Student Eats: Picnic at Bahn Thai is comfort food for the soul


Bahn Thai serves a wide variety of Thai cuisine including shredded papaya salad tossed in fish sauce, chili peppers, lime juice and tomatoes. Photo credit: Richard Lomibao

Richard Lomibao

An unassuming forest-green storefront tucked at the north end of Park Blvd. in University Heights, Bahn Thai is a family-owned restaurant celebrating its third anniversary. With a focus on authentic Thailand cuisine, it’s easy to enjoy a comforting atmosphere and a diverse crowd.

Bahn Thai has an option for everyone. A place where you can order all vegetables or all shellfish and if you’re vegan, mock meat; and spend no more than $10.

They may be serving up Thai food on paper plates with plastic utensils, but this isn’t compromising the taste. In a neighborhood with many ethnic food options and quirky shops, you’d find yourself strolling, and always finding something new.

Unlike other Thai restaurants, Bahn Thai does not opt for numbers when it comes to spice, instead each dish gets a level ranging from mild, medium, hot and very hot.

Placed an order for: a papaya salad, beef panang curry, pad thai with shrimp and chicken and a must on hot day, a Thai iced tea.

Inside are three top tables pushed against the wall, with the patio holding twice the amount. The décor inside is plain with a hardly rustic appeal with surrounding Thailand statues and polaroid pictures on a wall next to the cash register.

The Thai iced tea comes first just minutes after ordering. Following the drinks, the server offers a plate of complimentary fresh spring rolls in light of their anniversary festivities. The spring rolls are stuffed with carrots, bean sprouts, fresh mint, rice noodles and lettuce rolled inside a thin, transparent rice wrap. A housemade peanut sauce dip mellows the mint of the rolls, balancing out the savory vegetables inside– a perfect pallet cleanser.

Next comes the papaya salad served under a bed of lettuce. The papaya is an unripened form, which makes the strings of papaya crunchy intertwined with tomatoes. It’s dressed with a garlic, lime juice and fish sauce dressing garnished with whole peanuts. The bite is quenching, bright and spicy. A purchase well spent for only $5.95 for a tower of a plate.

Curry is a sauce staple for Thailand and Indian foods. The Panang curry is a redish brown sauce accompanied with a side of white rice.The beef is tender and melts as soon as it hits the tongue. This curry is simple and rich with the coconut milk as the star of the plate, yours for you to enjoy for $7.95.

The pad thai with chicken and shrimp is a golden noodle dish drizzled with crushed peanuts and green onions for $9.57. The noodles are cut into bite size pieces different from how others would serve it. Both the shrimp and chicken have a smoky flavor that is undeniable. Don’t forget to squeeze the lime, for it brings even more life to the dish.

The entire meal sung with different levels of sweet, sour, and spice — key in Thailand cooking. Potential dishes to try next time around include the yellow curry, drunken noodles, pineapple fried rice, and a vegan Thai iced tea.