Top Ten Thai Restaurants to try in the Tampa Bay area

Royal Palace holds about two dozen tables inside and almost double that outside.

My love affair with Thai food started years ago. From the hottest bird’s eye peppers to a classic cucumber/jicama slaw, I’m in awe at the clever cleavers and hands that prepare simple-to-seriously-involved dishes. Chefs take advantage of their carving skills to make entrees more indulgent with crafty, carved pineapples, watermelons, apples and other profuse produce.

Many country and cultures influence Thai cuisine, including a strong Indian presence. Traditional sweet ingredients (hoisin sauce), sour (tamarind), salty (oyster sauce), bitter (saw leaf herb) and hot (chili peppers) offer the right ying and yang. Best of all, everyone wins because it is conducive to poke around each others’ entrees and share all.

My Top Ten Thai in Tampa Bay

Benjarong Thai, 14402 N. Dale Mabry Hwy., Tampa, FL; (813) 265-2667

Open more than a dozen years, this eatery is named for the intricate porcelain ware valued by aristocrats. Its traditional motif is an appropriate backdrop to the sophisticated dishes, such as aromatic musamum curry with coconut milk and peanutty Pad Thai. The staff is graciously accommodating and the prices are fair, especially when your doggie bag serves as tomorrow’s takeout.

Ban Thai, 2519 N. McMullen-Booth Rd., Clearwater, FL; (727) 724-2992

A very small and casual restaurant, it is tucked in the rear of a small, strip mall. Its simple, clean dinners are a work of art. The panang beef has a deep, nuanced kind of spiciness and green chicken curry is heady with basil and other herbs.

Café de Siam, 11242 W. Hillsborough Ave. in Silvermill Plaza, Tampa, FL;  (813) 855-1108
www.cafedesiamtampa.com/

The locals call Siam both outstanding and inexpensive.  While you’re enjoying a casual meal, some patrons join a brisk march through to grab takeout. Though not much to look at, the Thom Kha Gai, green curry, panang and Pad Graprau (Thai basil), leave noteworthy impressions on the taste buds.

Jasmine Thai
13248 N. Dale Mabry Hwy., Tampa, FL; (813) 968-1501
3333 S. Westshore Boulevard
, Tampa FL; (813) 831-8881
1947 West Lumsden Road, Brandon, FL; (813) 662-3635

www.jasminetampa.com

Twenty-plus years ago, Jasmine was one of the pioneering Thai restaurants in Tampa. Now it is in North and South Tampa and remains a leader in the bright, pinging flavors of Thai food.  Dozens of selections enjoy such key ingredients as lemon grass, basil, fish sauce, galangal and ginger.

Ploy Thai Restaurant, 1941 W. Brandon Blvd., Brandon, FL; (813) 684-5007
www.ploythairestaurant.com

A fresh departure from the nearby chain eateries, for 10 years Ploy Thai has handsome, woodwork interior and interesting pork or beef salads. Declining to dial up the heat in an attempt to pass itself off as the real thing, Ploy Thai’s red, green, panang and seafood curries, even one with pineapple, have vivid flavors and interesting textures.

Royal Palace Thai Restaurant, 811 S. Howard Ave., Tampa, FL; (813) 258-5893
www.royalpalacethai.com

Royal’s first location began in Dunedin in 1993, then six years later it begat a second restaurant on SoHo’s restaurant row.  This is “date night” Thai, where you can also enjoy sushi. After dinner, walk down Howard Ave. for the night life. The Palace offers a tender, “amazing chicken” that is marinated, deep-fried and served with a homemade peanut sauce.  Flash-fried snapper and crispy duck have a great reputation here as does  the panang.

Sawatdee Thai Cuisine, 10938 N. 56th St., Temple Terrace, FL; (813) 985-2071
www.sawatdeethaitampa.com

Hungry in the Temple Terrace – USF area? Head over to the place known for its panang curry, rich with ground peanuts, cilantro and galangal.  Open 10 years, Sawatdee cooks a memorable grouper, duck and whole snapper, served with choice of ginger, chili, basil, honey or “shu shi’’ sauces.

Siam Garden, 3125 Dr. M.L. King (Ninth) St. N, St. Petersburg, FL; (727) 822-0613
http://www.siamgardenthai.com

Expect an unassuming décor but delicious food and polite service at one of the original St. Petersburg experiences for Thai. It was opened about two dozen years ago by Piboon “Boone” Kitiratanasumpun. Sip a Siam iced tea while waiting for its steamed fish, panang curry or crazy meat entree, with basil and coconut milk.  You’ll get an acidic pop from the lemon grass on the squid salad (yum nua).

Thai-Am 2 Restaurant,  13037 Gulf Blvd., Madeira Beach, FL; (727) 398-9700
www.thaiam2.com

Another 10 year veteran, we don’t go near the beach without stopping here for Japanese or Thai cuisine. I find this drive across town worthy. Every Thai restaurant has its version of curry but we are drawn to its red, mussamum and yellow jungle (with baby corn, cabbage and peppers but without coconut milk). We also like the emerald curry that is spicy and colorful with sweet peas, eggplant and basil

Thai Island, 210 E Davis Blvd, Tampa, FL; (813) 251-9111

Penn McElmurray takes her authentic ingredients seriously with liberal use of lemongrass, kaffir lime and galangal root for delicious salads, soups and stir fries. Penn, a native of Sukothai, and her husband Clay, keep patrons returning to their 50-seat, eatery. A friend goes there solo with her newspaper and has Penn surprise her with something. She thinks it’s her own little Cheers à la Thai. (Read review)

Or to be really authentic, consider Wat Mongkolratanaram in Riverview a way station for hungry nirvana-seekers who can’t cross the Universal Dateline. Read the article.

+++++

Did I forget your favorite place? Drop me an email or comment.

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2 comments to Top Ten Thai Restaurants to try in the Tampa Bay area

  • Please add the address of the south Jasmine Thai, as the photos on the website you have on your recommendation come from there. Located at 3333 S. Westshore Boulevard 33629, the phone number you have in your recommendatuions is already the South location 813-831-8881.
    The food is different from the N. Dale Mabry location, South Westshore is excellent. Perhaps you need separate reviews for the 2 locations.

  • Taylor Eason

    Jane – appreciate the feedback. I added the addresses but make note that the author has not visited Brandon or South Tampa locations.

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