By Dane Feldman
Photos by Dane Feldman.
Of Spice’s 11 locations in New York City (including Brooklyn and Long Island City), I have now been to three in Manhattan. I have reviewed the Union Square location in the past, which is the Spice I have frequented most often. I have also been to the Upper West Side location twice and now I have been to one of the two Chelsea restaurants twice.
This review focuses specifically on the Chelsea restaurant situated on 8th Avenue between 20th Street and 21st Street, which is not to be confused with the Spice just two blocks up.
Spice is known for its exotic and inexpensive lunch specials, but the rest of the menu is also reasonably priced. One of the things I love about this chain of restaurants is that I’ll rarely find myself so far away from a Spice that I can’t dine here.
When I first learned about this restaurant about six years ago, I assumed the quality of the food couldn’t possibly be consistent, but it is. The produce at Spice Chelsea is just as fresh and the noodles just as delicious. Spice’s signature Pad Thai is a little sweeter than Pad Thai you may find elsewhere, but if you’re looking for theirs you can find it at any of their locations.
If anything, I’d say the red curry at this spot is perhaps spicier than at the Upper West Side location, but it is equally likely that I am simply misremembering. It was pretty damn good at the Upper West Side Spice, too.
All Spice restaurants operate on an identical menu that offers a variety of noodles, fried rice, sauteed dishes, curries, and a large selection of appetizers, salads, and specialty entrees. I should mention that their crab rangoons are among the best around (pictured above).
Most–if not all—Spices serve specialty cocktails, beer, Thai iced coffee, Thai iced tea, and soft drinks and several locations boast a full bar. This location does not boast a full bar, but does serve cocktails, beer, Thai iced tea and coffee, and soft drinks.
The wait staff at this location is extremely friendly, attentive, and knowledgeable.
Spice Chelsea is truly a neighborhood spot and it’s a much smaller restaurant than the Union Square location (which almost always has a wait even though it’s two floors and boasts seating at a full bar) and a fair bit smaller than the Upper West Side restaurant.
The interior is a bit no-frills, which lends itself to the neighborhood joint vibe. If you’re looking for more of an experience in addition to good quality food, my recommendation is to make a reservation for the Union Square location, but if you want a low-key, great meal with a calming atmosphere, this Chelsea spot is just right.