The Best Thai Restaurants In San Francisco

When a significant number of Thai immigrants began arriving in California in the 1960s, they brought along not just suitcases and passports, but also the culinary culture of their homeland. But soon those immigrants who opened restaurants felt compelled to curtail the spiciness of their dishes, finding the American palate preferred less intense flavors. Today, however, San Francisco is home to plenty of unabashedly authentic joints, where diners can experience dishes such as kaeng phed curry and seua rong hai beef in all their fiery and flavorful glory.
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Multiple Locations: Fortuneteller Hostess

It's best to dig into the corn cakes at Marnee Thai as soon as the plate hits your table. The delicate texture of these sweet fritters loses something if you don't eat them while they're piping hot. Luckily, chef Chai Siriyarn's wife May is there to remind eaters not to dawdle—and occasionally to tell them their fortunes.

Castro: Popular Chive Cakes

You just might need an order of cool coconut palm juice when dining at Thai House Express, considering its noodles, curries, and Thai salads skew so spicy. For something milder, try the chive cakes—gooey fried rice-flour dumplings that have earned a loyal following among local Thai enthusiasts.

Multiple Locations: Late-Night Thai

With seven thriving locations scattered throughout town, Osha Thai has come far from its humble origins as a bare-bones joint in the Tenderloin. Crowds of diners pack that original Tenderloin spot until as late as 3 a.m., dead-set on getting their green curry or noodle soup fix before bedtime.

Marina: Spicy Coconut Soup

Yukol Place's tom kha gai soup, with its spicy coconut broth and warm morsels of tender chicken, is particularly appealing on a chilly night. Chef Yukol Nieltaweephong is the mastermind behind this tummy-warming dish, as well as seafood specialties such as tod mon—fried fish cakes with sweet-and-sour cucumber sauce.

Mission Bay: Pumpkin Curry

Aom Phanthong took great care when selecting the Thai antiques that would decorate her restaurant, and it shows. The dining room, with its golden statues and palm-wood chairs, is one of the most elegant of any Thai restaurant in the city. Phanthong's clever dishes, such as the pumpkin curry, pair well with the bar's tropical cocktails.

Multiple Locations: Dishes with Exotic Game

Chef Tom Silargorn remains faithful to the recipes he learned from his mother in Bangkok, refusing to compromise on spices and ingredients for the sake of crafting a mainstream-friendly menu. The chef works with uncommon meats such as alligator, rabbit, and frog, and peppers dishes with green peppercorn and a fiery house-made chili sauce.

Central Sunset: Secret Menu

You no longer have to be able to read Thai to understand the notorious "secret menu" at Chabaa. The 39-dish list of Isaan specialties is now printed in English, which means even Thai novices can enjoy its sour orange curry, sautéed wild boar, and tender grilled pork neck.

Russian Hill: Market-Fresh Ingredients

Most San Franciscans are still asleep when Toi Sawatdee peruses the city's produce markets in search of the freshest basil, bamboo shoots, and snow peas. After gathering her ingredients, Toi spends the rest of her day in the Lemongrass Thai Cuisine kitchen, preparing dishes such as green salmon coconut curry and spicy chicken soup.