Dining on the Road – Three Thai restaurants to note: Arun’s, Chicago; Sokhothai, Winnipeg, MB; & Siam Thai, Billings, MT
We are vegan and are no longer challenged to find decent restaurants on the road with the explosion of Asian restaurants- particularly, Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese. With the exception of East Indian restaurants, most other ethnic restaurants are animal based. Just twenty years ago, there were Chinese restaurants that did not serve “bean curd” – tofu.
A note on reviewing: Rarely do we discover restaurants worth reviewing. We are not interested in punishing restaurants, hotels, activities, etc. by writing bad reviews. That’s too easy – in fact I used to negatively criticize just because it made me feel better about myself – that I was able to find something wrong with some aspect of some business, event. I felt “smarter” because I could identify someone’s error, poor service. Reflecting on this, I found that I was damaging myself – residing in the negative and, really, in “pride.” Thus, here are some positive reviews:
Last month, while on vacation, we experienced two “new to us” incredibly fine Thai restaurants – Sukhothai Restaurant in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada – which ranks as the best standard Thai restaurant we have found and Siam Thai in Billings, Montana, the second best. (The consideration “standard” is required to distinguish most Thai restaurants from the artistic Arun’s in Chicago. More on that later.)
At Winnipeg’s Sokhothai Restaurant vegetables are perfect – sauces complex, spicy and yet absolutely flavorful. Service is attentive and knowledgeable. We appreciated the menu’s pricing – animal based dishes are $1 to $2 additional – partially reflecting the greater resource cost for animal foods. (There’s no way to quantify the suffering.) Sokhothai is located at Osborne and Gertrude on the south end of Osborne Village.
Siam Thai in Billings, Montana is in the west end of the city at 3219 Henesta in a small strip mall. Although we only ate lunch, it was remarkable and this restaurant is our second favorite standard Thai restaurant in North America – the first being Sokhothai in Winnipeg. Admittedly we haven’t explored Thai Restaurants in Montreal, Toronto, Kansas City, St. Louis, etc. But we have in California’s major cities, New York City, and Chicago.
And in Chicago is a Thai restaurant that redefines Thai cuisine and is not at all “standard.” In Chicago during the run-up to the presidential elections, Alex introduced us to a remarkable Thai restaurant – Arun’s. The dishes here are incredible. Chef Arun Sampanthavivat is an artist. The vegetables and flavors are just right, the sauces amazing – and the plating – outstanding. Arun serves a prix fixe 12 course dinner and a night at Arun’s is memorable. Each course – six appetizers, four entrees, and two desserts comprise an exquisite evening. Although Sokhothai and Siam Thai’s flavors are outstanding and wholesome, a single dish is a meal where Arun’s tasting menu is twelve dishes tailored to each diner. And Arun’s is in no way “standard”. I know of no other Thai restaurant like Arun’s: it is incomparable and for this reason, perhaps, has received a Five Diamond Award from the American Automobile Association.
Vegan Icelandic? When in Manitoba, we stay in Matlock at Joan’s cottage. Just up the road is Gimli, Manitoba, the largest Icelandic community outside Iceland. Here we discovered another dining “find” in a former jewelry store, Cronshaws. Joan’s oldest friend introduced us – her husband did the extensive woodworking – darkly stained paneling to invoke an intimate British pub. Although in Midwestern Canada, Cronshaws features a menu with dishes created with organic ingredients. The creators of this rural miracle in a fishing village provide a number of vegan items. And they are concerned about health: the bake their “fries” – really potato wedges. They were only able to serve us nine small wedges – because they ran out . Wat we tasted were excellent. They also offer vegan sandwiches, soups, salads and a Turkish appetizer plate with humus and baba ganoush. Cronshaws is truly futuristic…. In the Midwest, in a fishing community populated by Vikings!
In summary – from north to south we recommend Cronshaws Pub in Gimli, Sokhothai in Winnipeg, Siam Thai in Billings, and Arun’s in Chicago.