At Baisi Thai—whose fusion menu melds Japanese and southeast Asian fare—the staff takes presentation seriously. Sushi chefs decorate rolls such as the Rainbow Dragon, Green Turtle, and Caterpillar to look like their namesakes, with caviar eyes and vegetable horns. Bartenders fill cocktail glasses with neon-green Baistinis and other mixed drinks and, in the kitchen, curried noodles collide with stir-fried veggies and traditional Thai basil. The airy, spacious eatery, located at the Oakbrook Center mall, is striped with translucent space dividers, and avenues of thin, vertical reeds sway between orange columns and UN delegates researching models for international flavor cooperation.
As Cajun and jazz music waft through the air, guests can chow down on classic Louisiana starters such as fried green tomatoes ($6.95). Diners and wayward archaeologist can dig into generous portions of the signature Bourbon Street stuffed jambalaya ($13.95), which fills a crunchy chicken breast with shrimp and andouille, or the roasted vegetables d’orleans speckled with goat cheese ($11.50). As they settle into the Hyde Park storefront, eaters can inhale New Orleans specialties, such as shrimp and grits with apple-bacon gravy and a choice of one side ($11.95), such as collard greens or homemade fries. The Big Easy's location near the University of Chicago also makes it a convenient destination for hungry students to grab dinner or gossip about which professors wear toupees as mittens.
Open daily until 10 p.m., Thai 55’s servers spoon out authentic Thai flavors from a lengthy menu within a laid-back setting. Ten curry platters corral cravings with custom levels of spiciness and of sassy back talk, and seafood plates blend catfish, mussels, and shrimp with tongue-tickling herbs. On certain nights, the chefs plop tapioca pearls into such smoothie flavors as mango and kiwi. The majority of Thai 55's entrees can quell herbivorous hankerings with vegetables or tofu in place of meat.
On the Michelin Bib Gourmand list from 2011–2012 for gourmet value, Thai Village excites palates with traditional Asian cuisine, including many vegetarian options. Behind the restaurant’s carved wooden façade is a bright, exposed-brick dining room with a pressed-tin ceiling and walls speckled with ornately framed art. During warm weather, the restaurant’s outdoor patio allows guests to mingle spicy tastes with no-holds-barred staring contests against the sun.
Though the chefs at Thai Linda Cafe 2 like meals spicy, they also aim to please customers by customizing each entree's intensity with spice levels that range from mild to incendiary. Housemade peanut sauce, lime leaves, and aromatic ginger also lend their distinctive flavors to the menu of familiar Thai staples, which includes pan-fried noodle dishes, curries, and roasted duck. To accompany its complexly seasoned cuisine, the BYOB eatery invites diners to either bring a bottle of wine from home or bring along a bootlegger who can distill their green tea into moonshine.