The Best Thai Restaurants In America

From food carts to family-owned establishments, Thai restaurants are some of the most popular eateries in the U.S. With its bold and complex flavors, Thai food is dynamic: Looking for sweet and savory? Or perhaps spicy and sour is more appealing to you? No matter your preference, Thai cuisine has you covered.

Thai cuisine in America is also incredibly diverse, with restaurants nationwide showcasing regional styles and highlighting previously hard-to-find (in the U.S. at least) dishes. This growth of Thai restaurants is both organic and deliberate, as the Thai government began heavily invested in promoting Thai restaurants around the world in the early 2000s (via Vice). Known as gastrodiplomacy, or culinary diplomacy, countries conduct this strategy of culinary promotion in hopes of increasing their export economies and tourism.

While the biggest population of Thai Americans are congregated in Los Angeles, according to a 2015 Pew Research analysis, excellent Thai food can be found throughout the United States. This list contains 20 excellent Thai restaurants across the nation, featuring must-try places that should be on everyone's bucket list.

Jitlada Restaurant, Los Angeles, CA

A favorite of the late and iconic Jonathan Gold, Jitlada is arguably one of the most prominent and influential Thai restaurants in the U.S. In operation since the 1970s, Jitlada really accelerated in 2006 when it was bought by Thai chef Suthiporn "Tui" Sungkamee and his sister Jazz (via LA Weekly). When Tui and Jazz took over Jitlada, they transformed the menu, adding flavors from their hometown of Pak Phanang in Southern Thailand (via The Infatuation). In 2007, Gold reviewed Jitlada for LA Weekly, launching the restaurant into the mainstream spotlight.

While the menu here is massive — 300 items total — the best food at Jitlada are the Southern Thai dishes. Cuisine in Thailand can be divided into four primary regions: Northern, Northeastern Isan, Central (Bangkok), and Southern. The food of Southern Thailand is heavily influenced by Malay cuisine, featuring plenty of coconut, seafood, and chilies. According to an Infatuation review, standout dishes at Jitlada include the pickled crab, dried catfish curry, and khua kling phat lung (dry beef curry). Just be sure to order plenty of rice and a refreshing beverage — you'll need it to cool down the spices.

Le Thai, Las Vegas, NV

This bustling restaurant, featured on Hulu's Taste the Nation and recommended by Eater, is a top Thai food destination in Las Vegas. Perhaps surprisingly, the city has one of the larger Thai populations in America, with about 5,000 Thai Americans living in the area. In fact, Nevada is quickly becoming home to an increasing population of Asian Americans. The result? A future where the authentic Thai food like Le Thai will be more popular than ever. 

Due to Le Thai's convenient downtown location, the restaurant is open late — 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, 10 p.m. on all other days. Because of this, you can also expect crowds here during peak hours. (The resturant also has a second Vegas location if you're looking for a more low-key dining option, which has limited hours.) The food, however, will be well-worth the effort. Highlights here include the three-color curry, an eye-popping combination of red, yellow, and green curry, all served with vegetables, rice, and choice of protein.

Hat Yai, Portland, OR

As a restaurant, Hat Yai is the definition of a specialist. While it serves some truly amazing Thai dishes like khao yum (a rice salad with shrimp powder and herbs) and spicy turmeric mussel curry, the highlight here is mentioned directly in the restaurant's name. Named after the Southern Thai city of Hat Yai, this area is famous in Thailand for its fried chicken topped with plenty of crispy fried shallots. When compared to American fried chicken, Southern Thai chicken has a lighter batter, courtesy of the rice flour in the coating.

At Hat Yai, diners can select the amount of chicken they want (leg quarter to a whole chicken) along with tasty sides like sautéed cauliflower with egg and stir-fried Brussels sprouts with garlic and fish sauce. Eater Portland recommends ordering the combo, which comes with roti, sticky rice, and a side of curry for dipping.

Kim Thai Food, Los Angeles, CA

This unassuming spot is in a rather interesting location — a warehouse food court, says Atlas Obscura. But don't let this humble setting fool you, Kim Thai Food is serving some of the best Northeastern Thai food in the U.S. Home to the only official Thai Town in America, Los Angeles is a hot spot for Thai cuisine. Because Los Angeles has such a large population of Thai Americans, many Thai restaurants here cater to the Thai palate, forgoing the hyper sweet, frozen vegetable medleys that appears in some Americanized Thai restaurants. Kim Thai Food is great example, a no-frills spot that serves intensely flavored Northeastern style papaya salad pungent with dark, fermented fish sauce.

