I visited a well-Yelped Thai resto called Thunwa, which sits unobtrusively in town, annexed to a local hotel. The Yelp reviews noted that the ambience didn't seem very Thai at all, but that the food and the service were fantastic. I decided to give the place a try this evening after work. The service was indeed friendly, and from the menu I ordered a tom yum soup, a chicken satay appetizer, and a rather immodestly named shrimp kapow. Photos follow: first the appetizers, then the main course.
The soup was redolent with lemon grass, and I made the unfortunate mistake of chewing on the little wood chips (OK, they're not really pieces of lumber) floating in the soup. This didn't diminish my appreciation of the soup's lovely broth, or of the fairly large shrimp cohabiting with mushrooms and green onions in the bowl.
The satay was fantastic: some of the juiciest breast meat I've ever eaten. The peanut sauce that came with the chicken was a perfect match, and the little plate of crunchy, marinated vegetables (cukes and onions, mostly) made for a fine complement. The toast points were both amusing and confusing; I wasn't quite sure what to do with them, or how Thai they were. I ended up piling veggies onto the bread, and using the last piece of toast to make a tiny, open-faced sandwich with my final bite of chicken. I could have eaten nothing but that appetizer tonight, and I'd have been perfectly happy.
The main course, the shrimp kapow, came out on two separate plates: a plate of white perfumed rice, and the shrimp dish. I airlifted the shrimp mix onto the rice and went to town; the kapow was a mite spicy, which of course made me break into a sweat-- something that one of the waitresses remarked upon with amusement ("Are you crying?"). I didn't want to tell her that I sweat at the drop of a hat, and that sweat is no indication of my spice tolerance. I can actually take habanero-level spices (see this old post from 2005), and tonight's meal was nothing close, my perspiration notwithstanding.
All in all, I'd have to agree with the Yelpers: Thunwa is a very good place to eat. Given how lame my town is when it comes to good eating, I'm always happy to find spots, however hidden they may be, that I can recommend to visiting friends. So far, my list is:
1. Jalisco-- decent Mexican food for a good price, although the service tends to be a bit annoying.
2. Foster's Grille-- a very recent discovery, and a place that serves kick-ass burgers at better-than-Five-Guys prices.
3. Yamafuji-- $18 all-you-can-eat sushi buffet at lunch, with decent pricing (for sushi and bento boxes). Like most US-based Japanese restos, it's Korean-run.
4. Houlihan's-- a bit outside of town. It's somewhere in the Bennigan's/Applebee's/Outback Steakhouse ballpark. Decent-quality food; not cheap, but not too expensive, either. Don't go for the burgers, but do go for the fettuccine and jambalaya.
5. Melting Pot Pizza-- the best damn pizza in town. And it's really damn good. A family-owned joint that's been using the same formula for its pizza for decades. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
6. The Apple House-- technically, it's in the next town over, but it serves a mean one-pound hamburger, as well as one of the most gorgeous, make-you-cry pulled-pork sandwiches in all of Appalachia.
7. Los Potrillos-- another Mexican joint that I went to with Mike and his family. The place isn't fantastic, but it isn't bad, either.
8. McAlister's Deli-- a bit pricey, and portions could be somewhat bigger, but the overall quality isn't bad at all. Definitely for the lefty/granola crowd.
9. Pikes [sic] Grill-- formerly Three Brothers' Burgers, this resto still serves a good, solid meal. They also run a several-pound food challenge, which I'm contemplating taking, even if it means shitting for five hours straight.
My town harbors dozens of restaurants, and it's a shame to be able to recommend only nine. But I'm not done searching; there are still plenty of diners and pizzerias to check out. More info on this as it comes.
One final remark: Thai food, once it settles in your stomach, makes for some of the all-time best postprandial belch vapors. Mmm... so fragrant.