Monday, May 04, 2015
By Jan Scalisi , produced in cooperation with the HubCity Writers Project.
There’s a touch of Thailand in Spartanburg—and the number of locally owned restaurants that feature the well-known Thai staples of noodle dishes, spring rolls, delicious soups, curry, seafood, and spicy vegetables over rice might surprise a visitor to a mid-sized Southern town.
These days, there are two thriving Asian cuisine restaurants with a block of one another on Morgan Square downtown, but the fact is that Thai food took some time to take the town by storm. Bangkok Thai Café, formerly a Chinese buffet on Spartanburg’s east side, saw customers walk out when the cuisine changed to Thai in the early 2000s. Now, the restaurant has done well enough to open a second location, Bangkok 2, in nearby Boiling Springs.
In the years since, Spartanburg has heartily (and hungrily) embraced Thai and Asian cuisines, and you can see proof positive if you check in at Monsoon Noodle House during a busy downtown weekday on Morgan Square. Known for its quick service of a variety of egg soup noodle bowls, Thai bubble tea, and more, the colorful and funky Asian fusion restaurant turns a lunch break around in 30 minutes. The food is fresh, heat-hot and spicy-hot if you like, and provides an ample lunch or dinner at a reasonable price. For fast and casual dining while you’re browsing the shops, Monsoon is the popular quick stop. That’s why it was the talk of a happy town when the restaurant re-opened in 2012 after a devastating fire—nine months was too long for dedicated fans to wait for their noodle bowl fix.
Still, authentic Thai food can be something to savor, and a beautiful restaurant can be somewhere to linger. The Lime Leaf, on the corner of Main and Church streets downtown, can be described as modern Asian cozy, with a more formal, atmospheric décor, and a menu straight from Thailand. Owner Kanas Lam brings her recipes back from Bangkok when she travels there, and she’s not afraid to put her own twist on some of them. For example, she plates her Hibachi Fish on a hibachi and hot plate, creates original entrées and serves dishes that are a little less mouthwateringly hot than their counterparts in Thailand, but still plenty spicy for spice lovers.
Fan favorites from Lime Leaf include the traditional Pad Thai, Panang Duck, and spring rolls. The striking and intimate décor was designed by Kanas herself, a Spartanburg resident who has designed and decorated several of her other restaurant interiors, including Monsoon Noodle House, Lime Leaf in Hendersonville, N.C., and Koi Asian Bistro in Greenville.
If you’re in the mood for a family-friendly, casual atmosphere, Bangkok Thai Café is only a few blocks east from downtown. Come as you are, and peruse the varied menu that covers all the Thai favorites—from soup to salad, noodle dishes, stir fry, and seafood, all the way to desserts that include Mango and Sticky Rice and Fried Ice Cream. Appreciated for its consistently fresh and delicious food, customer favorites include the curry dishes and the restaurant’s signature dish, Pad Thai. Owned and operated by Steve and Fan Lim and Fan’s brother, Bobby Phomsatry, the restaurant also offers some delicious original entrées that include Curry Tilapia and Bangkok Duck topped with special sauce and cashew nuts. Its sister restaurant, Bangkok 2, features an identical menu in a more modern atmosphere, along with a sushi bar and a separate full bar.
The west side is not to be deprived of its Thai influence. Long-time favorite Thai Taste on Southport Road is particularly popular with the younger crowd in town, and visitors will find a very extensive menu served in a casual atmosphere. The service is fast, and many loyal Thai Taste fans brag on the spotlessly clean restaurant and the consistent tastiness of the entrées.
So get your Thai on by giving Spartanburg’s great restaurants a try!
Jan Scalisi, Produced in cooperation with the HubCity Writers Project.
Jan Scalisi is a freelance writer and editor who also serves on Spartanburg’s City Council. She loves her town, good books and good movies, dancing until the lights go off, and all kinds of design.