According to Atlas Obscura, another great dish at Kim's is the duck larb. A hearty combination of duck meat and organs, this mixture is then made into a salad when accentuated with herbs, chilies, lemongrass, and crunchy duck cracklings for texture.

Asia Market Thai Lao Food, Houston, TX

While Houston is known for its world-class Vietnamese cuisine, the Thai food at Asia Market Thai Lao is some of the best in the state of Texas. Located within a small Thai grocery store, this unassuming location hides a must-try culinary destination. The tiny kitchen somehow churns out an amazing array of dishes, including pink yen ta fo noodle soup, classic papaya salads, and pad kee mao.

Heat is the optimal word at Asia Market Thai Lao — the flavors at this small restaurant are fiery and unrestrained. However, for seasoned spice fans, one can choose to add even more heat from the array of condiments on the dining tables, such as roasted chili flakes and chili vinegar. Prices are also very affordable here, which makes it easy to try an array of items.

Luv2eat Thai Bistro, Los Angeles, CA

Boasting reviews from both the LA Times and Michelin Guide, Luv2eat Thai Bistro makes some of the most authentic Phuket-style Southern Thai food in America. Like many Thai restaurants, the menu selection here is big, with plenty of choices for fans of the cuisine.

Southern Thai food is colorful, very spicy, and often accompanied by raw vegetables and herbs, which are essential for cutting through the heat. For a truly authentic order, the Michelin Guide recommends the tai pla (a fish organ curry), jungle curry with chicken feet, or any of their stellar noodle soups such as the zeed, a pork-based broth with three types of pork. And don't skip the creamy Phuket-style blue crab curry, says Eater Los Angeles. This dish will transport you to Phuket without the air travel. 

Sticky Rice, Chicago, IL

In classic Thai restaurant fashion, the menu at Sticky Rice in Chicago is huge, featuring everything from noodles to spicy curries to fried rice. However, a great way to narrow down the menu choices at Sticky Rice is to focus on the restaurant's specialty — Northern Thai cuisine. If you're unfamiliar with food from the region, order the Thai sausage appetizer, a savory and meaty dish that works as an appetizer or entrée. Another star on the menu is the tiger prawn pad karee, recommended by The Infatuation. A luxurious dish consisting of large tiger prawns in a curry sauce full of ground chicken and beaten egg, it's a perfect dish to eat with plenty of jasmine rice.

Because the menu at Sticky Rice is so large, you might need some help deciding what to order. Our advice? A good bet is to order something under the Sticky Rice Specials section. Here you can find some of the restaurant's best and most interesting dishes.

Tycoon Thai, San Francisco, CA

The recipient of two Michelin guide recommendations, Tycoon Thai is a step above your average restaurant. While the kitchen does a fantastic rendition of Thai favorites like pad see you, pad Thai, and various Thai curries (such as green or red), the menu's high point is its flair for unique specialty dishes from Northern Isan Thailand and Laos.

Because the Isan region borders Laos, the food of these two areas are heavily influenced by each other (via The Splendid Table). A key element is the rice: Unlike the jasmine rice of Central and Southern regions of Thailand, the staple of Northern Thai cuisine is glutinous sticky rice. To eat, simply make a small ball of sticky rice in your hands. Then, dip the rice into sauce or eat it straight, enjoying its natural sweetness. For a spicy and herbaceous taste of the region, try the Isan style tom zap, a pork rib soup bursting with chilies, lemongrass, and toasted rice powder.

Champa Garden, Oakland, CA; San Francisco, CA

While Champa Garden has an amazing selection of Thai classics like noodles and curries, this East Bay restaurant truly shines with its Lao food. Since Northern Thailand borders the country of Laos, the two cuisines share a great deal of common flavors and ingredients. One of the first places in the Bay Area to popularize Lao food, according to Eater, Champa Garden is great place for newcomers to try the cuisine.

So what is Lao cuisine? The best way to summarize the food is that it's both rustic and herbaceous, with plenty of funky, fermented flavors (via Serious Eats). In Lao cuisine, grilled meats and fish are popular, heightened with chasers of raw veggies, herbs, and sticky rice. To see for yourself, Eater San Francisco recommends the sampler platter at Champa Garden, which includes crispy rice ball salad, fermented Lao sausages, and fried egg rolls. Champa Garden also has a second location in San Francisco.

Ayada Thai, Queens, NY; New York, NY

In the last few decades, the Elmhurst neighborhood of Queens has become home to bustling Thai community with a range of Thai eateries spanning from dessert shops to noodle spots (via Eater). Located in the heart of the neighborhood, Ayada Thai is a culinary landmark, boasting glowing reviews from New York Times and Grub Street.

