Just about every Chicago neighborhood has at least one Thai restaurant, thankfully, because we love them for cheap eats. But which ones are the best? And which Chicago restaurants serve the most authentic Thai food? From BYOB neighborhood gems to crown jewels by high-profile chefs, these are the best places to find Thai food in Chicago.
RECOMMENDED: Best restaurants in Chicago
Best Thai restaurants in Chicago
Andy Aroonrasameruang left his longtime perch at TAC Quick Thai Kitchen to open Andy's Thai Kitchen. Aroonrasameruang crafts his own funky pork-and-rice sausages, spoons his spicy eggplant-studded green curry over omelettes, turns out a silky tom kha soup, pairs Chinese broccoli with crispy bites of fried pork belly and throws together a simultaneously fiery and cool blue crab salad. This is what Thai food should taste like.
The curated menu appeases the masses that flood the simple, minimalist room at this top-notch Thai joint. But the true standouts can be found on the translated Thai language menu, with never-fail flavor explosions such as tart and smoky pork-and-rice sausage; ground chicken with crispy basil and preserved eggs; and warm sweet-and-sour beef jerky. Don’t disregard the specials board—promising rotations have included basil duck stir-fried with garlic and mushrooms, and lettuce wrap–ready deep-fried mackerel with apples, cucumbers, fish sauce and chilies.
This hidden gem in Lincoln Square serves up traditional Thai food—like fiery naem khao tod, a funky rice salad with chunks of ham—in a no-frills setting. Fried bananas make a simple but excellent dessert, and make sure to ask for the Thai menu—that's where you'll find the good stuff.
If you stick to the basics in this simple but pleasant dining room, you’ll miss out on the best bites. Get adventurous with kung chae naam plaa, raw shrimp marinated with lime juice, fish sauce, garlic and chili—a searing Thai take on ceviche. The naem khao thawt is incredibly addictive, a crunchy, salty, tangy salad of fried rice, tiny ham bits and flecks of cilantro. Curry fans should try the kaeng som kung sot, a thin, slightly sour, shrimp-dotted tamarind curry.
What we love most about this colorful and bustling storefront is that it keeps our interest with new concoctions every couple of weeks. Check the tiny chalkboard for specials, but supplement with tried-and-true favorites such as house-made spicy fermented pork sausage; the best gang hung lay (pork in sweet, garlicky, ginger-laden curry) in town; and khua kae, a stir-fry of chicken, baby corn, eggplant, shredded lime leaves and roasted rice powder that has a gingery citrus tang. Vegetarian options abound.
Take one step inside this Thai gem hiding under the Brown Line tracks and you’re hit with a full-color poster provided by LTHForum endorsing the authentic eats lurking on the “classics” menu. Sure, you’ll find the sour Isaan-style sausage and sweet beef jerky that other real-deal Thai joints traffic in, but take advantage of the less common items as well. Our picks include ground pork simmered in curried coconut milk then plopped over a crispy omelette, meatballs floating in sour broth that smacks of star anise, and a beautiful mess of bamboo slivers slicked with green chili paste.
Located in the bustle of downtown, this Thai restaurant delivers in many ways—flavor, affordability, speed and comfort. It also has our favorite Thai iced tea in the city; the drink is rich and full of flavor with swirls of sweetened condensed milk. For starters, dip gyoza into a spicy sweet sour sauce, then move on to a rich entree of panang or mussaman curry. Another personal favorite is the chicken rice soup, a Thai-style chicken noodle soup with rice and a dash of sesame on top. Don't forget to save room for banana in sweet sticky rice.
This West Loop Thai spot looks a bit shinier than the stalwart Thai restaurants you're probably used to—but it still churns out some pretty great options. From the same folks who brought us Saigon Sisters, this restaurant focuses on iconic Thai dishes that pack heat similar to what you'd find in Northern Thailand. At this small BYOB spot, you'll nosh on laab, a great pad see eiw and hearty chicken tom kha.
Most of the cuisine you'll eat in Thailand is street food. But at Arun's, chef Arun Sampanthavivat takes an upscale approach to dishes we're used to seeing in takeout containers. The space recently got a revamp with a new menu, though you'll still see dishes you're used to, like coconut vermicelli. A 10-course menu will run you $100, with the 12-course option priced at $125. If you've got a taste for Thai food, you'll find yourself pleased with Arun's.
Find more of the best restaurants in Chicago
Chicago is a town that cares as much about Grant Achatz's newest concept as where to find the best burgers. Hence it's with an equal passion for worthwhile splurges and cheap eats that we present our picks for the best restaurants in Chicago. (Tip: Begin or end your culinary adventures at one of Chicago's best cocktail bars.)