Whenever I visit Kim in NYC, we eat at Spice. One day we ate there twice. I'm sure there are hundreds of spectacular lesser-known Thai places around the city, and I've love to find them someday, but for some reason we have latched onto Spice, a sleek eatery that belongs to a family of restaurants with equally hard-to-Google names (Peep, Sea, and Eat). There are two locations near Kim's apartment, and the one we used to go to was always cramped and crowded. There was rarely much of a wait because they sweep you in and out with frightening speed, but you definitely get to know your dining neighbors pretty well. (Someone who shall remain nameless may have knocked over a glass of water into a neighbor's lap once.) Apparently this location moved somewhere else nearby and expanded a bit, but recently Kim discovered another location in the neighborhood. This one is always eerily empty. Maybe no one else has found it yet?
On Friday, we continued tradition and grabbed lunch at Spice. We were the only diners there the entire time, which was a bit awkward. They have nice little luncheon specials that come with a choice of appetizer. (Choices include tom yum soup, shrimp fritters, spring rolls, and a few others.) We both got the steamed vegetable dumplings, stuffed full of broccoli and spinach.
Whoosh. They were in front of us in minutes. Not bad, but I prefer the chicken and shrimp dumplings I've gotten in the past. We opted not to start in on cocktails since we figured we'd be drinking beer at the Goo Goo Dolls show later that night. (Wrong. Jones Beach doesn't sell alcohol.) In the past, though, I've tried several of their cocktails, and they were all light and refreshing with subtle hints of Thai flavors. Try anything with lychee.
For my entree, I chose the Wok Holy Basil with Tofu (a stir fry with peppers, onions, and chili). Weird...I've been ordering tofu lately. I never used to touch the stuff. I have no interest in becoming a vegetarian, but I feel good about cutting back a bit on the meat.
Ah, the rice cone. This has catered event dinner written all over it. It still makes me smile, though, that little mountain of satisfying carbs.
There's nothing all that special about Spice; it's just a trendy little place serving enjoyable (albeit Americanized) Thai food quickly and relatively cheaply. You'll find all the American standards, like Pad Thai and fried rice. The menu isn't very exotic. Your best bet here is a quick workday lunch; be a bit more adventurous and seek out a non-chain restaurant for dinner. The decor lends a zen-like quality to the ambiance, which feels bustling at the busy location and relaxing at the empty location, so it's a nice place to calm your thoughts mid-day.
I know we'll return to Spice. It's a reliably yummy, effortless decision. But if you put in a bit of effort, you can probably come up with several handfuls of more authentic hidden gems throughout the city.
My NYC weekend miniseries continues with Part III: Cupcake Quest - Cake and Shake. Or, jump ahead to Part IV: Magnolia Bakery, Part V: Tio Pepe - A Taste of Spain and Mexico in the West Village, or Part VI: A Farmers' Market on Wheels.