I have been a lover of Asian food since the first time I shoved my pudgy little fist full of fried rice into my mouth at a local Chinese restaurant at the early age of about two. Since then, I’ve scored a pretty high “been there” percentage at most of the take-out and sit-down Chinese joints in and around Columbus. But in recent years, I’ve broadened my horizons by adding other Asian cuisines, like Filipino and Thai food, to my rotation, and I enjoy discovering new dishes all the time. Lucky for me, the house we moved to this past Spring is located just around the corner from one of the most popular, and most authentic, Thai restaurants in town – Bangkok Grocery & Restaurant.
The exterior of the building is fairly deceptive – because the restaurant is combined with an Asian grocery market, you wouldn’t expect the seating area to be very large. The dining room, however, seats roughly 30-40 patrons and maximizes every inch of space without being cramped. Now, honestly, the place just kind of has the feel of a 1970’s lounge or something (maybe it’s just me), but overall it’s pretty clean and comfortable. The counter is filled with all kinds of novelties, candies, specialty foods and simple desserts that are available to purchase and enjoy whether you’re dining in or taking out.
One of the greatest aspects of Bangkok Grocery & Restaurant to me, is the staff. Every time we’ve been here (probably 5-6 times in the past 8 months we’ve lived close by), the servers, greeters, and everyone we’ve ever encountered have been so extremely fantastic. It’s obvious that they appreciate us being there, and they’re sure to make you feel welcome and comfortable. Even the kitchen staff is careful to pay special attention to any requests that you may have with your food or order. Just top-notch service.
The other half of the equation is the grocery side of the building. Accessible by a doorway from the dining room, as well as separate exterior doors, the market is packed with Asian groceries and unique items that you just cant find at other ethnic markets, along with some regular grocery store stuff too, at much cheaper prices! What a better way to spend the short wait time for your meal than to stroll the market and make some new discoveries! They even do jewelry repair here, too!
The menu at Bangkok is as authentic as you’ll find anywhere in Columbus. Most Thai dishes revolve around a combination of noodles and meat, mixed with a variety of vegetables and spices. Bangkok offers many Thai specialties, authentic soups (their Pho is excellent!), and protein-specific dishes with incredible flavors. They will even adjust the spiciness of your food according to your tastes, upon request. They also serve several familiar Chinese dishes as an option for those who are looking for something a little less adventurous.
We started with an order of the Woonsen Sen Nam Sei ($7.95), which was certainly a large enough portion for the three of us to share. Pricing on most of their meals depends on the type of meat you want to add. We ordered shrimp in this delicious dish, but you can also opt for chicken, pork, duck, or a seafood combination. The shrimp were added to this delicate bean thread noodle soup along with bean sprouts, green onion and cilantro. These are the kinds of soups that you can make an entire meal out of. Everything was so light and flavorful, and extremely enjoyable.
In stark contrast to the delicate starter soup, the Pad See Ew ($8.95) is
a hefty entrée with loads of flavor. Most Thai restaurants offer an ample selection of pad (meaning “fried” or “stir-fried” style ) entrée selections, and Bangkok Grocery & Restaurant is certainly no exception. Pad See Ew features a wide or broad rice noodle that reminded me very much of large, homemade egg noodles in appearance and texture. They are fried “dry” in dark soy sauce, with Chinese broccoli, egg, and again, our choice of protein (this time, beef). It was hearty and earthy, and was absolutely delicious!!
As I mentioned before, they also serve several “Americanized” Chinese dishes, like this Sweet & Sour Chicken w/ steamed rice ($8.95). We thought it would be a safe pick for our 8-year old, since this is one of his usual faves at our frequented take-out spots. It was your standard, golden-fried chicken pieces with the sauce on the side. It was hot, fresh and tender, and the sauce was actually much milder than some of those other places. Overall, he enjoyed it very much, and the portion size was so large that he was able to take an abundance of leftovers home for another meal.
The Gai Pad Khing ($7.95) is a dish that we have ordered before and one that Mrs. Grub Guy really enjoys. It combines thinly sliced chicken breast that’s been stir-fried with ginger, mushrooms, green and white onions, and a spicy sauce (she also ordered a side of peanut sauce and spooned a little of that over the chicken). Again, the dish was gigantic (the wife plated her own into small portions), and it’s really the kind of thing that you just want to keep eating and eating. All of the flavors and seasonings are pretty mild, until the back-end spice kicks in. It’s a relatively simple and basic dish for Thai food, but its classic sauce makes it a winner!
After our meal we enjoyed a Bangkok Restaurant novelty dessert, the Lotus Blossom ($1.75/3). These beauties sit along the front counter and are available to customers to take at will. When I inquired about them, I was told that they are a deep-fried delicate pastry/cookie made with black Thai sesame seeds, and are designed so that you can break pieces off to eat as much, or as little, as you’d like to. The flavor reminded me of a cross between a funnel cake and a fortune cookie – very simple and not too sweet. They were extremely light and crispy, and weren’t greasy or oily at all. The whole family enjoyed them, and we’ll definitely be looking for more of them again next time!
I can totally see why Bangkok Grocery & Restaurant has been ranked among the best Thai restaurants in Columbus for over 30 years. Don’t let the modest surroundings fool you – these guys will totally blow you away with fresh and amazing, authentic Asian food. One of my cardinal rules when it comes to ethnic restaurants is that I want to eat where the people of that ethnicity eat. If you walk into an Asian restaurant full of average Joe’s eating things like chicken wings and cream cheese-filled fried wontons, there is a good chance that some, if not most, of the menu has been altered or customized to American tastes and expectations (i.e. lots of fatty, fried foods, overly sweet sauces, etc.). However, if you go in and see an abundance of patrons of that specific ethnicity enjoying the cuisine, it’s a pretty safe bet that the authenticity of the food is on point. That is the true measure of any ethnic restaurant, in my opinion. And I can tell you that every time I have been to Bangkok, that has definitely been the case. What a great testimony to the power of awesome food!
I highly encourage you, no matter where you live in or around Cbus, to venture to the Southeast side the next time you’re in a Thai food kind of mood. I guarantee that you will not be disappointed.
Bangkok Restaurant is located at 3277 Refugee Rd, Columbus, OH 43232 (Map). They’re open Tuesday – Saturday, 11:00 am – 8:00 pm. For more info, check them our on Facebook, Instagram, or at their website.