Take a walk on The Loop and within a couple blocks, you encounter a cluster of five different Thai restaurants. While four of the five are all owned by Supatana “Pat” Prapaisilapa, the Wanna family’s singular restaurant ranks supreme. It’s the only one to get four stars on Yelp.
Pat has experience on his side, considering he opened The Thai Cafe in 1991, but that’s not enough to compete with Fork and Stix. Although Pat had a noble goal of introducing the fine people of St. Louis to Thai food, after visiting two of Pat’s restaurants (Thai Country Cafe and Thai Gai Yang Cafe) it became evident that the flavor was left behind in the 90’s. Some of the websites for his restaurants haven’t been updated in over three years, demonstrating a lack of care that contrasts with the attentiveness at Fork and Stix. Clearly, the Wannas, natives of northern Thailand, set a standard that Pat’s restaurants can’t reach. The David of Thai food conquers its Goliath.
Fork and Stix
Nestled near the end of the Loop, Fork and Stix is small, cozy, and quaint, but is often completely filled with customers. You might think you’re lost when trying to find this place because it’s at the “slightly shady” end of the Loop, but it’s a hidden treasure.
I have been here countless times and spent way too much money on deliveries through Postmates, but have never been less than completely satisfied. Similar to Thai Country Cafe, there’s no drought. Each table has a massive bottle of water paired with cute silver mugs. The appetizers are just as pleasing visually as well as taste.
The Hoy Jaw have such a delicately, formed crispy tofu shell. Paired with a light sweet sauce, you wonder what you’ve been missing out on. The crab rangoons are also atypical, sporting a long cylindrical shape, filled with cream cheese, and a peculiar, yet delicious string of crab. To finish off, we were graced with a perfectly cooked chicken sateh, couple with a silky, peanut sauce to die for. The pad thai, the main focus of the meal, was perfectly plated. While it was a little on the small side, no matter what protein you order you get mouth-watering tofu in addition. The wild combination of flavors can brighten the worst of days. All in all, the perfectly cooked noodles are a solid 4.5/5.
Thai Country Cafe
I want to start with the positive here, and mention that this place has the biggest water glasses I’ve ever seen. Honestly bigger than those Big Gulps. But, the negative can’t be avoided for too long. On what should be a busy friday night, the place had almost no people. Compared to the bustling hipster vibe of other restaurants on the loop, Thai Country Cafe sports cute elements mixed with some really cheesy decor. I can’t tell if I’m at a Thai restaurant or a vintage sports equipment store. There’s too many vibes happening at once. Adding to its unique personality is a slapdash constructed menu, filled with pictures big enough for those with cataracts. I am willing to get past this for great food, but unfortunately that wasn’t really the case. My pad thai was sweet and tangy, loaded with chopped peanuts. While it was a huge portion, the noodles were more akin to spaghetti than traditional pad thai. Lime was completely absent, while a whopping of bean sprouts stole the show. Meanwhile, protein was severely lacking for the extra charge I had to pay. I really gave this place a chance, but it was average Thai food at best.
Thai Gai Yang Cafe
Right across the street from Thai Country Cafe, this sister restaurant’s food is almost intolerable. Keeping in mind that I’m a Thai food snob, the pad Thai here is inedible unless intoxicated, compared to Thai Country Cafe. The pad Thai was ok at best, loaded with lots of bean sprouts. It was pretty empty for a Friday night, reflective of the mediocre food.