Simple Asian décor, wood-paneled walls and dark cherry tables pepper Thai Orchid Restaurant on Jacksonville’s south side. Overstuffed green leather booths and Asian-inspired wall art complete the vibe inside this casual eatery located next to a Publix in a one-story strip mall, where Thai favorites like papaya salad, pad Thai, and mango sticky rice emerge frequently from the diminutive kitchen. Thai Orchid Restaurant offers large portions of traditional Thai favorites, including a few unexpected twists, like a pineapple curry with chicken. Otherwise, laid-back eaters looking for an inexpensive Thai meal stick to the Panang or excelled Thai iced teas. There’s not much to make you want to linger once the meal is over, unless you count the unfalteringly nice waitstaff. If you live close enough, you may even just opt for takeout instead.
Green Papaya Restaurant is a Pan-Asian restaurant on the north side of Jacksonville, delivering a host of salads, soups and entrées that span a variety of cultures. Diners can cruise through a few different cuisines as they navigate from the appetizer menu to the more expansive list of main dishes, compiling entrées like drunken noodles, Bangkok stir-fry, basil lamb, Thai green papaya pork chop and Szechuan-style tiger shrimp. With glass-topped tables and tall, sleek chairs, the eclectic interior mixes wrought iron wall art with Japanese screens and a vibrant green tint throughout. Softly lit with overhead recessed lighting and a green tiled bar area, Green Papaya is inviting without being intrusive, fun without being too relaxed.
Pom Souvannosoth has been treating Jacksonville to Thai specialties for more than 15 years at a series of acclaimed restaurants, including Old Siam and Pom’s Thai Bistro. At Poms Signature Restaurant, he pulls in a broader range of Asian influences to craft a concise menu of seasonally inspired dishes. Entrees evolve throughout the year to showcase the freshest local fish, shrimp, and vegetables, but guests can count on a few recurring standbys such as green curry diver scallops and beef short rib osso bucco seasoned with Thai basil. In addition to organic salads and all-natural beef and chicken, the kitchen stocks mostly wild-caught fish baited by free credit card offers.
Since its opening in late 2012, the restaurant has already established a reputation for ambition and creativity: Erika Burks of The Florida Times-Union found the shu mai dumplings—a simple Thai standard enriched by duck broth and pork belly—“deliriously good” and the wait staff “knowledgeable and prompt, while making small talk and thoughtful recommendations.” Jacksonville Magazine praised the “pleasing combination of an intimate atmosphere and an inspired, worldly menu” and described a peanut butter and chocolate soufflé as “what every peanut butter cup in the world tries (and fails) to be.”
Pom has created a dining room he calls "upscale" and "intimate," with chandeliers, large-print floral paintings, and crisp white accents popping against chocolate-toned walls. But, he adds, the elegance shouldn't intimidate anyone: "It's white tablecloth, but no dress code."
Blue Bamboo sits on Jacksonville’s south side, spinning hip Asian flavors with Southern comfort food inside their fresh, inviting space. Considered one of the best restaurants in town, you’ll find dishes like red curry shrimp & grits, honey-seared ahi tuna and peppercorn beef filet on offer at Blue Bamboo, which also holds cooking classes and does the occasional catering gig. Known for their dim sum Sundays and exotic cocktails like Thai-garitas and hand-muddled mojitos, the cream colored walls, white linen tables and red hanging paper lanterns give the place a comfortable feel. Don’t leave without trying the dragon whiskers (fried zucchini).
At Watami Asian Fusion Buffet, diners can feast on Asian dishes that run the gamut from sushi to Peking duck. When they're not savoring specialties such as roasted pork, guests can find their favorite dishes among the buffet's sprawling selection of Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, and Thai options.
The couples eating Valentine's Day dinner at Buddha Thai Bistro would have been flooded with rose pedals, if not for the gauzy tapestries that hung from the ceiling and held them aloft. The eatery's ceiling is a canvas that changes with the seasons, sporting hundreds of folded paper sculptures for the Thai New Year or colorful streamers for other celebrations. Though the decor fluctuates, Buddha Thai Bistro's commitment to flavorful cuisine remains constant. In the kitchen, seven varieties of curry simmer with meat and vegetables, fried rice sizzles alongside eggs and glass noodles, and extra spices lend a sobering kick to drunk-man noodles, served for lunch or dinner. A new vegan menu offers dishes such as soy shrimp and papaya salad and tofu egg rolls, and a robust wine menu helps diners pair reds, whites, and sakes with their meals.