Little Thailand mural

Last year, the Elmhurst community banded together to celebrate a milestone: the designation of “Little Thailand” as an official ethnic enclave. The neighborhood boasts signs of “Little Thailand Way” alongside Woodside Avenue, commemorating the dozen or so Thai eateries and thousands of Thai residents in the area. Just a decade ago, there were only a handful of Thai restaurants in the neighborhood, though a few recently opened specializing in cuisines throughout the country, with a particular emphasis on Isan cooking from the northeast. Some Thai immigrants came during the era of the Vietnam War, though many settled in the United States in the early 2000s amid the 2006 Thai coup d’etat. To learn more about this up-and-coming community in Elmhurst, read about these 14 Thai restaurants and shops in the heart of Queens.

1. SaRanRom Thai

Sa Ran Rom

SaRanRom Thai, a Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant along Broadway, serves all sorts of dishes from across Thailand. The restaurant has a cozy interior with just about eight or so tables with an exposed brick wall on one side and a wooden wall on the other. The rather minimal interior is filled with plants and light fixtures.

The menu features a mix of Thai classics and hard-to-find regional specialties. Miang Ka-Na is a dried pork mix with lime, chili, and ground peanut served with broccoli leaves, while Sai Krok E-San is a grilled fermented rice and pork sausage from the northeast. Salads include Yum Pla Duk Fu with crispy fried catfish and spicy mango salad, as well as Bangkok beef salad with a sweet spicy dressing. The restaurant’s Southern spicy minced pork uses a spicy yellow paste with peppercorns and bell pepper, while its Nam Ngiao draws from Northern Thai traditions for a mix of vermicelli noodles, tomato sauce, pork ribs, blood, and dried flowers. Other popular dishes include basic duck, clam with basil sauce, century egg with ground pork, and Southern spicy shrimp with sator (stink) beans.

2. Ayada Thai


Opened in 2008, Ayada has been a staple of Elmhurst’s Little Thailand with a large menu highly praised by The New York Times and ABC News. The restaurant’s decor is simple yet captivating, with wooden tables, wooden walls adorned with paintings of Thai country life and the Dalai Lama, and green leather cushioned chairs. Ayada’s success in Elmhurst led the restaurant to expand to Chelsea Market in 2019.

Ayada Thai

Popular appetizers include shrimp in a blanket, fish cake in a curry sauce with peanut relish, BBQ pork tender, and bean thread soup. The menu features 17 salads including Som Tum Talay, a shredded green papaya salad with shrimp, squid, mussels, and long beans, as well as raw shrimp salad and sour pork sausage salad. The Times recommends the fish basil, a fried whole or filleted red snapper with basil sauce, long hot chili, and mushroom, in addition to their rib-eye steak with drunk noodles and crispy duck panang curry. Also worth trying is the restaurant’s Pad Khee Mao with spicy chili sauce, frog legs with basil, and Kang Som sour curry with tamarind paste.

3. Khao Nom

Khao Nom is a small eatery and dessert bar on 77th Street with a rather small menu. The space is bright and rather spacious, with wooden tables and chairs, a table with all sorts of freshly packaged food, and creative light fixtures. Among the packaged desserts and foods at the counter include pandan rolls, sweet yams, coconut pudding, and banana cupcakes.

Among Khao Nom’s appetizers, most priced in the $7 to $10 range, include crispy pork belly with spicy tamarind sauce, curry puffs with chicken and potato, crispy crab spring rolls, and mussel pancake with sriracha sauce. Rice dishes, served with fried egg and soup, include Khao Man Gai, steamed chicken served with ginger rice, and garlic pork, as well as Emperor Rice with shrimp and sweet sausage in a clay pot. In addition to various types of barbecue, the restaurant also offers a selection of noodles including five-spice chicken stew noodle soup and “Chan” noodles with grilled jumbo prawns.

4. Zaab Zaab

Zaab Zaab

Recently listed among the New York Times‘ Top 100 Restaurants, Zaab Zaab is a Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant along Woodside Avenue in Little Thailand known for its fiery Isan cooking and emphasis on seafood. Zaab Zaab, which has another location along Grand Street in Williamsburg, the restaurant’s interior is modern and colorful. The back wall by the kitchen is painted many different colors, while the ceiling displays imagery of birds, stars, and other geometric patterns. Many of the restaurant’s chairs are stools like those seen at Bangkok’s food stalls.

Zaab Zaab is known for its larb, an Isan classic with minced meat with roasted rice with lime, chili, mint, and fish sauce. Gaeng Om, a Northeastern herbal curry with eggplant and galangal, is another popular dish. Among the restaurant’s seafood options are Mieng Pla Pow, a salt-encrusted fish marinated in cumin and stuffed with pandan, as well as prawns pad thai. Other popular options include a selection of hot pots, such as the Tom Haeng with beef intestine and tripe; Neur Yang, a sliced ribeye with tamarind sauce; Moo Tod Pla Ra, or fried pork belly in fermented fish sauce; and Hor Mok, a steamed curry with pork belly or catfish in a banana leaf.

