Thai Cafe's green curry is loaded with crisp-tender vegetables and your choice of meat, tofu, or wheat-based mock chicken, in a coconut-milk broth that's spicy enough to get your attention.

Tiny Thai Cafe ranks as a favorite

Since the pandemic started, I’ve been focusing on how we can enjoy local eateries and support the restaurant business while still assuring ourselves maximum protection against the pandemic. That approach consistently leads me to places that make it easy to order and pay online and pick up my food via no-touch curbside delivery.

But it crossed my mind the other day that this method rules out a lot of the little storefront shops that often present the world cuisines that I love. Many of them simply don’t have the resources to set up fancy online ordering systems or spare staff to run bags out to your car.

So, craving delicious fare from some storefront Asian spot or gyros house or taqueria or something, I set about finding out how I could do this safely. I ended up at Thai Cafe in Holiday Manor, a longtime favorite, and walked out with an outstanding meal in a bag, feeling completely safe.

Thai Cafe is a small spot in Holiday Manor Walk. It’s owned and operated by a real mom and pop: Billy Snow, who presides as host over the front of the house, taking orders and serving tables; and his Thai-born wife, Chavantee Snow, who toils in the kitchen as head chef.

Even the steamed white rice at Thai Cafe is just right: Simple and perfect, tender yet firm, every grain separate.
Even the steamed white rice at Thai Cafe is just right: Simple and perfect, tender yet firm, every grain separate.

This two-person operation, they proudly assert, is the oldest family-owned Thai restaurant in the city: They opened it in 1994, and it’s been a regular stop for me because Mrs. Snow’s home cooking makes me happy.

Indeed, the Thai Cafe website makes no mention of pandemic procedures, other than to give a number for takeout. So here’s the old-school secret to getting your questions answered: I phoned 425-4815 and got Mr. Snow on the line. Do they do curbside pickup? Uh … no. Upon further inquiry, he agreed that he could bring my lunch out if I really wanted him to, but never mind. I told him I’d be happy to come in and get it.

I gave him my order, showed up less than a half-hour later, and found Mr. Snow behind the counter, wearing his mask. My lunch bag had been placed on a safely distanced table. Mr. Snow took my credit card, we chatted for a moment from a six-foot distance through our respective masks, and I blasted off, taking care not to touch my face. I truly didn’t feel uncomfortable about the encounter, particularly since no one else was in the room: Thai Cafe is not offering dining-in during the pandemic. It’s takeout only.

Thai Cafe’s menu offers 17 lunch specials, all $9.45. We went to the dinner menu, though, for its larger portions and wider variety with more than 70 selections. It doesn’t dive into Thai regional dishes but broadly represents the Thai culinary scene.

A half-dozen appetizers – many of them also available in vegetarian versions – are $4.50 (for Thai-style deep-fried egg rolls with pork or tofu) or $7.50 (for all the other apps). Soups and salads – which may stand in as main courses in Thai cuisine – are also available in meat or vegetarian versions and range in price from $4.95 (for soups in smaller portions) to $10.95 (for salads with grilled beef or shrimp and minced pork).

Main courses are further subdivided among rice-and-noodle dishes, Thai curries, chicken, beef, pork, and seafood entrees, and vegetarian apps, soups, salads, entrees, rice-and-noodle dishes, and curries. Whew! Pricing for vegetarian mains spans a very narrow range: Everything is either $12.95 or $13.95!

Finally, a trio of desserts includes sweet rice with Thai custard ($6.95), deep-fried bananas ($7.95), and ice cream ($2.50).

It's hard to resist Thai Cafe's crunchy, golden-brown deep-fried sweet corn cakes.
It’s hard to resist Thai Cafe’s crunchy, golden-brown deep-fried sweet corn cakes.

I like to try something different every time we come to Thai Cafe, because the menu has so many interesting things and they haven’t failed me yet. But there is an exception to this rule: It’s almost impossible to resist Thai Cafe’s sweet-corn cakes ($7.50). These crunchy, slightly sweet treats are much like corn fritters with gently spicy Thai flavors. Three round cakes are deep-fried golden-brown and served with a traditional condiment, chopped red onion and cucumber cloaked in a sweet, thick sauce.

A classic Thai main-course soup, tom yum gai, features tender chicken bathed in spicy and aromatic flavors.
A classic Thai main-course soup, tom yum gai, features tender chicken bathed in spicy and aromatic flavors.

A large portion of tom yum gai, a classic Thai main-course chicken soup, ($7.95 for a large portion, $4.95 for small), was a filling, delicious soup that’s short of fiery but definitely spicy enough to color the fish-sauce-scented broth a warm reddish hue and make your taste buds sit up and take notice. Lots of boneless chicken breast had been cut in thin, wide pieces, sharing the broth with abundant light-brown straw mushrooms. 

Green Thai curry ($13.95), pictured at the top of the page, is loaded with crisp-tender vegetables and your choice of chicken, pork, or beef on the carnivorous menu, or tofu or wheat-based mock chicken on the vegetarian menu, served in a rich, aromatic coconut-milk broth spicy enough to get your attention. In addition to the protein substitutes, the vegetarian version is loaded with a healthy, delicious mix of perfectly prepared squash, eggplant, and green beans.

A large bowl of steamed white rice was just right, every grain separate.

Our lunch for two was a reasonable $31.16, plus a 20 percent tip.

Thai Cafe
2226 Holiday Manor Shopping Center