Hearty proteins and fish sauce. Rice, coconut, and mango. A million chilies thrown into the pot. Thai food is all about freshness, balanced flavors, and—sometimes—serious heat. Here are some of our favorite Thai restaurants in Houston, whether we're talking about intense regionality or exciting street food.
Over in the Heights area, the heat gets serious at this super chill half-market, half-eating establishment run by Chomsy Saysane, who previously operated Thai Choice at Westheimer and Wilcrest. Pick "raging volcano" for some of the most absurd heat levels you've ever sampled, best shown in the fresh and crispy papaya salad. Tiger Cry (marinated and grilled ribeye with rice) and fried rice with nam (pork sausage) are among the most comforting dishes you'll find in a Thai spot.
Joyful and bright and located smack in the middle of the Heights, Kin Dee is Lukkaew Srasrisuwan and Miranda Loetkhamfu's love letter to regional Thai cuisine. They have both spicier Northern- and sweeter Southern-style curry, khao soi with deep-fried noodles, and pad Thai packed in an omelet, the way it's done back at home. Kin Dee is a great place to step away from Americanized chicken pad Thai and ease into the pure variety of this exciting cuisine.
Also half-market and half-dining room by the Norhill area, Street Food is homey and often bustling. Squeeze into a two-top to share any number of authentic Northeastern Thai and Lao dishes like kor moo yang—pork neck with chili sauce—and yum nam khao tod—pork sausage and fried rice balls in chili dressing. There are five kinds of papaya salad, because you might want it Thai style, or Lao style, or with sour mustard, or maybe with noodles and pork. The attention to detail and authenticity is a hallmark of this fantastic haunt.
Take my word for it: This is the real deal. Benchawan Painter and husband, Graham, opened Street to Kitchen last summer, doing delivery and takeout during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic (they did insanely good fried chicken early on). They've since opened their small, East End BYOB dining room in a former taqueria, and you'll want to go to get the freshest of the fresh. The larb is a must, combining flavorful pork with big chili heat. Weekend specials include a seriously delicious Denver steak with veggies and chilies. Painter makes everything from the curries to fish sauce. The smells are addictive. The tastes are terrific. Painter is a star in the making.
How hot do you want your Thai food? Hot and Thai hot are advertised as the spiciest levels of food here, but you could go even bigger if you tell them ahead of time (and agree that you won't fuss if it really is too hot). However you go, the flavors still punch through at this tried-and-true Mid-West spot. Spicy chicken noodles, red curry duck, chu chee (deep-fried tilapia in red curry and kaffir lime leaves), and crab fried rice are among our favorites here.
Though it's been around for more than 15 years, Vieng Thai still feels like a secret to those outside Spring Branch. Simply put, you'll find both familiar dishes (colorful curries, pad Thai, and drunken noodles) and more adventurous fare like the nostril-tickling pad sar-tor and nam prik kapi, a chili-packed paste with steamed vegetables.