Where to Find the Best Thai Food in NYC

With 11 spots on this list, you can get your Thai fix no matter where in the city you find yourself

April 9, 2024 7:32 am
different plates of thai food
Am Thai Bistro
Am Thai Bistro

Over the past decade in NYC, Thai food has approached Chinese and pizza in terms of availability. In Manhattan and Queens, every subway station seems to have at least one Thai restaurant within walking distance. That’s especially true in Hell’s Kitchen and Elmhurst, which is to New York’s Thai community what Chinatown, Flushing and Sunset Park are to the city’s more than 600,000-strong Chinese community. While it would be easy to focus exclusively on the dozens of Thai spots along Broadway and Woodside Ave. in Queens, there are plenty of other places you shouldn’t miss, from Flatbush to Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Here are 11 of the best Thai food restaurants in NYC.

green neon sign with piece of meat on chopstick
Am Thai Bistro
Am Thai Bistro

Am Thai Bistro

The “Am” in Am Thai stands for American, but that’s not a bad thing. Chef Boonnum Thongngoen got her start cooking seafood dishes on Yaowarat Road in Bangkok’s Chinatown. Fittingly, Thai Ocean is one of the best entrees on the menu. The mix of squid, shrimp and fried sole soaking in the mild chili and garlic sauce is a perfect mix, as is the fish mango salad. In that case, you can choose from sole or red snapper. If squid is more your thing, try the Naughty Fried Calamari, where the batter sticks effortlessly to the rings and tentacles. It comes with a sweet chili sauce, but don’t be afraid to also ask for the peanut sauce. 

Am Thai has three different dumpling options, and it’s the Chicken Jeep (also spelled jeeb) Thai Dumplings that you really need to try. Not quite bite-sized, these are not shaped like the famous SUVs, but rather shumai. You have the option of getting them steamed or fried, with the latter being the go-to for most. These chicken dumplings are served with garlic soy sauce but you can request sweet chili or the spicier samba.

1003 Church Ave, Brooklyn



Ayada specializes in Central Thai family recipes, but you can also find other regional dishes like Northern Thai Sausage and Jungle Curry. The specialty section of the menu includes grilled ribeye and batter-fried soft-shell crab, as well as different preparations of red snapper. Unlike at most Thai restaurants, your server will ask if you want the fish filleted or whole. The latter option with mango salad comes stacked high enough to be level with the camera lens on your smartphone. And it’s the sauce that makes the dish, where the sour offsets the mild spice level. After you finish it, you’ll still have a pool at the bottom of the plate, which you can enjoy with a $2 side of sticky rice. Pro tip: There’s also a location at Chelsea Market.

75 9th Ave

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Eim Khao Mun Kai

This cash-only Elmhurst institution serves three chicken dishes to perfection. To get a sense of how popular this place is with the local community, try dining in — and watch how much takeout business Eim Khao Mun Kai does.

In Thai, “Eim Khao Mun Kai” translates to “oiled rice chicken.” They serve it fried, steamed or roasted. The tender chicken is to poultry what filet mignon is to steak. You won’t need a knife. And the ginger smell from the generous portion of rice permeates the air in a way that you would never experience if you were eating this simple dish outside from a street vendor.

81-32 Broadway, Queens

colorful room, people sitting at table with food, lamps and plants hanging, art on wall
Hug Esan

Hug Esan

With just six tables and accolades from Eater and The New York Times hung proudly on the wall, Hug Esan feels exclusive without being fancy. They have the best variety of papaya salad (Som Tum Thai) of any place in Queens. Varieties include soft-shell crab, crispy pork skin and chicken feet. While the menu is very pork-centric, barbecue chicken (gai yang) and crispy tilapia (larb pla) are two of their signature dishes. They serve the latter with a basket of sticky rice, just like you would get in Thailand’s Esan region or neighboring Laos. 

Like anyone who has lived in Thailand, the Hug Esan team carefully distinguishes the difference between spicy and Thai spicy. Ten chilis is regular spicy, while 15 is suitable for Thai people. But don’t let that intimidate you, as there are options for every tolerance level. As of this writing, Hug Esan accepts cash, Venmo or Zelle.

77-16 Woodside Ave, Queens

multicolored room, lamps, signs, chairs, tables, plants
Jai Sang Ma
Jai Sang Ma

Jai Sang Ma

Jai Sang Ma is located at the corner of 82nd and Broadway in the spot previously occupied by Lamoon. The owner is the same, but the new concept caters to the late-night crowd. While the kitchen opens at 5 p.m., Jai Sang Ma really gets going closer to midnight. That’s when you’ll find people from other Thai restaurants coming here after work for food, drinks and live music. 

The food menu caters more to people who’ve been to Thailand and have outgrown pad Thai. The noodle soups you’ll see advertised outside the entrance are the go-to items for many. These include the Sukothai Tom Yum and Nam Tok, a spicy pork blood soup. More common options include Green and Panang Curries, as well as the fried version of Hainanese Chicken Rice. 

