Milwaukee has a range of Thai restaurants, running the gambit from Asian fusion hipster venues to neighborhood dives. Below you’ll find reviews of a majority of Milwaukee’s Thai eateries.
The door to the kitchen is affixed with an incongruous Wall Drug sign; my table is beneath a potted tree of Jack and the Beanstalk proportion. Singha Thai has changed little (save, perhaps, the height of that tree) in over 24 years. Owner Noi Vechsathol sits stoically at a table facing her audience. Diners could spend an hour deciding what to order. The menu is close-to-200-items lengthy, and it still offers some of the best Thai in town. I like to start a meal with tod mun (spicy fried fish cakes with cucumber sauce) and tom kha gai (smooth coconut milk soup with chicken and mushrooms), then proceed to the house specials for salty, crispy shrimp. For curries, I like the Massaman – which weaves cardamom and cinnamon through its coconut milk sauce.
2237 S. 108th St., 414-541-1234
Kim’s Thai Restaurant
After outgrowing its digs at Pacific Produce market, Kim’s became the tenant of a bright, modern strip mall that enables it to serve smoking volcano dishes and whole fish at spacious booths. The space and room to flex its cooking muscle should help give this relative unknown the appreciation it deserves.
938 W. Layton Ave., 414-282-8687
Thai Bangkok’s low-budget decor isn’t the reason you linger over your laab – a ground beef or chicken salad seasoned with fish sauce, chiles, mint and onion. Load up that carryout bag with spicy gang gai red curry, pad seuw (rice noodles stir-fried with meat and veggies), and if you’ve got an adventurous streak, beef tripe.
9112 W. Brown Deer Rd., 414-362-0189
I’ve become very particular about Thai noodles, and the way I most like them treated is at the East Side’s Thai-namite. It’s considered elegant to serve pad thai as an omelet – the noodles wrapped in a veil of fried eggs. Thai-namite does a nice, not-too-dry/not-too-wet version of this, calling it “wrap-a-pad-thai.” A problem I often see is overcooked noodles, which this place tends to refrain from doing with its pad see ew (flat rice noodles) and “drunken” noodles, which are nicely firm and superbly bouyant.
932 E. Brady St. 414-837-6280
EE-Sane has it all: the traditional/expected soups, curries and noodle dishes plus low-priced appetizers and a wide variety of salads. Good news for vegetarians in meat-loving Milwaukee: many of EE-Sane’s entries are vegetarian-friendly. Don’t come here for its ambiance, however; this east-side dive is unassuming, but the food is anything but a let-down.
1806 N. Farwell Ave., 414-224-8284
Elephant’s owners, who are also the owners of EE-Sane, know a thing or two about pad siew. The menu size is rather elephantine. A few nuggets from the list, in no particular order: panang curry, chicken satay, laad nah (thick stir-fried noodle) fried quail, papaya salad, duck curry and volcano hot plate ($3.50-$15.95). Don’t forget to try their deserts, particularly their sweet sticky purple rice with ice cream ($3.95).
1505 N. Farwell Ave., 414-220-9322
The King and I
With its 29-year history in business Downtown, readers still remember The King and I for its volcano chicken, mango curry and pad Thai. If none of those sound appealing, you’re sure to find a meal of interest on its 63-item menu, which contains everything from basil eggplant to crispy duck.
830 N. Old World 3rd St., 414-276-4181
Aesthetically, Rice N Roll Bistro’s space has leaped from functional strip-mall burger joint (the onetime Sobelman’s Tallgrass Grill) to an attractive, light-filled, blond-wood-endowed little destination for sushi and its Japanese compatriots, as well as covering Thai territory like curries and noodle dishes. Adroit care is taken in shaping and slicing, from the round, delicately curved crab Rangoon ($6.95) to the maki-roll like cuts of the virgin spring rolls ($3.95-$4.95) – fresh rolls stuffed with herbs, bean sprouts, carrots, rice noodles and shrimp, if you like. Both of the Thai soups, tom kha and tom yum, are knockouts ($3.95-$4.95 each). The former, coconut milk-based, galangal root-seasoned broth is creamy and ethereally sweet; the latter, spicy-sour broth hints of lime leaves and lemongrass.
1952 N. Farwell Ave., 414-220-9944
The unassuming AppeThai located inside a Brown Deer strip mall offers more than a cute name. The food is as spicy as you’d like it to be and well-executed. Best bets include fresh roll bites, pla muk tod (crispy squid), larb tod (great deep-fried pork balls), waterfall beef salad and massaman curry. (Entrees $8-$27)
3900 W. Brown Deer Rd., 414-362-4264
Bamboo Laos and Thai Cuisine
One of the best reasons to visit the Silver City neighborhood is Bamboo. Co-owner/chef Santana Tenhover does a terrific job with salads (green papaya, cucumber), noodles (lad nar, pad see ew), curries and Laotian dishes like beef larb and kow poon (coconut soup).
3427 W. National Ave., 414-316-9023