Endless Road Trip Seattle: Curry to Thai for

I’ve saved the best for last. The best thing I miss about Seattle, the best restaurant memories from my years of college in the University District, the best Thai food I’ve ever had. Yes, I’m that passionate about it. Thai Tom is my favorite restaurant in Seattle even though it’s a cash-only hole-in-the-wall with hit-or-miss service, multiple health department warnings, an undeniably intense spice level, legions of whiny Yelp detractors, and often a long wait on the dirty sidewalk of the Ave.

It’s fine, I’ll call out all those detriments. I challenge you to take one bite of Thai Tom’s curry and disagree with my ardent assessment of their amazing food. After your wait, after cramming into a wobbly wooden table or a crowded corner spot in front of the open-kitchen wok, after agonizing over which dish to order off their hand-painted wooden panel menus, after hungrily watching the sweaty chefs pouring piping-hot, incredibly fresh sauces over snowy balls of rice in glass troughs and praying that order is yours… once you’re endured that, the first bite (and every subsequent bite) is worth enduring the Thai Tom process. The food is heaven.

Now, what do you ask those hard-working chefs to fill that beautiful trough with? My very favorite thing on the menu is the Yellow Curry, but Panang Curry is a close second. As I mentioned above, their Rama dishes are a treat; Thai Tom makes the peanut sauce to end all peanut sauces. Thai Tom veterans know to order tofu as their protein. Deep-fried to the point of seriously damaging your mouth, these sizzling cubes soak up the complex spice combinations and basically exist to be huge flavor bombs floating in a sea of spicy-spicy-SPICY coconut milk and an abundance of fresh vegetables. The portions here are huge, but I’ve never had a visit in which I haven’t been able to scrape up every last grain of rice.

Sure, Thai Tom kind of feels like the backroom of a Thai prison (especially if you decide to roll the dice and use their bathrooms—yikes) and you’ll probably burn your tongue while getting glared at by hungry college students waiting for their turns at the counter, but trust me, it is the best $8 cash you’ve ever spent. Writing about this diamond in the rough is tempting me to book another trip to the Emerald City, just for one more bite of Yellow Curry.

Thai Tom / 4543 University Way NE / 11:30a-9p Mon-Sat, 1p-8p Sun

Also on The Endless Road Trip: Seattle
1. The Most Powerful, Brouwerful Hour
2. Clucking Great Fried Chicken
3. Porky Passion at Paseo
4. Hipster Hangover Brunch
5. Now That’s a Spicy Cocktail

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  • Stephanie S October 9, 2012  

    I have enjoyed each of your Seattle posts and am sad to see that you’ve come to the end of your reminiscing journey…but boy, did you ever choose a doozy. I have also defended my choice of Thai Tom to friends who freak out over the wait and the health concerns. I respond with my usual “a little dirt is good for your immune system” and “none of us is starving, so the wait only makes it better.” A friend of mine visits twice a year or so and almost the moment she shows up we head to the UDistrict. We have definitely lost taste buds there to super fresh, hot, fried spring rolls and tofu pieces. I have enjoyed your trip down the culinary memory lane!

  • Emily October 9, 2012  

    Aww, thanks, Stephanie! I’m glad I touched upon some favorites. And I’m extra glad you agree with me re: Thai Tom… people who complain about it are missing out on something amazing! I love “none of us is starving…” a good thing for everyone to remember when they start to whine about waiting at a restaurant.

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