Restaurants

The Best Thai Restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area

Lusty coconut curries, stir-fried noodles, soups, and more!

16 min read
3/7/2023
BestThaiSF SaapVer group feature

The San Francisco Bay Area is gilded with more destination-worthy Thai restaurants than Bangkok’s old town is with glimmering golden buddhas, and for good reason. Along with expert chefs armed with heritage recipes and culinary secrets from their homeland, the area’s Thai kitchens have unparalleled access to the freshest produce, proteins, and spices. The opportunities to dig into superior bowls of hot-and-tangy soup, mounds of well-sauced rice noodles, velvety coconut curries, and finger-licking street-style snacks are bountiful.  

What’s less available, however, is guidance on which shrine to sweet, sour, salty, and fatty you should turn to next — until now. We're presenting our list of the best Thai restaurants in San Francisco and the East Bay, based on their popularity with our editors, our order-in community, and regional food critics. 

SAN FRANCISCO

Farmhouse Kitchen Thai Cuisine

The food is as over-the-top vibrant as the atmosphere at Kasem Saengsawang’s celebratory, award-winning Mission District destination. Take your palate to a party with an array of familiar Thai dishes, or indulge in the Little Lao To-Go appetizer extravaganza — a profusion of joyous snacks, including Wagyu beef-mint rolls, tofu and vegetable rolls with peanut dipping sauce, crunchy papaya salad, chicken and shrimp fried rice, pad thai, and oh-so-trendy blue jasmine rice.

BestThaiSF FarmhouseKitchenThaiCuisine group article

The Thonglor

You know a restaurant has staying power when it opens in 2019 and lives to tell about it. Such is the case with this bright, clean gem a block off Union Square and across from the Curran Theatre. The edible love story of Songkiat “Jap” Sukmakanant and Tanawat Srichoosin, the restaurant's fare is an elegant interpretation of the cuisine from Bangkok's hip Thonglor district and includes deeply satisfying pad see ew, barbecued marinated pork skewers, and light, airy deep-fried pumpkin strips.

BestThaiSF ThongLor padseeew article

Ben Thai Cafe

Nob Hill’s Thai nosherie takes the taste buds on a tour of all the fork-and-spoon classics, while nodding to the influences of neighboring countries' cuisines along the way. Try the northern specialty, khao soi — coconut curry soup with your choice of protein, crowned with crispy, puffy fried pork skin, fresh onions, fried shallots, pickled greens, and a tangle of fried egg noodles.

Amphawa Thai Noodle House

Chef-owner Kob Varaphol celebrates the divinely humble Thai noodle in all of its sauce-coated or soup-submerged glory at this widely heralded Richmond District diamond. Attention to ingredients and detail means the spicy-sweet pork-laden sukhothai noodle soup, with your choice of noodle, is slurp-tastic, and the rich, savory pad see ew sets the standard. BTW, the non-noodle dishes (chicken satay! Angel Wings!) rule too.

Marnee Thai

A Sunset District anchor since 1986, Marnee is as comfy and reliable as an old friend — if that friend happened to make the tastiest, crispiest, finger-lickingest chile-garlic-sauce-drenched Angel Wings (and Angel Tofu!); silky, well-seasoned coconut curries; and other regional Thai dishes. Outer Sunset is the OG spot, sporting a cute interior, and Ninth Avenue is the narrow, low-key outpost.

Lers Ros Thai

Unusual dishes and fancy ingredients draw critics and food lovers to Lers Ros Thai’s no-nonsense Larkin Street, Hayes Valley, and Mission District locations. But the massive menu means you can get whatever you want. Go bold with the house-special garlicky fried frog or the crispy pork belly-basil stir-fry, or revisit favorites like sinus-clearing tom yum soup, spicy eggplant and tofu, and coconut milk curries.

BestThaiSF LersRos group article

Thai Idea Vegetarian

Heads up, vegetarians! This Tenderloin spot kicks up all of the Thai flavor while sidestepping fish sauce, meat, or seafood. Menu maneuvers include intrinsically produce-forward tom kha soup with veggies and coconut milk, rich pumpkin curry, and stir-fried garlic-chile-basil vegan “chicken.” Vegans rejoice: There's even dairy-free Thai iced tea!

