadly. Mark your calendar for next year. You will be glad you did.

                                                              Buck

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: Gastrobuck

                                                                I've been to the festival three times. I doubt I'll go back.

                                                                The festival has its moments, certainly. It's fun, up to a point, though it has become so popular it is now unpleasant. People get packed into the main food lane chest-to-chest.

                                                                There is a woman who does a floating market noodle soup. But she generally starts late by the time crowds are already enormous, and she first serves advance orders, so even if you are on line pretty early, it's about a 40 minute wait regardless. There are an endless number of vendors selling skewers of grilled meat and green papaya salad. There are a few other specialties here and there, but I am not sure they add up to all that much. It is definitely worth doing once, but in the end the floating market soup is not as eye-popping as at Nava Thai on a good day.

                                                                1. re: Steve

                                                                  Everything you say is true, but I will have to take your word about Nava Thai - nava been there. (Ouch!)\
                                                                  B

                                                                1. re: nonenone

                                                                  I do business lunches at BKK54 and they have a couple dishes I like. The moo krob works better as an appetizer, it is a bit meaty and rich for an entre. The calamari is good not great. The yum pla dook foo is kind of hit or miss but it has been pretty good a couple times.
                                                                  Their squid with basil is now better than the same dish at Thai Square, or it was for me. The pad cha seafood is good, with a lot of different flavors/textures going on at the same time.
                                                                  But if the grocery store has opened up again (they had a fire) they have prepared dishes in the way back, near Columbia Pike, that are really good. I had the squid there and it was better than in the restaurant, much fishier and spicy in a layered authentic way. I have also had minced pork there and the only thing it was missing was the fried egg on top that street vendors usually add in Thailand.

                                                                2. on glebe, near ravi kabob, there used to be a very good thai place. their spicy duck salad was superb (!!!). has anyone been there recently? i know i have to go back….maybe it is an under the radar thing,

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: alkapal

                                                                    That place was wonderful, but it changed hands about five-six years ago and immediately became awful. I think there's no longer a Thai restaurant in that space.

                                                                  2. Bangkok Golden is my #1 (by far). Then Thai Square and they have large delivery area.