Smile Politely

Spice up your life

Campustown is full of an assortment of restaurants, but the number of options can be a little overwhelming, especially if you’re looking for something quick, cheap, and tasty. There are several local restaurants around the area that fit within most people’s budgets, even the poorest of college students. Tucked away on the west corner of Fifth and Green lies Bangkok Thai and Pho 911, situated within a courtyard that is hard to spot unless you’re looking for it.

For a Saturday afternoon, the restaurant wasn’t too busy and there were several empty tables. Because of the location, the restaurant feels cozy in it’s hidden corner off Green Street. It’s a calm, quiet atmosphere, perfect for meeting a friend or going on a casual date. The wait took less than ten minutes, but choosing something from the menu can be a challenge, especially since there are over 60 items listed. Appetizers range from $3-$6 with items such as spring rolls and crab rangoon, and entrées range from $8-$15, which may seem pricey but the serving sizes are very generous. Like most Thai places, you’ll find classics like pad thai and tom yum in addition to other Asian foods such as pho. There are even vegetarian options. One unique aspect about this eatery is the sign hanging above the counter that shows the spiciness level you can add to your order. Conveniently, pitchers of water and paper cups are located by the pick up counter for those who choose the hottest level.

Most items on the menu are less than $10. The green curry ended up costing about $8, but the amount of food is surprisingly large and can easily be shared between two people or saved for another meal. I’ve tried a lot of versions of green curry over the years. Some are thick, some have a strong coconut flavor, and some are loaded with spices. I ended up ordering a level 3 green curry and it had just the right amount of heat, enough where my mouth felt pleasantly warm after finishing my meal. The curry itself is slightly sweet and very liquidy, pairing nicely with the large mound of rice served on the side. Soaking the rice in the sauce as you eat allows it to infuse with the rest of the spices and vegetables. The eggplant, bamboo shoots, and green beans are cooked just enough to maintain a bit of crunch to contrast with the softness of the rice, and the basil leaves in the curry enhance all the flavors.

Another dish that’s milder and a little less adventurous is the fried rice, but it doesn’t lack in quality or flavor. Served on a large plate, the rice is loaded with eggs, green onions, choice of meat (or tofu), and the chef’s secret sauce. Whatever is in that sauce, it certainly takes the rice to another level and packs every bite with an umami taste. This is the dish to choose if you’re looking for comfort food, but you can kick it up another notch to add some spiciness to the rice. Personally, I prefer the fried rice with less heat. Even without any spice, the rice is served warm and will hit the spot whether you end up visiting the restaurant during lunch or dinner. If you’re interested in trying something a little unusual, there’s also fried rice with pineapple, raisins, cashews, and tomatoes. It’s an interesting combo, but perfect for those who seek something a little different.

With the beach-theme mural on one end of the restaurant and a television and fish tanks on the other, Bangkok Thai and Pho 911 welcomes its customers from the moment you step through the door. It’s cozy without feeling stuffy inside, since there are many seats available and plenty of room within the restaurant. The staff are friendly and helpful, making sure to meet your needs in a timely fashion. The great service and atmosphere at this local joint is sure to invite new customers to try the affordable and delicious food. This is something you won’t want to miss if you love Asian food and are looking for something that has a wide range of options.

Bangkok Thai and Pho 911 is located at 410 E Green Street, Champaign. The restaurant is open seven days a week from 11 a.m to 9 p.m.

All photos by Madeleine Marsh. 

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