The Thai community in Kansas City is small, but its impact on KC’s food scene is noticeable. Thai food in Kansas City dots the map from north to south on both sides of the state line.
There are upscale restaurants and grab-and-go lunch spots. Each Thai restaurant in Kansas City serves its own take on traditional and modern Thai cuisine. If you’re looking for something spicy, sweet, nutty or savory, then you can probably find it on the menu of a Thai place in KC.
Thai cuisine is on the periphery of most casual diners’ view. It’s not the most common type of food. You may be looking for a place to give it a try for the first time. Or, you could be one of the few seasoned Thai consumers. Either way, this guide to Thai food in Kansas City will give you an overview of what’s happening in this unique corner of KC’s restaurant landscape.
What is Thai Food?
Most of us are familiar with Thai cuisine’s cousin, Chinese food. The two share similar natural resources, relying heavily on what their land and oceans provide. But it’s what a chef does with the ingredients that matters, and Thai culinary techniques have created a unique, delicious cuisine.
Thailand is rich with rice fields, which is why rice is served with most Thai dishes. On top of the rice, there is typically a meat or fish along with fresh vegetables. Thai cooking uses hefty doses of curry, which is similar to the curry used in Indian food. However, Thai curry is made with spices that bring out flavors that are totally different from the Indian curry.
Thai food in Kansas City is typically salty, sweet, sour and spicy. Thai spice is the stuff of legend, so don’t assume you can handle it just because you can down a few buffalo wings without breaking a sweat. Start low and work your way up.
Meals at traditional Thai restaurants in Kansas City are often served family-style. And at upscale Thai spots, the plating is important. Presentation matters in Thai culinary tradition, so you should get a beautiful meal that is ready for your Instagram story.
Where to Find Thai Restaurants in Kansas City
The Thai community isn’t concentrated in one area of the city, and neither is Kansas City Thai food. You can find a Thai shop in downtown and Overland Park, in the Crossroads and Waldo. East, west, north, south: there’s a Thai restaurant in Kansas City for you.
Lulu’s Thai Noodle Shop is one of the most highly reviewed spots in the city. You can find it just off Southwest Boulevard on the west side of the Crossroads. Lulu’s is the work of Malisa Monyakula, who has been serving Thai food around the Kansas City area since 1997. She has created a casual spot for top-notch Thai food in KC.
“The reason I opened this restaurant is because my fondest childhood memory was my dad preparing meals for friends and family,” Monyakula says. “In Thailand you’re always talking about the next meal.”
Waldo Thai is another local classic. This KC Thai shop is operated by Ted Liberda, whose mother, Ann, came to the U.S. from Thailand in 1975. Ann was entrepreneurial and opened several restaurants, all called Thai Place, around Kansas City. Many are still in operation today, and Ted runs the show using traditional family recipes with modern flair.
There are so many more Thai restaurants in Kansas City. Each has its own story behind the food. Here are a few to check out:
- Thai House Restaurant
- Sweet Siam Thai
- Tasty Thai
- Thai Spice
- Hot Basil Thai Cuisine
- Thai Orchid
- Lemongrass Thai Cuisine
What to Order at a Thai Restaurant in Kansas City
If this isn’t your first rodeo with Thai food in Kansas City, then you probably already know what you want to order. But for the Thai newbies, here are a few traditional dishes to try on your first visit:
- Curry: Curry is a dish of its own and a paste that is used on many Thai meals. There are peanut curries, which have a sweet, nutty flavor, and there are spicy curries that’ll have you gulping water.
- Thai Fried Rice: This fried rice is typically made with onions, peppers and broccoli. It pairs well with any Thai meat. Thai fried rice is made with Jasmine rice, the most common variety grown in Thailand.
- Pad Thai: This is stir-fried Thai. Flavorful noodles are mixed with chicken, pork or steak along with fresh veggies. The end result is a plate packed to the brim with bold flavors. You can find pad Thai at any Thai restaurant in Kansas City. It’s a very popular lunch dish.
- Cashew Chicken: Nuts are used more in Thai cooking than in most other cultural cuisines. Cashew chicken is a classic dish typically served with rice and broccoli. It is nutty and sweet, sometimes with added spice.
Thai food in KCMO is a great option for a unique night out. There’s plenty to try. Get out there and find your favorite.