We recently relocated to the area near Parmer and Mopac, so we’ve been spending more time exploring northwest Austin. Ever since the conversation around our Titaya’s Thai Cuisine article, I’ve been wanting to visit a specific Thai restaurant that’s located in our new neighborhood.
Sitting at the end of an unpretentious strip mall on Parmer, Thai Cuisine has a colorful, welcoming interior that smacks of cleanliness. Our first visit was for a late dinner on a week night, but we returned a few weeks later for the unique lunch experience (also on a week day).
There were some commonalities across our two visits. But overall, lunch and dinner dining experiences at Thai Cuisine are extremely different from one another. And I do have a strong preference between the two, so keep reading for the inside scoop.
Sample Thai Cuisine Austin With Me
Dinner at Thai Cuisine
Here’s a run-down of everything we ordered during our dinner trip to Thai Cuisine:
Thai iced tea: I love Thai iced tea, but not every place nails the balance between the bitter tea taste and the creamy sweetener. Thai Cuisine does. In fact, this is probably the best Thai iced tea I’ve ever had. And look at that glass! It’s the size of two pint glasses. $2.00.
Egg rolls (appetizer): At Thai Cuisine, their “Spring Rolls” are soft rolls, while their “Egg Rolls” are made with the deep-fried rice paper that we enjoy.
After working out the details, we chose the Egg Rolls for our appetizer. We’ve had some pretty killer Spring/Egg Rolls (whatever the jargon, “rolls like this” is what I mean), and Thai Cuisine’s version didn’t quite live up to our expectations. And at $5.95 for four small rolls, I think we’ll pass in the future.
Garlic Shrimp (dinner entree): Eric ordered the Garlic Shrimp for his dinner entree. He wasn’t blown away, but he said that he enjoyed the stir-fried shrimp with garlic sauce and crushed pepper corns. This dish is garnished with scallions, cilantro and crispy fried garlic. $11.95.
Panang Curry (dinner entree): Curry is definitely one of my Thai go-to’s, and Thai Cuisine’s Panang Curry was recommended to me. I tried it out, substituting bamboo shoots for mushrooms (the dish normally comes with bell peppers, mushrooms and lime leaves).
The curry was delicious as a whole, but I was extremely discouraged by how spicy it was…combined with the fact that I ordered the least spicy version. I am a wimp when it comes to spice, and curry always seems spicy to me no matter where I order it. But Thai Cuisine’s version was just beyond unmanageable for me.
Fortunately, I think this issue is probably unique to me. If you usually enjoy curry, and Panang specifically, I definitely recommend that you try it out here. $10.95.
Lunch at Thai Cuisine
Now for the run-down of everything we ordered during our lunch trip to Thai Cuisine. Not surprisingly, I ordered Thai iced tea again. Besides that, we had a special treat. From 11 AM-2:30 PM on week days and 12-3 PM on Saturday and Sunday, patrons who order a lunch entree receive access to Thai Cuisine’s complimentary soup and salad bar.
Soup and salad lunch bar: The bar includes two types of soup, Mixed Rolls, Wild Flowers, Spring Rolls and a full salad section. $0.
The Mixed Roll and Wild Flower from the lunch bar were tasty, but the accompanying sauces are what really made them awesome. Seriously, both sauces were absolutely delicious. Eric commented that the Wild Flower could’ve had more cream cheese in it, but I really didn’t care because the sauce was the best part.
I also tried the Tom Kha Gai soup from the bar on a recommendation, and I’m so glad I did! Coconut milk, mushrooms and generous pieces of chicken – I could’ve had a huge bowl of this for lunch and been perfectly content.
We didn’t even get to try the salad before our main entrees came out.
Garlic Paradise (lunch entree): I guess Eric has a thing for garlic because he chose the Garlic Paradise dish for his entree. It’s similar to the Garlic Shrimp meal, except Eric ordered it with chicken and beef. The other difference is that it was quite spicy. More on that in a second. $7.95 + $1.00 for second meat choice.
Pad Thai (lunch entree): Though Pad Thai is another go-to for me, I hadn’t heard a lot of rave reviews about this dish at Thai Cuisine. So I avoided it on our first visit, but I figured I had to try it on the second trip.
It exceeded my expectations by a lot. The dish was extremely moist and tasty, and the grilled chicken added a faintly charred taste that I considered a solid addition. Squeeze a little lime over the whole thing and it’s a home run. $7.95.
You Need to Know About the Spice
In our experience, the spice scale at Thai Cuisine is a little off the norm. “Little spicy” tends to be a lot spicy at Thai Cuisine.
In the case of Eric’s Garlic Paradise, he ordered a “1” spice on a 1-3 scale. He enjoyed the dish the way it came and said he would order it again the same way, but he did go through three glasses of water in the process.
Our lunch server said that “the peppers here are spicy.” Based on our experiences with Garlic Paradise and the Panang Curry, I would definitely agree. Keep this in mind as you order. Even if you’re feeling brave, you may meet your match with a “1.”
Lunch and Dinner Battle It Out
Thai Cuisine has a lot going for it. In addition to the welcoming ambiance, the service is solid. Though clear communication can take added effort, the service is super friendly and smiles are always present.
The only thing that takes away from the ambiance is KISSFM blaring over the speakers. It’s challenging to enjoy quality Thai cuisine when you’re being serenaded by Justin Bieber.
Now it’s time to make your choice. I mentioned in my introduction that I have strong preference between lunch and dinner. If you haven’t guessed my preference yet, I’ll tell you now. Lunch. Go for lunch.
There are two main reasons that I prefer lunch at Thai Cuisine to dinner:
- Price. Entrees run $2 or so dollars more at dinnertime, and I don’t notice an appreciable difference in serving size.
- Portion size. They don’t skimp and you’ll almost definitely have leftovers unless you don’t touch the lunch bar. See below for the huge amount I took home. Not pictured, the entire Styrofoam cup of delicious Thai iced tea that I also took to go.
- Lunch bar. Who doesn’t want “free” soup, salad and appetizers that are amazingly delicious? This goes back to my reason number one: if you visit for dinner and want an appetizer plate like the Spring Rolls or Wild Flower, you’re going to be out $6 per appetizer. Come for lunch, have what you want, and don’t pay a cent extra.
Now. It goes without saying that the dinner menu is more extensive than the lunch menu. If your favorite dish isn’t on the lunch menu, then it makes sense that lunch may not be the best fit for you. But if you can be happy with any of the TWENTY-SIX lunch specials, then you’re in luck.
Thai Cuisine Austin: Where and When
Thai Cuisine is located at 4101 West Parmer in the Silver Creek Center. Their phone number is (512) 835-7888.
They’re open for lunch from 11 AM-2:30 PM, Monday-Friday, and 12-3 PM on Saturday and Sunday. Dinner hours are 5-9:30 PM, Monday-Thursday, 5-10 PM on Friday and Saturday, and 5-9:30 PM on Sunday.
We visited for an early lunch from 11:10-11:45 AM. We were the only ones there when we arrived, and the place was only starting to fill up when we left. I hear that it gets packed at the height of the lunch hour, so be prepared. But no one really complains. The lunch bar is just that awesome.
So check it out and let me know what you think! We’ve only tried a fraction of their dishes, so be adventurous and try something new.
PRO TIP: If you want to listen to some jazz-inspired Thai music, just go to Thai Cuisine’s home page.
What is your favorite Thai food restaurant in Austin and what is your favorite dish there?