81-40 Broadway, Queens

fried rice with carrots and peanuts on a blue plate
Fried rice
May Kaidee

May Kaidee 

Everything on the May Kaidee menu is 100% plant-based. This gives diners the chance to enjoy a few ingredients that are not prominent on most Thai menus. The pumpkin (fak tong) soup is a hearty alternative to the mostly clear Thai soups, and the coconut milk-based desserts rival those of any with animal-based protein. Chef May’s version of mango sticky rice uses black sweet sticky rice, with the option to add banana. Speaking of bananas, Thailand’s most under-the-radar dessert (gluay buad chee, or bananas in coconut milk) comes topped with sesame seeds. You’ll also find plant-based versions of all the savory Thai favorites here.

Chef May founded two cooking schools in her native Thailand. The Bangkok and Chiang Mai locations are still active, with classes also available in New York, where she is now based. Reservations for the fruit-carving class can be made here

215 E Broadway

Pure Thai Cookhouse

With an open kitchen and narrow dining room, where vintage Thai movie posters adorn the otherwise bare wooden walls, Pure Thai Cookhouse is designed like a 19th-century shophouse. The pan-Thai menu makes this one of the standout spots along a competitive stretch of 9th Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen. 

The crab in the crab papaya salad is raw blue and the popular chicken satay are served in steamed buns with peanut sauce. It’s the noodle dishes that stand out the most here. For example, the Nakorn-Patom Duck Noodles Soup is served with a braised duck leg and breast meat in a complex five-spice soy broth. Ayutthaya Boat Noodle Soup, named after the ancient Thai capital, has meatballs and two different cuts of beef soaking in a cow blood cinnamon beef broth. Chef and owner David Bank refers to this and Ratchaburi Crab & Pork Dry Noodles as his two signature dishes. 

766 9th Ave

chicken wrapped in lettuce with two sauces
Chicken Satay Wrap at SEA


Located in Williamsburg, SEA feels more upscale Midtown with seating available around a shallow pool with a Buddha statue at the end. No matter where you sit, there’s something cool to look at. Prix-fixe options are available starting at $50, but the more interesting items are on the a la carte menu. As much thought goes into the food presentation as the decor. The grilled chicken wraps come with peanut and tamarind sauces and are covered in enough crispy noodles to make for a separate appetizer, and SEA has enough worthy appetizers to make it difficult to get to the entrees. 

114 N 6th St, Brooklyn

bakery with many lights and plants
Thailand’s Center Point
Thailand’s Center Point

Thailand’s Center Point

If you want proof that not all of the best NYC Thai restaurants are in Elmhurst, try Thailand’s Center Point in neighboring Woodside. Here, you’ll find some unique takes on classic Thai dishes like som tum and khao soi. Signature dishes include the Crispy Papaya Salad, where the shredded papaya is deep-fried and tossed with shrimp, squid and lime juice. There’s also a soft-shell crab salad, where you eat the entire crab (shell and all). While that’s a solid crab choice, the Soft-Shell Crab Khao Soi is a must-try, with the fried crab soaking up the curry and adding more flavor to Chiang Mai’s greatest culinary export. 

Chef Annie Phinphantthakul’s latest venture, Madame Tea Sweet House, is in the same space as Thailand’s Center Point. The afternoon tea includes recipes from Annie’s daughter, Ginger, a Culinary Institute of America-trained pastry chef. For $39.99, you’ll get more European and Southeast Asian sweets than you can fit on a three-tier tray. But perhaps the most innovative offering at Madame Tea is the eight-course Thaimakase, where the courses change weekly. 

63-19 39th Ave, Queens

white dumplings in a yellow creamy sauce
Steamed Rice Dumplings

Valla Table

On 9th and 10th Avenues in Hell’s Kitchen, you can find a different Thai restaurant on nearly every block. Valla Table is a newcomer to the area. Hanging light fixtures come down just above eye level in the narrow dining room. The food here is as memorable as the tall photography book-like menu that contains drawings of several classic Thai dishes. 

As the chef and owner Chuck Valla is from Chiang Mai, this is an ideal place to sample Khao Soi. While the braised beef version is worth trying, it’s the chicken drumstick version that’s closest to what you’d get in Valla’s hometown. For something dry and on the sweeter side, try the Ba Mee Ped, which is a simple, yet delicious duck noodle dish. If you prefer spicier Thai dishes, try the Pak Mor Kaeng Pu. Rice dumplings are stuffed with nothing but lump crab meat, which you’ll also find soaking in the nam yaa curry sauce. 

641 10th Ave

soup with fishball and shrimp
Tangram at Zaab Zaab
Zaab Zaab

Zaab Zaab

Zaab Zaab has a presence in three of the five boroughs. The focus here is on Northeast (Isaan) Thai food. If chicken is your thing, try the Gai Yang Wichian Buri, which is marinated for 24 hours and a specialty from Thailand’s Wichian Buri District. Thai Airways International named one of its planes after this grilled chicken dish. 

Partners Bryan Chunton and Pei Wei were nominated for 2024 James Beard Outstanding Restaurateur. While the full menus are available in Williamsburg and Elmhurst, you can also find different items at Market 57 and Tangram’s food hall in Flushing. At Tangram, you can try boat noodles, stir fry crispy pork and khao mun gai (Thai-style Hainan chicken over rice), which are only available there.

208 Grand St, Brooklyn


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