Dining Out on Kaew Nawarat Road

Suppose you live or work in the McCormick Hospital/Payap University neighborhood on Kaew Nawarat Road. It’s lunchtime, and you’re really busy. Where do you go for a quick but tasty bite? Or your work is done for the day, and you’ve promised your roommate that you’ll pick up dinner on the way home. Maybe you’re new in town, and love the smells emanating from the sidewalk vendors. Where do local Thais as well as farangs go?

Try this scenario: You want Thai food but the younger members of your household prefer cheeseburgers and fries. Now what do you do? Don’t despair. You have plenty of choices without resorting to fast food chains, multiple stops or even leaving the neighborhood. And your choices are not only tasty, they’re downright inexpensive by anybody’s standards. Do what you do when trying to navigate across Thapae Road in rush hour traffic - just go with the locals and step out boldly!

One place you’re likely to find the locals is named “Fast Food”. Located just across from Siam Commercial Bank on Kaew Nawarat Road, it’s in a pale green building on the corner. Downstairs is open-air seating, but for air conditioned comfort in hot weather just walk to the back of the restaurant and take the stairs to the second floor. It’s open everyday from 8 a.m. until 9.30 p.m., reservations are never needed, parking is on the street, and it really does serve “Fast Food”. It usually takes 10 minutes from the time you place your order until your meal is on the table. Western style dinners of pepper steak, pork cutlet and fried chicken start at 60 baht, small cheeseburgers served with French fries cost 30 baht, and there is a selection of spaghetti dishes at 45 baht. The macaroni with shrimp is a tasty dish, an East meets West recipe – macaroni, tomatoes, onions and shrimp stir-fried together. But don’t forget the Thai dishes. Fried rice starts at 25 baht and noodles start at 20 baht. Fruit and ice cream are on the menu, but so is a banana split at 35 baht. With a menu listing 87 items, you can usually find something for everyone.

If you don’t find what you want on this menu, though, just go across the street towards McCormick Hospital to the collection of open-air restaurants and food vendors there. This is a place to explore. Don’t make up your mind too quickly. There are many large and small restaurants along this stretch, all serving home style Thai food in the most casual of atmospheres. At night, the number of motorcycles and double-parked automobiles makes a strong statement for the taste, freshness and value of this food. The chicken and rice is particularly good, and I love the duck. But walk on down the street further from the hospital and you’ll find outstanding Pad Thai in a little caf้ that seats no more than a dozen people. Much of the business done at night is take away, but you will find many people joining you on plastic stools under circulating fans if you eat in. Most dishes are priced at 20 to 30 baht. You can buy soft drinks and beer, too. The little bakeries have nice single serving cakes, but traditional Thai and Chinese sweets are sold right on the sidewalk by vendors. And don’t forget to pick up a bag of fresh fruit for a snack later on. I have never found a good cup of coffee in this neighborhood, though, so please let me know if you do.

Keep walking and you’ll run right into Bud’s of San Francisco, which offers excellent ice cream, sundaes and shakes at reasonable prices. You can have the special flavor of the day for 15 baht or the Super Bowl, enough ice cream and goodies to feed a small village for 175 baht. Don’t forget to take some home. You can always rationalize eating a little ice cream when you consider the fresh and healthy Thai food that you had for dinner.

Remembering that every meal is an adventure, but not necessarily an expensive or formal one, we may see you in your neighborhood soon.