Back when I moved to Asheville (about seven years ago) there was only one Thai restaurant in the area: Wan Pen out in Arden. My first house was only a five minute drive from Wan Pen, so I ate there frequently. Wan Pen has an authentic, delicious menu, but once I moved into Asheville, it was too far away to visit with any regularity. Soon Doc Chey’s Noodle House opened up downtown, with several Thai dishes on the menu, and while I like their menu and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere, it’s not truly a Thai restaurant. When you get down to it, this is an Asian fusion restaurant (or, as the chain’s website states, “Pan Asian Cuisine”). This fact makes me and my friends wonder why Doc Chey’s consistently gets in the top three Thai restaurants in the Best of WNC. We understand “Best Cheap Lunch”, and even “Best Takeout” (although it’s not really a takeout joint, either), but “Best Thai”?
Next in the Asheville area’s quest for abundant Thai food came Thai Cuisine Express on Patton Avenue. And this, for me, at least, was the end of the quest. Thai Cuisine Express is now in its fourth year in business, and as far as I’m concerned, this is the best Thai food in Asheville. It also happens to be one of the cheapest.
Other Thai restaurants have opened since. Maybe too many, in fact. There’s Thai Basil, Noi’s Thai Kitchen, and a slew of other Thai places in the area. Most of them, in my opinion, rely on their swanky atmospheres more than their menus to draw patronage. In large part, they are overpriced and lack authenticity (read: Americanized). But Thai Cuisine Express continues to serve up spicy coconut curries and tangy stir-fries in large portions to satisfy your craving for the true taste of Thai. For a mere $8.95, you can get a heaping helping of the most delicious cashew chicken in town (maybe in the whole USA; owner Palm Thonesuwan brought Thai Cuisine’s menu all the way from Hollywood, where he helped open a Thai restaurant/bar that has earned international acclaim for its menu). Also available are such Thai staples as Pad Thai, Drunken Noodles, and Thai Basil. Anything on the menu can be made vegetarian or vegan (just remember to request it without fish sauce!), and I promise you won’t find a better spring roll in these mountains.
This is a true family restaurant- and the customers tend to quickly become extended family members. Palm is always there (he’s not only the owner, he’s also the restaurant’s only chef) to wave and say hi, or “Sa-ba-di-kah!”, if you speak a little Thai. The atmosphere is snug and casual, and with only five tables, a diner often finds herself participating in the next table’s conversation. Most of the business is done in takeout orders, and this is a great option if you don’t have time to cook dinner, especially if you live on the west side. So if you’re in the mood for incredible, delicious, authentic Thai food, but not in the mood to pay extra for a formal, fancy atmosphere, head on down to Thai Cuisine Express!
Thai Cuisine Express is located at 1438 Patton Ave. Phone: 225-6082.
Hours: Monday through Saturday from 3pm to 9pm.