Blackwood

“American Thai cuisine” is the theme of this sexy, modern, fireplace-warmed Marina destination. As such, daily breakfast and brunch welcomes millionaire's bacon, tom yum-accented Thai shakshuka, and Wagyu-cheddar burgers on brioche, while lunch and dinner steer more toward fancy Southeast Asian dishes, such as crispy pork belly salad perked up with spicy lime dressing, and seared eggplant atop green curry. Wildcard desserts like caramel-coated bread pudding and fried ice cream are worth ordering.

Mangrove Kitchen

The chill vibe, tiki drinks, and groovy decor of Divisadero’s Thai house set the scene for hearty helpings of modern Thai food, i.e. familiar items plus enticing newcomers made with wholesome ingredients. Bring that groovy vibe home with textbook pad thai, spicy yellow curry with seafood, or honey-glazed roast duck with steamed baby bok choy in a heady, spicy soy dipping sauce.

BestThaiSF Mangrove yellowcurry article

Gai Chicken Rice

The focus here is on khao man gai — slow-poached chicken and rice — the comforting, nourishing street food with Singaporean, Thai, and Vietnamese variations. Get your chicken skinless or lightly fried, and opt for chicken rice — rice flavored with schmaltz — or brown rice, plus your preferred sauce. Add sweet Thai chile or five-spice wings and the chicken dan dan noodles with spicy peanut butter sauce for a feast that’ll inspire a resounding “Cluck yeah!”

BestThaiSF GaiChickenRice hainanesechicken article

Jitlada

More than 20 years after opening her homey Japantown-adjacent Thai restaurant, Paisri Gallo still puts love and fresh ingredients into her gaeng keow wan — spicy green curry with coconut milk, eggplant, green beans, and bell pepper, plus optional protein — and other curries and stir-fries. Price-conscious value sets combine tasty favorites like black-bean-sauced pad see ew with deep-fried pot stickers.

BestThaiSF Jitlada greencurry article

House of Thai

Traditional Thai cuisine’s pageantry of color and flavor is on full display at this 22-year-old family-owned Lower Nob Hill restaurant with a Lower Haight offshoot. Taste for yourself House of Thai’s affordable favorites like the lively pineapple fried rice, embellished with cashews, raisins, carrots, and egg, or the silky, moderately spicy red curry with bamboo shoots and string beans. Both have protein options such as calamari, beef, and shrimp.

Basil Thai Restaurant & Bar

Skewers, roti tacos, and massaman curry-topped fries, oh my! The menu at SoMa’s Thai snack house broadens your hunger-satisfying horizons with crunchy-bottomed pork-and-shrimp dumplings, lemony fried brussels sprouts, tacos filled with yellow-curry-braised chicken, and choo chee pla, a thick cut of charcoal-grilled salmon atop a raft of steamed bok choy and a puddle of red curry sauce. Don’t forget the mango sticky rice!

BestThaiSF BasilThai group article

Lapats Thai Noodles Bar

The Tenderloin’s Lapats gives you a lot to noodle over, like, will you have the kuay tiew haeng — fat slices of pork belly and pork over rice noodles  — or the kuay tiew nuer toon — braised beef tripe in brothy soup with your choice of noodles, including glass, flat rice, vermicelli, small rice, or egg? Fortunately, some non-noodle dishes, like deep-fried crab-and-pork rolls, are no-brainers.

Thai Spice Restaurant

The dining room, remodeled in 2022, is as fresh and welcoming as the traditional dishes coming out of this Polk Gulch kitchen. Expect all the greatest hits: grilled chicken satay, vegetable-rich shrimp summer rolls, a rainbow of coconut curries, and must-order drunken noodles — a dish of wok-fried flat rice noodles, green beans, bell peppers, tomatoes, and basil coated in a thick, semi-spicy, garlicky sauce.

Saap Ver! Authentic Country-Style Thai Food

Chef Nutnawat “Kobe” Aukcarrapasutanun presides over the "saap ver" (“damn good”) Thai street food at this vibey Design District restaurant. His quest to celebrate less-common dishes means that you can sink your fork into perfectly toothsome northern and northeastern Thai sausages or umami-rich shrimp-paste-flavored fried rice topped with sweet pork, Chinese sausage medallions, shaved mango, omelet strips, fresh red onion, and crunchy green beans.

BestThaiSF SaapVer sausage article

Khob Khun Thai Cuisine & Breakfast

"Khob khun" means “thank you” in Thai, and that’s what you’ll be cooing the minute you dig into the guay teow kua poo — a seductive stir-fry of flat rice noodles, crab, and egg — from this straightforward Inner Richmond restaurant. Grab a strawberry lemonade, and save room for the fried dough-wrapped banana bites with vanilla ice cream and a honey drizzle.

