I am the biggest fan of Thai food. Any Thai takeout place, restaurant and lunch special worth talking about has been tried and tested by yours truly. So when I heard that the team behind Uncle Boons, a Michelin-starred Thai restaurant, opened up their new Thai-American fusion diner, I knew I had to try it. Nestled between Nolita and Little Italy, Thai Diner opened up shop in the exact spot my old pasta favorite, Sosta, used to operate. The anticipation was real.
Thai Diner immediately stood out from its surroundings with its bamboo-like wooden exteriors, which set the vibe right off the bat. The line to enter was long yet fast-moving, which was to be expected considering my friends and I arrived at around noon on a weekday — prime lunch rush hour. The decor inside truly embodied what I imagined Thai-American diner fusion would look like. The bamboo woven walls and large, potted, leafy green plants, paired with the diner staples of homely booths and long-running counters by the bar, really captured the essence of both cultures.
The menus were exactly like those you’d find at a typical American diner — huge and laminated with cute fonts. Amongst the three of us, we ordered Phat See Eiw, a typical Thai dish, the Fried Chicken Sandwich, a typical American diner dish, and the Thai Tea Babka French Toast, a seemingly perfect fusion of the two. I was a little surprised at the pricing, $13-15 — it was a little higher than I expected, especially considering they had no lunch specials either.
The food itself was of incredibly high quality. You’d think by attempting the fusion of two vastly different cuisines, it would be easy to lose their individual essences. Not only did Thai Diner keep those individual culinary spirits alive but it also created a new one that I think would appeal to everyone. The Phat See Eiw and Chicken Sandwich were both expertly seasoned and prepared, and the Phat See Eiw was modified to fit my allergies really well. They also threw in some crispy tofu which added a whole new textural layer to it.
The Thai Tea Babka French Toast was truly a dish of dreams. Who would have thought that adding some sliced papaya and condensed milk would elevate a dish already so beloved? We also noted that the toast had a raisin flavor to it, which is unusual for both American and Thai food, but we weren’t opposed to it. We saw a couple of vibrant and colorful tall drinks being served (potentially Thai Iced Tea milkshakes) that we regretted not ordering ourselves.
All in all, with the fast and friendly service and incredibly yummy food, I would highly recommend giving Thai Diner a shot, especially considering its proximity to several of NYU’s downtown dorms as it’s located at 186 Mott St.
A version of this article appears in the Monday, March 2, 2020 print edition. Email Ria Mittal at [email protected]