Food Guide to the Thai City of East Hollywood — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni
Los Angeles is home to the largest Thai community outside of Asia. The six blocks of Hollywood Boulevard between Western and Normandy are the officially recognized borders of the Thai city. But some of the area’s most popular Thai restaurants are a block south of Hollywood (along Sunset) and west to Hollywood and Bronson, across the 101 freeway.
These days, you can find pad thai in almost any US city with a population over 50,000. But Thai Town’s restaurants go far beyond the typical cookie-cutter menus. For this list, we’re highlighting our must-try foods and drinks from our favorite East Hollywood Thai restaurants. And we also mix fun facts and live entertainment.
Bhan Kanom Thai
Bhan Kanom is Los Angeles’ premier Thai snack — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni
Although there are a handful of Thai grocery stores along Hollywood Boulevard, only one specializes in sweets. At Bhan Kanom, the walls are lined with canned snacks imported from Thailand and other parts of Asia. This compact sugar sanctuary is aimed at those under 30, but you can find people of all ages shopping there.
Bhan Kanom is also the go-to spot for unique fruitcakes, sweet custards and sticky rice desserts. Large plastic mangoes hang from the ceiling in front of the main counter where the desserts are prepared. It’s like they’re trying to remove any doubts about whether or not you should leave without at least one container of mango sticky rice.
Some desserts are made to order, while you can find the rest in the fridges along the back wall. Open any refrigerator door and you’ll be greeted by the pungent smell of durian. For something unfamiliar to most, but not as intense as durian, try pandan cream.
Native green curry from Jitlada’s Southern Thai menu — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni
Jitlada’s Southern Thai cuisine is one of at least two reasons to venture to Sunset for Thai cuisine. People have been coming here since the 1970s for the steamed mussels, crispy morning glory, and weeping tiger beef like jerky. The walls are lined with artwork, portrait photos and various accolades to the point that if they replaced tables, Jitlada could easily become a museum of Thai cuisine. This is the kind of restaurant where you will be tempted to visit the place as if you were in a food museum in Bangkok.
The menu is split 60/40 between the main section and southern Thai dishes. The “Adventurous Bizarre Foods” section includes fried silkworms and spicy pig ears. At Jitlada, spices are such a big theme that they have spicy smoothie options. But the highlight is undoubtedly the “Dynamite Spicy Challenge”, which you must be at least 18 years old to try. If you are able to finish everything on your plate, you will be able to sign their SDC book.
At Kruang Tedd you can listen to live music every night — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni
Kruang Tedd offers nightly entertainment, an extensive menu that covers all of Thailand’s major regions, and cocktails with cheesier names than a Parisian fromagerie. Ask what’s good, and the staff will likely direct you to one of the chef’s 11 specialties.
Their khao mok gai (translates to chicken biryani) is a simple chicken and rice dish. The generous portion of rice (yolk from the turmeric and other Thai herbs) is served with a chicken thigh with meat so tender it easily slips off the bone. The accompanying Thai spearmint sauce adds flavor but is not absolutely necessary to enjoy this dish. We recommend enjoying your first bite without the sauce.
Evening live music begins after 10 p.m. Many customers come here just in time to order food before the kitchen closes. Then, as the kitchen staff prepare to call it a night, the music begins. Until the wee hours of the morning, you can watch regulars enjoy Thai beer and lovely cocktails like Naked Girl and Ladies Night to a mix of Thai classics and Western pop songs.
Northern Thai Cooking Club
Although the Northern Thai Food Club has a printed menu, many customers order at the steam table — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni
If you sit facing the walls rather than the windows of the Northern Thai Food Club, you can easily forget you’re less than two miles from the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In fact, this compact five-table restaurant on Sunset Boulevard is more like a small cafe in Chiang Rai that also offers a limited selection of Thai snacks and beauty products.
Although there is a menu, the predominantly Thai clientele tends to order by pointing to one or more of the twelve warming trays behind the counter. Next to the main stall, they also have Thai sausages and fried fish, which are kept warm. In addition to their popular spicy pork sausage, the noodle dish made with coconut milk, khao soi, is also a favorite with regulars. They will recall the spice level of the latter on request.