5. Kin Sen

Kin Sen is a much newer Thai restaurant on Whitney Avenue, a bit of a walk from the main street of Little Thailand on the same block as a few Indonesian restaurants. The restaurant has a more modern interior with gray brick walls, wooden tables with black leather chairs, grass-like wall decorations with flowers, the restaurant’s name in neon lights, and circular light fixtures.

Kin Sen’s menu features dishes found at few other Thai spots around Elmhurst, including Lookchin Tod, or fried pork balls, a northern Thai sausage called Sai Ua, and Lawk Jim pork with watercress and bean sprouts. In addition to classics like Pad See Ew and Rad Naa, the restaurant offers about a dozen noodle soups including Yen Ta Fo, served with jellyfish and fish balls, Ba Mhee Puu with crab and egg noodles, and Neun Toon with slow-cooked beef and cilantro. There is a smaller selection of entrees including Pad Kapraw with chili basil sauce and Pad Kratiem with a pepper garlic sauce.

6. Spicy Shallot

Spicy Shallot

Open since 2005, Spicy Shallot is a Thai-Japanese fusion restaurant along Woodside Avenue. The Little Thailand restaurant features a more upscale ambiance with pink, gray, and blue chairs, gray brick walls with the restaurant’s name in neon, and disco ball-like light displays with lots of plants. Another sign toward the back of the restaurant reads “You’re hotter than spicy food” below a shallot.

The Thai portion of the menu includes dishes like Golden Empress tofu, curry puffs, pork jerky, and papaya salad with long beans. Specialty entrees include salmon clay pot, grilled marinated pork chop, crab meat fried rice, and panang curry. Duck also features prominently on the menu for dishes including crispy duck basil and curry duck. The Japanese side of the menu includes a variety of donburi (rice bowls), over a dozen a la carte sashimi options, two dozen maki rolls, and specialty rolls.

7. Boon Chu

Boon Chu, located along Broadway in the heart of Elmhurst’s small Chinatown area, features one of the larger menus among the neighborhood’s Thai spots. With wooden stools and walls, the restaurant is recognizable for its vivid artistic depiction of Thai historical scenes on its walls. The cozy spot has just a few tables but a full menu with all sorts of northern and southern Thai dishes.

Boon Chu’s appetizers include Yum Pla Merk, squid salad in mint and lime juice, and Hoy Jor, ground pork and shrimp wrapped in tofu skin, in addition to chicken roti curry. Soups range from Gang Jud Tofu with bean curd and ground chicken to Tom Kar Gai with chicken and coconut milk. Entrees include a barbecue beef or pork “waterfall” with crunchy rice and vegetables, eggplant in curry paste called Pad Ped, and soft-shell crab with mango salad. Other popular entrees include a seafood pancake with bean sprouts, jungle curry, and whole red snapper in ginger sauce.

8. Eim Khao Mun Kai

Eim Khao Mun Kai

Eim Khao Mun Kai is one of the most well-known Little Thailand spots in Elmhurst, known for its elevated street food-style menu and ambiance. The restaurant, which only has a few tables and some wall seating, resembles a food stall with chickens hanging in the display case and a sign in Thai displaying its name. The interior features dark brick walls and wooden circular tables with metal stools, as well as a small open kitchen.

The menu is by far the shortest of any other spot in Elmhurst with just a handful of chicken preparations. Customers can order their chicken steamed, crispy, or roasted and can get it with chicken thigh, gizzard, and liver. These come with ginger rice, daikon radish, cucumber, and scallion soup. These are served in sets for one, two, or three people and can be accompanied by an egg. The restaurant also sells half and whole chicken, as well as a variety of iced teas.

9. Chao Thai

Chao Thai on Whitney Avenue down the street from Broadway is another classic Thai spot in Elmhurst. The no-frills restaurant is just about six tables with a rather minimal decor of orange and turquoise walls, tables with shells and flowers underneath the covering, and packaged snacks and goods at the front. A whiteboard display the day’s specials written in marker.

Chao Thai’s menu is fairly standard with some stand-out and hard-to-find dishes interspersed. Popular appetizers range from fried fish balls to raw shrimp with a spicy fish sauce to shrimp rolls with plum sauce. Soups include Tom Zabb with pork entrails and Thai herbs, Tom Kha Gai with coconut and mushroom, and pork blood clear soup. Jackfruit salad, yellow noodles with chicken curry, and Northern-style Hang Lea curry are among the restaurant’s specialty dishes. Other standouts include slow-cooked pig leg, deep-fried fish topped with Chu Chee curry, and striped bass with sweet chili sauce.

