Stroll down the “The Ave” and behold ethnic food paradise. It’s great—fantastic, really—but for the eager eater who ventures with no particular destination in mind, the number of choices can be intimidating. If ever you find yourself in said situation, heed this: Head North toward 47th Street until you run into the surefire standby, hole-in-the wall Thai Tom.
The restaurant can seat just 20 or so, the music is loud, and the service is to-the-point (see the response to our question below and you get the idea). Depending on what time of day you arrive there’s a good chance you’ll be greeted on the sidewalk with a hand-painted wooden menu so you can order before you’re seated. Sitting at the marble counter that borders the kitchen is a must; watching the unflinching control Tom wields over his flying ladles and pans leaves you awestruck.
Once you bite into your dish you understand why a line wraps out the door, day in and day out. The menu is comprised of the usual Thai suspects—pad thai, curries, fried rice, spicy noodles—but they’re all done with an unbeatable authentic, home-style flair. The dishes are priced at a very affordable $7.45. Remember: The joint is cash-only, so hit up the ATM beforehand.
With a $10 bill, I opted for the swimming rama—a bed of spinach and bean sprouts topped with chicken and possibly the best peanut sauce in the city. Everything tasted fresh and crisp. Coolest of all, since I watched it come together just feet away I knew how much energy and attention had gone into it—even if several other dishes were being made at the same time.
What’s the must-try item?
[Lieu Pray, Thai Tom employee] “I’d start with the mixed vegetable appetizer with peanut sauce, and then either the pad thai or the panang curry with coconut milk, bell pepper, and basil. Those are my favorites.”