Sriracha Thai Cuisine

If you’re on a quest for great khao soi — and who isn’t craving coconut noodle soup with a bird's nest of crispy noodles on top? — Ninth Avenue’s stylish restaurant is here for you. Pair the thick, soupy sensation with the housemade crispy-bottomed chicken pot stickers with herby pesto green curry sauce or the irresistible golden fried chicken strips atop fried rice.

Zen Yai Thai

Explore the world of Thai boat noodles at this Little Saigon eatery. Start with the familiar tom yum version: a spicy hot-and-sour broth loaded with ground pork, fish balls, pork, pork liver, and your noodle of choice. But also go beyond the noodles for the kra pow moo krob, thick slices of pork belly sauteed with fresh holy basil, chopped green beans, bell pepper, and Thai chile, customized to your desired spiciness.

Regent Thai Restaurant

Noe Valley residents consider this bright, low-key restaurant their neighborhood secret. But you can get in on it — and its robustly flavored, well-seasoned dishes — simply by ordering the on-point pad see ew with pork or the colorful eggplant and tofu pad ma kuer in black bean sauce. The cute pouch-shaped Golden Bags, fried rice paper filled with minced curried vegetables, makes any meal seem special. 

BERKELEY

Funky Elephant

It may be petite, but this cheery, hip, Michelin-approved eatery is big on spicy flavor, thanks to the creative cooking of former Hawker Fare chef Supasit Puttikaew. Expect favorites made with the freshest ingredients as well as housemade spice blends and curry pastes. Start with the sensationally lip-numbing Party Wings or the vermicelli curry — brothy red curry with fresh rock cod and vegetables. Funk yeah!

BestThaiSF FunkyElephant partywings article

Thai Table

There’s an epic dish for any occasion at University Avenue’s atmospheric Thai temptation. A massive menu means there’s student-friendly Thai iced tea and pad thai, cocktail party appetizers galore — try the Thai wings with sweet-and-sour sauce, crispy mushroom dumplings, and pork sausages — and anytime curries, plus dazzling seafood specialties like crab fried rice tangled with jumbo crab legs.

BestThaiSF ThaiTable group article

Imm Thai Street Food

With affordable prices, large portions, and trusty pad thai and pad see ew, courses from this University Avenue staple are practically part of a UC student syllabus. Enjoy your own Thai food studies with the aforementioned favorites. For extra credit, add the mildly spicy, fried Sweet Chicken, glazed with a tangy sauce and topped with crispy basil.

Chai Thai Noodles

Forgo the bustle at the charming faux-fern-and-vine-adorned surroundings of the industrial-cool San Pablo Avenue dining room, and let the vibrant Thai and Laotian flavors come to you. Party-worthy pla rad prig— crispy whole fried tilapia dotted with red bell peppers and fried basil with a side of spicy sauce — deep-fried pork sausage, and all the other classic comforts are here, and at Chai Thai’s Hayward and Oakland locations too.

Anchalee Thai Cuisine

West Berkeley’s Dwight Way Thai fix focuses on premium, local, organic ingredients in its contemporary brick and wood dining room. Taste the bright, savory depth of flavors in the crab fried rice (with brown or white rice), prawn skewers with tangy plum sauce, and yellow curry customized to your desired spiciness. 

OAKLAND

Wawa Thai Food

Forks and spoons up for chef Wawa Maneewan’s northern Thai food! She brought her restaurateur mom’s recipes from Chaing Mai in 2013 and now wows the MacArthur Boulevard dining crowd with OMG-good roti murtabak — overstuffed, crispy-moist flatbread bulging with yellow curry, chicken, and vegetables — and tender banana-leaf-grilled coconut salmon with mouth-awakening chile-garlic-lime sauce. Try her food once, and it’ll be a forever favorite.

Bird & Buffalo

Temescal’s popular Michelin-lauded “Thai soul food” haunt promotes “peace and larb” through its homestyle Thai dishes, served in an airy dining space. Get into the lovin’ groove at home with flaky gluten-free fried chicken rolls filled with mushrooms and vermicelli, crispy pan-fried chive cakes perked up with sriracha, and gai grapao — bird’s eye chile-spiced minced chicken and holy basil topped with a fried egg. