When I moved to the Orlando, Florida area from the DC Metro region, around seven years ago, I felt the Thai restaurant offerings in the area were few and unremarkable. The food was bland, and in many cases, unappetizing. I love Thai food and it has taken awhile for the local scene to change and, thankfully, it has.
Many people who visit Orlando immediately think of the resort areas near the entertainment venues such as Universal, SeaWorld and the Disney attractions. The restaurants I’m recommending as the best in the area are NOT located in those areas. The really good Thai food is located north and south of Downtown Orlando and run by local families.
Here are a few of the best alternatives.
Phat Thai Café
303 E. Altamonte Dr.
Altamonte Springs, FL
Phone: (407) 331-8803
Mon – Fri: 11:00 am – 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm – 9:30 pm
Sat: 4:00 pm – 9:30 pm
Sun: 11:00 am – 9:30 pm
Major Credit Cards Accepted
One of the newest places on the scene is Phat Thai Cafe, located in the Renaissance Shopping Center (across the street from DSW Shoes), in Altamonte Springs (about 15 minutes north of downtown Orlando). If you are looking for high-end atmosphere this is not the place for you. But, if you are looking for food infused with fresh basil and cilantro, a variety of excellently prepared Thai dishes and soups and friendly family-oriented service, this is the place for you.
Located in a storefront location, seating is simple but at times sparse and the chairs weren’t made for lounging at the table. But, the Wonton Soup is one of the best I’ve tasted and can be ordered as an entrée. The broth was light yet tasty with plenty of shrimp wontons interspersed with cilantro, scallions and other tasty bits of vegetables.
The daily fish special offers a choice of different sauces to flavor the fish of the day but I favor the Basil Sauce. The smell alone is worth the price. The menu is not overly extensive but there are plenty of choices and “heat” options for those who want to customize their meal.
I’m not the only person who thinks this place is a great find. Reviewers on Yelp and Facebook have also found this little gem to be one of the best Thai places around. The restaurant offers take-out but does not take reservations and at the time of this writing does not have a liquor license (but they are working on that). They have table and bar seating (where you can watch the cooks) and a small outdoor patio area (with little to no ambience) for outdoor dining.
The lack of ambience is made up for in the great food and reasonable prices offered by this establishment.
Durian Durian Fusion Thai Cuisine
10743 Narcoossee Road
Phone: (407) 282-2992
Lunch: Mon-Fri 11am-3pm, Sat 12pm-3pm, Sun Closed
Dinner: Mon-Fri 4:30pm-10pm, Sat 3pm-10:30pm, Sun 4pm-9:30pm
Major Credit Cards Accepted
Clear on the other side of town, in the Lake Nona area, you can find Durian Durian. Even though it is named after a smelly fruit, the place exudes a rich and aromatic Thai atmosphere. The restaurant is bright with beautiful Thai décor and the service is friendly (though sometimes a little slow).
The menu is creative, extensive and the results are tasty and fragrant. The excellent assortment of appetizers (or small plates) would be enough to make a meal but that would leave you no room in your stomach to eat the Chef Creations. The Ginger Stir Fry with Grilled Salmon was excellently prepared and my companions, who ordered a variety of curries, loved their choices as well.
On their website the restaurant owners highlight their Three Taste Flavor Fish Fillet or Whole Fish, Lychee Siamese Duck and the Fresh Mango with Sweet Sticky Rice as their signature dishes. Although we didn’t try these, the entrees we have tried have all been cheerfully served, excellently prepared and very filling. Overall, the menu offers more than just the typical standard Thai fare with creative offerings in the Thai style of cooking. You won’t be bored reading the menu.
The place can be hard to find because it is located in the back side of a shopping center (behind the Outback Steakhouse, which is front and center). The entrees here are a not cheap but still moderately priced and still offer good value for the money spent.
Pilin Thai Restaurant
851 W State Road 436 Ste 1029
Altamonte Springs, FL
Phone: (407) 788-1862
Offers Lunch and Dinner.
Call for hours of operation.
Back up in Altamonte Springs, Pilin Thai is another family-owned and operated restaurant that has a strong following. Based on Yelp reviews and my own experience, if you are looking for curry then this is probably not your best choice but if you crave Pad Thai then you won’t be disappointed.
This place is larger on the inside than it appears on the outside and although the décor points to the fact that it is a Thai restaurant, it strikes me as a little drab compared to other Thai places. That said, the seating is comfortable and the service was excellent.
The summer rolls were excellent and refreshing with the right amount of shrimp, herbs and vegetables. Entrees can be ordered to be less hot (spicy hot that is) than normal but that doesn’t mean they still won’t be hot. This is one place where they don’t scrimp on the “heat.” Keep something sweet nearby to counteract the hot and spicy so you can actually taste and enjoy the food. The flavor is definitely there.
This doesn’t rate as my all time favorite Thai restaurant in the area but it was one of the first to reasonably satisfy my lust for decent Thai food and is very well regarded by other local Thai cravers.
All of these restaurants have free parking areas and a casual atmosphere so you can relax over a good meal with friends without worrying about where to park and what to wear. Just concentrate on having a great Thai meal.