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Spicy Sugar Thai Mid-City

  • Restaurants
  • Mid City
  • price 2 of 4
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
  1. Spicy Sugar Thai somtum tad
    Photograph: Jesse Hsu for Time Out Spicy Sugar Thai Mid-City
  2. Spicy Sugar Thai Exterior
    Photograph: Jesse Hsu for Time Out
  3. Spicy Sugar Thai grilled tilapia
    Photograph: Jesse Hsu for Time Out The miang pla pao can be made with grilled or fried fish.
  4. Spicy Sugar Thai interior
    Photograph: Jesse Hsu for Time Out
  5. Jim jum (Thai hot pot) at Spicy Sugar Thai
    Jesse Hsu PhotographySpicy Sugar's jim jum comes in both medium and large sizes. The medium easily feeds two, and the large can feed up to four.
  6. Spicy Sugar Thai interior
    Photograph: Jesse Hsu for Time Out
  7. Spicy Sugar's somtum tad (center). From clockwise: Khao soi, pork namtok, mango sticky rice, chef Katt's special fried rice, green curry dumplings, duck larb and whole grilled squid.
    Photograph: Jesse Hsu for Time Out

Time Out says

5 out of 5 stars

This casual Thai restaurant serves some of the best Thai food in the city—as long as your idea of “best” means fiery, unique Isaan-style cuisine.

The word is getting out about Spicy Sugar, the best Thai restaurant in L.A. you haven’t heard of yet. Located in a former Mid-City diner, the restaurant is far from the congested streets of Thai Town, with an actual parking lot and a grassy median and curved parkway separating it from busy La Brea Avenue. These days, more and more locals are dropping by the tiny eatery, which hosts about eight tables, plus a stray outdoor table or two. While chef-owner Kattareeya “Katt” Goldsmith serves the usual suspects and fusion-style dishes like chicken katsu with panang curry and delightful green curry dumplings, you’re really here for the regional Isaan-style menu that, true to the restaurant’s name, offer equal amounts spicy and sweet. 

Open since last August, the restaurant is the second of its kind. Goldsmith also operates the original Spicy Sugar location in Long Beach, which she purchased from Jitlada’s Sugar Sungkamee (for whom the restaurant is named) in 2021. Since taking over, Goldsmith has largely made the menu her own. Instead of Southern-style specialties, she’s filled the pages with variations of somtum (papaya salad), larb dishes, seafood galore and rustic, lemongrass-heavy soups made with ingredients like bamboo shoots, ant eggs and beef tendons. Newer gai yang skewers, made with chicken or pork, are juicy and perfectly seasoned. All of these are popular in Isaan, the region of Thailand that includes Goldsmith’s home province of Roi Et. While Spicy Sugar isn’t the only place you can find this style of Thai cuisine in Los Angeles, it’s certainly one of the best. 

Service can be slow at times, and the restaurant fills up quickly on weekend evenings, but it’s worth the wait for delicacies like somtum tad, a family-style platter built around Goldsmith’s exceptionally good papaya salad. Intersperse bites of salad with crispy pork, boiled eggs, rice noodles, fried fish, shrimp and pork sausage, and you’ve got yourself a flavorful meal for two. While you could easily fill up on somtum tad alone, you’d be missing out on the exemplary larbs, including a crispy duck version and pork namtok, which dresses succulent slices of pork jowl in a dressing made of sweet rice powder, fish sauce, lime juice, a touch of sugar and plenty of aromatics. Authenticity isn’t a word I like to use in my food writing, but Goldsmith’s Isaan-style menu makes few concessions to the often spice- and funk-averse Western palate, for which I am extremely grateful. Peruse Spicy Sugar's menu of fusion dishes and classics, and you'll find plenty of mild-tasting dishes, but that's not really the point of the place.

The best part of the menu at Spicy Sugar, however, is the seafood. There’s the freshness of the miang pla pao, a whole grilled (or fried) tilapia served with rice noodles, lettuce, fresh herbs, various aromatics and not one, but two dipping sauces. A chunky peanut sauce and garlicky, bright green nam jjim add textural contrast to each lettuce-wrapped bite. Next comes squid served grilled and whole, with the same bright green spicy dipping sauce, or in the form of fried calamari with squid eggs still tucked inside. Blood clams, raw shrimp and pork sausage can also be tossed into somtum or yum-style, which uses the same dressing but ditches the papaya itself. For a warm, light meal, order the jim jum, or Thai hot pot, which uses a lemongrass-rich broth as a base for vegetables, meats and mixed seafood. On the weekends, Goldsmith occasionally runs specials like haw mok (fish soufflé) and kanom jeen (fish curry)—ask your server for more details.

The vibe: Casual and no-frills.
The food: Takeout classics, fusion creations and Isaan-style specialties. Highlights include the tilapia platter, somtum tad, grilled squid, Thai hot pot, gai yang and green curry dumplings. 
The drink: Thai tea and coffee, plus soft drinks.
Time Out tip: Call ahead if you want to order the hot pot, and come in a party of two to four—the family-style dishes lend themselves to sharing.

Patricia Kelly Yeo
Written by
Patricia Kelly Yeo


1271 S La Brea Ave
Los Angeles
Opening hours:
Tue–Thu noon–9pm; Fri noon–10pm; Sat, Sun 11am–10pm
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