10. Hug Esan

Hug Esan

Hug Esan is a popular hole-in-the-wall eatery known for its Northeast Thai food. The narrow interior is packed to the brim with decorations, such as flowery plates displayed on the wall, wicker light fixtures with plants suspended from them, and a large explainer outlining the cuisine and region. Tables feature bright floral patterns that give the space a more homey feel, also suggested by the Thai flags and a sign that reads “HOME” above the counter.

The appetizer selection at this Little Thailand restaurant stars dishes including Tub Yang, grilled chicken livers with Jeaw sauce, crispy frog legs, and taro cakes with a sweet sauce. Signature Esan dishes include a pork crepe, crispy rice salad with sour pork sausage, and a dish called Mok Nor Mai, or steamed bamboo shoots with pork belly and mushroom in banana leaves. The restaurant offers over a dozen types of papaya salad, such as the Hug Esan papaya salad with pork sausage, sun-dried pork, crispy pork skin, and many other ingredients. Other popular dishes include larb, crab meat omelet, and dill soup with Thai eggplant.

11. Khao Kang

Khao Kang in Little Thailand

Unlike many of the restaurants in Little Thailand, Khao Kang is known for its buffet table with all sorts of freshly prepared, colorful dishes. With a rather dark ambiance with dark brown walls and wooden chairs and tables, Khao Kang has a rather minimal space that puts all attention onto the two dozen or so dishes at the counter, as well as prepackaged desserts and cold dishes.

The menu is simple: steamed rice with two or three entrees, or an a la carte entree. Dishes themselves include garlic black pepper pork, five-spice stewed pork belly, chicken liver with chives, and lemongrass chicken. Dishes are commonly enjoyed alongside a selection of desserts including tapioca pearl pudding, coconut jelly, mung bean pudding, and pandan cake with angel hair egg threads.

12. Tea Cup Cafe

Tea Cup Noodle Cafe in Little Thailand

Tea Cup Cafe is one of the only Thai dessert shops and bakeries in Little Thailand. Located along Woodside Avenue, Tea Cup Cafe is a narrow eatery with just a handful of tables and seating near the small kitchen and drinks area. The cafe also has a small outdoor dining area for enjoying a selection of bubble teas, desserts, and entrees.

Appetizers mirror what can be found at other eateries in the area, from Esan sausage to fish cakes to chicken dumplings. Entrees include a variety of larbs and curries, as well as Kanom Jeen, a rice noodle dish commonly made with coconut milk and with a choice of chicken feet, fish balls, or blood. There are also some Chinese-inspired dishes like wonton or duck noodle soup. Bubble teas range from rose pineapple to passionfruit to honeydew, while smoothies include green tea, cappuccino, and mango. Desserts include toasted bread, shaved ice, and various cakes.

13. Pata Market

Pata in Little Thailand

Pata Market is perhaps the main Thai grocery store in Elmhurst, offering all sorts of fresh produce, imported snacks, and desserts. The market is filled to the brim with Thai goods, from juices to canned foods to dozens of chips. The market’s interior is bright and somewhat spacious, with white walls and a small display of the market’s logo in black.

The market in Little Thailand offers a small hot food menu consisting of dumplings, steamed buns, roti, pandan waffles, and crepes, as well as a selection of hot and cold beverages including durian. There are also barbecue skewers and mango with sticky rice for more filling options. The center of the market consists of dozens of prepackaged dishes such as curries, salads with fish balls, and basil pork and squid over rice. Desserts range from coconut ice cream to cassava cake to egg custard.

14. Pata Paplean

Pata in Little Thailand

Pata Paplean is a popular eatery and night spot along Woodside Avenue in Little Thailand. Known for its more elaborate outdoor displays of flowers and its intimate interior, Pata Paplean has a homey yet modern feel. The rather small interior includes all sorts of decorations including lots of plants, large beer posters, stuffed animals, and even a taxidermy deer head. The interior features all sorts of knickknacks along the walls with a rather open kitchen, landing it as #78 on the New York Times‘ Top 100 Restaurants list.

The menu is quite simple in comparison to some other spots in the area, featuring about a dozen Pata noodles including its signature Nam Tok noodles with a pork blood broth, fish sauce, pork liver, Chinese broccoli, and other additions. Other noodle dishes include roasted pork noodles, creamy Tom Yum soup, and Yen Ta Fo with bean curd and squid. The “Pata Food” section consists of Flashing Shrimp with garlic and mint, crispy pork skin, steamed mussels with Thai herbs, and pork meatloaf. There is also a small dessert menu that includes icy grass jelly and taro pearls in coconut cream.

Next, check out Untapped’s Guide to Little Indonesia in Elmhurst!