At Ayada Thai, chef and owner Duangjai Thammasat has curated a menu that doesn't hold your hand when it comes to spice and flavor. The food here spans across the country — from Southern Thai curries to Bangkok-style dishes. The various duck offerings at Ayada Thai (such as the crispy duck salad and duck pad see ew) are particularly delicious and should be included in every dinner order. The resturant even offers vegetarian duck options, if you're curious but usually avoid eating meat. Be sure to also try the raw shrimp salad! Served chilled, this spicy salad consists of raw shrimp with bitter melon, garlic, chili, and a lime dressing.

Lotus of Siam, Las Vegas, NV

Perhaps the most famous Thai restaurant in Las Vegas, Lotus of Siam is a Nevada culinary institution. The restaurant has been profiled by countless publications, including Bon Appétit and The Infatuation, and named one of the best Thai restaurants in the city by Eater Las Vegas.

The food here is complex, courtesy of chef and owner Saipin Chutima, the first Asian-born chef to win a James Beard Award (via Travel + Leisure). While the menu has dishes from all over Thailand, some of the best dishes at Lotus of Siam proudly features Chutima's family recipes from Northern Chiang Mai. We recommend the fried garlic prawns, roasted duck curry, sea bass, and thum ka noon, a mix of pork, jackfruit, tomatoes, and spices. For a perfect meal, select one of the many wines available at the restaurant to compliment your Thai feast — you won't be disappointed.

Bambu Asian Cuisine, Richardson, TX

Situated in North Dallas, this Isan Thai restaurant is helmed by owners Shelly Nan and her mother, Bounmee Nanthaphak (via Food Network). The food here emphasizes quality and freshness, something that's particularly evident by the fact that much of the produce is grown by the family.

While every dish at Bambu Asian Cuisine is tasty, you'll want to make sure to try some of its meat offerings. The chefs have mastered the Isan grilling technique, churning out dishes that ratchet up the flame-grilled flavor. Perhaps the best dish that demonstrates this is the Crying Tiger Beef — grilled, well-marbled beef tossed with toasted rice, herbs, and citrus-chili sauce, served with a side of sticky rice. One taste and it's no surprise that this dish is such a hit in Texas beef country. To round out your feast, Bambu Asian Cuisine also has a great papaya salad and classic Thai soups like tom kha gai.

Zabb Putawn, New York, NY

Located in Manhattan's Upper East Side, Zabb Putawn is headed by renowned Thai chef Therdtus "Tony" Rittaprom. Formerly of Michelin-starred Zabb Elee in Queens, Rittaprom's specialty is Northeastern and Northern Thai cuisine, which he learned to cook from his parents in Isan.

Zabb Putawn features some truly regional dishes on its menu, like tom Zabb gradook moo, a Isan pork rib soup, and nam gradook moo, fermented and deep fried pork ribs. Another favorite is the larb moo kua, a specialty from Phayao in Northern Thailand. This flavorful dish features minced pork, liver, and skin with roasted spices from Phayao, including citrusy wild Northern Thai mah kwan peppercorns.

Langbaan, Portland, OR

An intimate supper club, Langbaan is serving some of the most creative Isan Thai cuisine in the U.S. The name Langbaan translates to "back of the house," and this mentality is directly reflected in the unique dishes on the menu. The food here is refined yet approachable, taking inspiration from the humble food of Thai home cooking.

Langbaan's full tasting menu is priced at $105 per person. Its Winter 2021 seasonal menu was inspired by the food of Yaowarat, the bustling Bangkok Chinatown famous for its late-night eats and endless variety of street food stalls. But expect this menu to change, as Langbaan is constantly reenergizing its tasting menu depending on the seasons.

Langbaan is actually located within another Thai restaurant — Paadee, a casual eatery known for their Isan specialties. The resturant is planning on relocating in 2022 to its new restaurant — Phuket Cafe. In addition to housing the supper club, the more casual Phuket Cafe will serve food all day (via Eater Portland). 

Thai Kun, Austin, TX; Houston, TX; Denver, CO

Helmed by chef and owner Thai Changthong, the food at Thai Kun in Austin is fiery and flavorful, shunning much of the overly sugary Americanized Thai food that's become common in some other restaurants. This dedication to no-hold barred flavors has earned it legions of fans, and in 2014 that popularity was recognized when the Thai Kun food truck won a placement on the prestigious Bon Appétit Best New Restaurants List. Since then, the brand has expanded, opening two Texas locations (one solo resturant and another in Houston's Post Market) plus a spot at Denver's Zeppelin Station food hall.

