A young coworker of mine was headed out to pick up some Thai take-out for lunch.

“Jodi,” she told me, “when I drove across the country there was no Thai food for hundreds and hundreds of miles.  No teriyaki either.  Or pho.  Or sushi.”

I gaped, aghast.  “No Asian food?”

“Well, every town had a Chinese restaurant.”

I shuddered.  I’ve been in those restaurants.  Dim places smelling of urinal cakes with smoky karaoke bars and filthy fish tanks.

“Seriously?  No Thai places in the Midwest?”

She shook her head sadly.

Is it true, Midwest Xangans?  Is there no panang to be had east of the Cascades and west of Chicago?  (PLEASE tell me they have Thai food in Chicago.)

And if it’s true…good god, what do y’all eat?


28 thoughts on “SPEAKING OF FOOD…

  1. I don’t know about everywhere in the midwest, but I live 40 miles north of chicago and we have an authentic thai restaurant in our sleepy little burb.  serves the most amazing thai food every single day.  and the lady who owns it actually was born & raised in thailand, moved here after she married a soldier 30 years ago. I guess we’re just fortunate that she choose the midwest to reside.

  2. We have Thai and Vietnamese and sushi and a LOT of Tex-Mex and a LOT of Italian, and steakhouses, of course, and quite a bit of South American (mmmmmm) and BBQ (REAL BBQ) and several cajun places and a few notable French restaurants and lots of delicious, authentic Indian food.  Don’t take this the wrong way, but my experiences in the northwest have led me to believe that the ONLY decent cuisine in that region is Asian.  It’s one of the reasons (aside from the weather and the pesky law licenses) that we can’t move.

  3. There are some very good Thai and Vietnamese restaurants in St. Paul/ Minneapolis, but I have to admit, since moving to Wisconsin, I’ve yet to find one. and I get spring roll cravings that can last for months! 

  4. At those chinese food feeding troughs they often have “sushi” that is premade.  Not worth looking at let alone eating.  That shrimp looks good.As for a bowling score of 68…good enough to put you in the leagues of our forthcoming U.S. president.

  5. There are a couple of Thai places around here.  I don’t even like Chinese food very much, so I’ve avoided most other Asian restaurants.  There are several Indian places but the food seems very dry to me.  I really prefer good old American seafood, and Italian. In my humble opinion, the trouble with most restaurants today is that their food is drowning in pepper.  Why is food only deemed acceptable if it burns your mouth out?

  6. Never had Thai food and I am surely not living in hell.   I live in TEXAS, for gosh sakes and we have lots of TexMex, great steaks, good ol’ suthin cookin’ and since I am close to LA, good Cajun food.    Don’t need Thai.    Ava

  7. How about THE THAI KITCHEN at 12210 Madison Ave. in CLEVELAND, OHIO  (I recall you have visited there on occasion) .   Phone 1-216-226-4450 and perhaps they will deliver.

  8. Of course there’s Thai food in the Midwest–all over the place, from Chicago (where I live) to many of the smaller Midwest cities (30,000+), where I have lived and currently teach. Now stop all this coastal snobbery about the Midwest being a cultural and culinary wasteland. It’s a stereotype. P.S. Smoking has been banned in Illinois, so there are no smoky Chinese restaurants here. But there is pho and sushi. A lot of sushi, actually–probably more sushi than Thai, at least near my house.

  9. I believe there is Thai here. I know there is Korean, Japanese, Chinese. My favorite place is Peng’s Moo Goo Gai Pan and I don’t know if that is Chinese, assuming it is. I get a kick out of the little tea cups with no handle that burn the heck out of your fingers.

  10. I live in the mountains of NC, which definitely does not qualify as “Midwest”, but the dearth of decent ethnic food here is a constant source of heartache (not to be confused with ‘heartburn’, although the non-decent ethnic food certainly qualifies on that count).  We JUST got a Thai restaurant (and, blessedly, a WONDERFUL one) a couple of years ago, prior to which we had to drive an hour and a half just to get good Thai.  I’m still BEGGING for an Indian restaurant.  The one Vietnamese place that opened up called itself the “Double-H Bar and Grille”, so no one knew what it was and it failed miserably in less than a year.  We had a Cuban place for about three months but they closed for the holidays this year and never reopened…  We’re a college town AND have a huge tourist influx three seasons out of the year, so there is absolutely no excuse for the lack of variety.Please, please, I’m begging you, if you know ANYONE that wants to carry the joy of wonderful non-American cooking to hitherto unexplored areas of the east coast, SEND THEM HERE!  I’ll even help them with a business plan and do their first year taxes for FREE.  PLEEEEEEEEEEASE!!!!!!!!

  11. I think most urban places will have a variety of cuisines, but I’m sure there are suburban and rural areas where anything other than said Hardees or Taco Bell are going to be few and far between.  My friend moved to southeast Kansas – she said there’s one steak house that constitutes sit-down restaurant dining – and no “specialty” grocery stores.  She couldn’t even find sourdough bread or balsamic vinegar unless she drove 3-hours to the big city.  weird. 

  12. There is an awesome thai food restaurant here in Tulsa that has the best pad thai I’ve eaten anywhere..  We also have several sushi places that are okay and one that is fantastic.  So there’s some hope!

  13. There is (or was) an excellent Tai restaurant in Jackson, Michigan. I ate there once and am hardly an expert, but those ubiquitous “friends” all assured me it was good and authentic. I’ll have to rely on my friend Matt to tell you about Tai food in this area, since he’s more likely to wander away from steak and potatoes than I am. In Kalamazoo we do have some truly excellent Chinese restaurants (as well as the dark and dingy places that serve Krogers sushi and authentic Chinese hot-dogs-in-bacon-and-barbeque-sauce.I am probably the only Midwesterner who does not particularly care for pico de gallo, curry, hot peppers, or those other exotic seasonings that make your nose run and tears stream down your face. If you would print it on your menu in red to warn me, I’m one of those people you’re warning against it.   

  14. @Barn_Bear – thanks for bringing back memories, see the bar next door? omg I walked home from there once – not far just to 150th & detroit in a drunken, angry moment.  wonder if that place still exists?  can’t say I remember the thai place but then again I was only 18 so wasn’t all that concerned about food.

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