If you’re a native Thai speaker in San Francisco, you’re likely to hear “Kon Thai ler ka?” from other Thais, a greeting similar to a head-nod, followed by a wai to welcome you inside. Then it’s a hundred questions about when you moved from Bangkok, what your family does, and whether the food is spicy enough. Thai food’s prominence in the Bay Area is disproportionate to number of Thais living in San Francisco (0.3% of the city’s population), and this is especially noticeable during brunch at Thai temples, where most of the volunteers aren’t even Thai. Imagine my surprise at being served boat noodles, nom kok, and som tum by farangs at Wat Mongkolratanaram on a Sunday morning while Thai adults were upstairs offering language classes and daily services for the pious. Enjoy this guide to San Francisco’s Thai offerings.
Kitchen Story (3499 16th St)
A spicy Bloody Mary on the sidewalk before being seated is your reward for surviving Kitchen Story’s hellish Sunday lines. This popular brunch joint co-owned by Farmhouse Kitchen’s Chef Kasem “Pop” Saengsawang offers a Thai/Korean-influenced brunch that stands out from their competition’s drab eggs and pancakes. Indulge in a slab of Millionaire’s Bacon and Mascarpone-Stuffed Deep-Fried French Toast, or if you’re starving, a spicy Bulgogi Burger.
Farmhouse Kitchen (710 Florida St)
Located at the corner of Florida St. and 19th, this brightly decorated Bib Gourmand recommended restaurant serves specials family style, with wait staff adorned in neon chong kraben. Their som tum is darker in color (more fish sauce!), they pair khao dok anchan (fragrant blue rice!) with fried chicken, and they grill the Wagyu steak right at your table. Look out for special appetizers coming around in food baskets, and welcome a cymbal-banging entourage on your birthday.
Na Ya Dessert House (5338 Geary Blvd)
Roti Cha Tha! Blended shaved ice with condensed milk! Crepes! As one of the only non-Cantonese dessert places in the Inner Richmond, expect a line late into the evening as you determine where to allocate your daily calories. The good news is each serving size is large enough to share between two and three people, so you may have to order a few dishes to test.
Iyara Traditional Thai Massage (4328 Geary Blvd)
Arrive early to heat up those stiff muscles in their infrared sauna, then slip into loose clothes to be stretched and rocked. Masseuses will use elbows, feet, and hands to heal stress, tension, and tight knuckles by cracking and pulling rather than kneading. Say yes to the menthol rub to soothe sore muscles. Speak Thai and receive a slight discount.
World Team USA (445 Judah St)
The owner and head instructor of this highly organized Muay Thai gym, Kru Sam Phimsoutham, turns even the most petite girls into fist-throwing winning machines for competition. Open for over two decades, this all-encompassing fighter’s club offers classes from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m., catering to fitness aficionados and amateur fighters alike. Try your first class for free.
Dogo Love (538 Castro St)
Four-legged friends can find handmade gifts manufactured in Thailand in the middle of Castro St., next door to dog groomers Mudpuppy’s and across the street from Best in Show. Dogo Love offers pillows with dog illustrations on them, totes, and key chains in large and small sizes. Ask owner Por-Phol Meeriyagerd and his two French bulldogs, Tucker and Obi, about the latest shipment of goods from the motherland.