The food truck favorites still remain, such as the infamous Waterfall Pork, grilled pork shoulder laced with fiery Tiger Cry sauce. For a great order, Austin Monthly also recommends the Crispy Coco, rice cooked until crisp in a clay pot and topped with coconut cream, cucumber, silken tofu, and seasonings.

Immm Rice & Beyond, Chicago, IL

This casual restaurant in Uptown Chicago is all about serving up excellent renditions of a Thai classic — khao rad gang. Translated as essentially "rice plate lunch," this style of Thai eating is perfect for a quick meal (via Food Network). To order, a plate of rice is topped with up to three curries or stews of your choice, which can include mhoo whan, panang curry, and classic green curry.

But Immm Rice & Beyond doesn't only serve khao rad gang. The menu also has a large selection of classic Thai dishes like papaya salads, stir-fries, and soups. For a Thai feast, order a rice plate and a bowl of khao soi noodles. This Northern Thai noodle soup is a creamy delight, with pickled and fresh vegetables to balance out the richness. You'll thank us later.

Teton Thai, Teton Village, WY

Located in Teton Village, Wyoming, Teton Thai is an unlikely location for authentic Thai food. However, one taste and you'll quickly realize that the flavors here are no slouch, rivaling anything found in a larger city. This celebrated family-run Thai restaurant is located within walking distance from the ski lift at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and a favorite of locals and travelers.

The menu at Teton Village is impressive, offering a diverse range of regional Thai dishes that doesn't skip on the spice or authenticity. Two standout items include the pad gar pow duck, a duck breast with basil and vegetables in a garlic chili sauce, and the barbecued pork, masterfully balanced by the accompanying spicy dipping sauce. To enjoy, dip a piece of pork in a bit of sauce before chasing with plenty of sticky rice. The heady mixture of sweet, spicy, and sour is a perfect bite, especially after a strenuous day of skiing. 

Ruan Thai, Wheaton, MD

A local favorite since 1998, this small, family-owned restaurant in Wheaton, Maryland punches above its weight in flavor and scope. In classic Thai fashion, the food at Ruan Thai, is a careful balance of salty, sweet, spicy, and sour. The menu at Ruan Thai, wins over locals with dishes like whole deep-fried flounder, tom yum soup, and a few different curries, but it's the yum watercress that is perhaps the most intriguing. A powerful mixture of deep-fried greens with cashews, onions, and plenty of shrimp and squid, this textural and umami rich combination is a must-try.

A word of advice: be sure to get here early before the dinner rush. With only a few tables and limited parking, Ruan Thai is a popular place during peak hours. 

Little Serow, Washington, D.C.

Opened in 2011, Eater reports this elegant D.C. Thai restaurant is the brainchild of James Beard Award winning chef Johnny Monis. The food at Little Serow is inspired by Northern Thailand.

Little Serow offers a seven course tasting menu, along with a impressive selection of wines and beers. Although the menu is constantly changing, some exciting dishes that have appeared at the resturant include naem khao tod (a crispy rice salad) and laap pla duk Chiang Mai, minced catfish salad with Northern Thai spices and fresh herbs. But the most iconic dish at Little Serow might be the pork ribs, which are marinated in Mekhong whiskey and topped with fresh dill. An important note: this restaurant doesn't except reservations or allow for substitutions. However, since the pandemic Little Serow is now offering a limited carryout menu. 

Ugly Baby, Brooklyn, NY

This hip and brash Thai restaurant with the curious name Ugly Baby, this Brooklyn resturant is serving some of the most authentic and innovative Thai cuisine in the U.S. With rave write-ups in Eater New York and New York Times, plus being named the third best new resturant in the U.S. by Bon Appétit for 2018, this Thai eatery is a fun place to try Southern Thai food at a very reasonable price. In the best of ways, Ugly Baby represents a new wave of Thai restaurants in the country, where the chefs aren't catering to a mainstream audience, choosing instead to make food that fits the Thai palate.

Some of the best dishes, according to critic Robert Sietsema of Eater New York, include gai golae (a dish similar to chicken satay, they state, but without the sauce), pla tod kamin (turmeric sea bream), kua kling (a "brutally spicy" curry). Over at the New York Times, Pete Wells was also impressed by the pla tod kamin, and named Ugly Baby's kang kua supparod as one of the city's "great Thai dishes."

A word of warning: Southern Thai cuisine is considered the spiciest food in Thailand, making any culinary journey to Ugly Baby a guaranteed experience in heat.