Thai cuisine has been part of the Greenville restaurant landscape for several decades, albeit hidden away in some unusual locations for most of that time. The first I can remember is "The King and I", once located at the intersection of State Park and Mountain Creek Roads in a former gas/service station. The building and restaurant are long since gone, but "The Thai and I" (now defunct) eventually took its place in a strip mall on Poinsett Highway north of town. From those humble beginnings, it seems that Thai has taken off, and the cuisine is becoming almost as ubiquitous as Chinese food.
Lemon Grass on Main Street in Greenville was the first of the newer places to make its mark, bringing with it an upscale ambience and downtown location. Every time we have been the food has been marvelous, while the service has been, um, unusual. I remember one occasion when our waitress was loudly talking to her colleagues about recently swimming Lake Hartwell, only to have her navel piercing get infected. Just the conversation you want while you try to eat. I’m sure that was an aberrant data point, but with other excellent Thai options closer to home, we don’t venture to Lemon Grass as often.
Before I mention those closer options, I will point out Bangkok Thai on Pelham Road. I’ve only had take-out curry dishes from there, but each time the food has been excellent.
Thaicoon and Thaicoon Ricefire once started out under joint ownership. They still share similar menus and recipes, but the owners have parted ways. Thaicoon Ricefire is conveniently located near Furman in University Square, and has expanded to include a sushi bar. I suspect that Ricefire will eventually drop the Thaicoon appelation so as to further distinguish itself. Ricefire’s staffing, like Lemon Grass, has been unusual. For awhile, the owner tried to do everything himself, and the result was good food smothered under friendly chaos. I hope that with the expansion he has hired more hands.
The original Thaicoon is located on East North Street near its intersection with Haywood Road. Service has always been efficient and professional. At both places, our favorites are the Thaicoon Ginger and Pad Thai, both with chicken. We usually have this with a Singha beer.
Pad Thai has gotten to be my measure of any new place. Thai Tara on Pelham in Greenville is probably the closest to our house. While tasty, the pad thai just doesn’t measure up to the two Thaicoons’ dishes. I must say, though, that I think I have found the ultimate Pad Thai in a very unlikely place. Thai Cuisine of Duncan carries that distinction. Located on Highway 290 just south of the interstate, Thai of Duncan’s pad thai has the best blend of spices and the best texture – moist but not too mushy. The ginger and curry dishes are outstanding, and it is quickly becomming my absolute favorite. Their service is impeccable, and at lunch they are always packed to overflowing.
I’m always glad to see new cuisines gaining a foothold in our area. Looks like Thai will be here to stay.