Pa Ord Noodles
Gooay teow cuo gai (chicken noodles) is a popular street food dish in Bangkok — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni
This humble noodle house offers 20 different options, ranging from basic pad thai and drunken noodles to more specialized options like khao soi and boat noodles. Everything on the menu is $15 and under, including curries and seafood dishes.
Pa Ord’s chicken fried rice noodles are as simple as the restaurant itself. If you sit inside, you’ll easily feel like you’re in a small cafe on Yaowarat Road in Bangkok’s Chinatown. This is where the pictured dish (known in Thai as “gooay teow cuo gai”) has its origins.
Palms Thai Restaurant
Siamese Elvis at Palms Thai Restaurant — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni
With dozens of Thai restaurants crammed into an area of less than two square miles, it helps it stand out. That’s exactly what the Palms Thai restaurant has been doing since it opened just off the 101 freeway in the mid-2000s. Whether it’s having a Thai Elvis performing regularly on their small stage or offering unique dishes like wild boar curry and green pepper frog legs, you’ll have to put in some serious effort to have a dull time at The Palms.
While their Thai Elvis (Kavee “Kevin” Thongpricha) is no longer performing, he is immortalized in a life-size metal statue, which stands proudly on stage with guitar in hand, ready to strum. You’ll often see guests posing with that fragile curiosity that customers are encouraged not to touch.
But the lack of live Elvis coverage in an area where many Thai restaurants offer some sort of live entertainment hasn’t hurt business. Regulars always flock here for everything from standards such as BBQ beef and coconut soup to anything on their “wild things” menu.
Rodded Duck Noodle Soup — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni
This cash-only neighborhood establishment on the corner of Hollywood and Gramercy has been serving up duck noodle soup and Hei Nam chicken for nearly half a century. When you walk into this unassuming place, you’ll probably notice that everything on their blackboard is written in Thai, except for the duck soup and Hei Nam chicken. The owners seem to know every guest and are happy to strike up any conversation they can.
pair of streets
There are 107 items to choose from at Ruen Pair — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni
Ruen Pair is located in New Hollywood Plaza, which has more Thai dining options than most small towns. The fact that Ruen Pair is constantly teeming with a diverse group of diners speaks volumes about their ability to stand out in the most competitive US market for Thai cuisine. Their 107 menu items range from popular coconut milk soups served in a pot to dishes suitable for the more adventurous, such as pork blood soup.
Many customers come for the raw crab papaya salad. You’ll see people of all ages doing the tedious work of removing tiny chunks of raw meat from crab legs not much thicker than noodles from a bowl of pad see ew. If you go this route, we recommend letting the meat soak in the som tum dressing from the salad for a few minutes before digging in. Other papaya salad options include dried peanut shrimp and salted black crab.
Sapp Coffee Shop is known for its boat noodles — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni
By early 1975, John Lennon’s wasted weekend of wild nights on West Hollywood’s Sunset Strip was coming to an end. Less than five miles east, “Hollywood’s original Thai Joint” served American breakfast and Thai lunches at the Hollywood Premiere Motel. The motel is still there, as is the original Sapp signage.
After a decade of operating in a typical Hollywood motel, Sapp Coffee Shop has moved to its current location at the corner of Kingsley and Hollywood. They are known for their boat noodles, which come with rice noodles, bean sprouts, and sliced beef, entrails, or pork. All three versions of the dish are topped with crispy pork rinds.
If you’re looking for a dry noodle dish, try their equally popular Jade Noodles. This green egg noodle dish is topped with duck, pork and crab, then topped with generous helpings of crushed peanuts and Thai chili powder. They will call him back on request.
As of this writing, Sapp only accepts cash.
Yai BBQ beef with jaew sauce — Photo courtesy of Brian Cicioni
Yai specializes in Central Thai recipes. Most of the team hails from the ancient capital of Ayutthaya. We recommend starting with their BBQ beef. It is made up of a dozen tender medium-thick short rib cuts served over romaine hearts and garnished with cilantro. The “jaew” sauce they serve it with may seem intimidating to beginners, but a small spoonful will enhance the flavor of the grilled meat. Theirs (more commonly known as “nam jim jaew”) is a sweet and sour mix with a smoky flavor of rice powder.
Other popular items include Roast Pork with Chinese Broccoli and their Shrimp Fried Rice with BBQ Chicken.
As of this writing, Yai only accepts cash.