By Dane Feldman
Photo by Dane Feldman.
One of my all-time favorite restaurants is the very quaint and humble Thailand Diner in Clark, New Jersey. For those of you who dine out as often as I do, you know that picking favorites isn’t easy, but Thailand Diner has been in my top 3 since I was about 13 for a number of reasons.
Thailand Diner doesn’t have a liquor license—it’s BYOB, but if you bring Mexican beer with you, they’re happy to bring you some lime wedges for free. As far as nonalcoholic beverages go, though, their Thai iced tea is the best I’ve had (and I’ve been to at least a score of other Thai restaurants).
I could go on for hours about the food here. Most Thai restaurants are fairly affordable, but the prices are good here. Regardless of price, the food is above and beyond when compared to other Thai places I’ve been to. I can safely say that I’ve yet to try a dish I didn’t enjoy and I’ve been dining at this restaurant for at least 10 years.
What I like most is the system they use for adding heat to the dishes. You can order any dish mild, medium, or hot. Mild has a nice kick, but medium is plenty hot (and I love heat). I wouldn’t suggest trying hot in any of the dishes, though. Trust me when I say the owner calls my family, friends, and me “the spicy group” and I only ever get medium.
As far as specifics go, I’d recommend the mussels appetizer, jungle curry, gra tiem, and pad kee mao most, but as I said, I haven’t tried anything I didn’t enjoy. You also can’t go wrong with classics like the spring rolls, pad thai, or red curry.
The flavors in every dish complement each other well and even when I order things spicy, the heat doesn’t overpower the flavors. The owners also grow a fair amount of their herbs and spices and even some produce on site, so the food is consistently fresh tasting.
When I say I love the wait staff at Thailand, I really love them. I know them by name, including the owners Alex and Cindy (who are about to turn the restaurant over to their daughter so they can retire and move back to Thailand) and I’ve always been treated well. The waitresses are kind, informative, and great at remembering what I like. Once I started frequenting the place, they would recommend dishes to me based on what I’d eaten in the past. I’ve yet to be steered in the wrong direction.
When it comes to ambience, however, the place is a bit run down. It’s set up like an old diner (it may have been an American diner before) and it is decorated with tacky Buddha knickknacks, but in a way that’s what makes this place great. It’s quaint, unassuming, casual, warm, and all in all wonderful place to dine.
Would I go back? Yes, as I’ve been at least 50 times already.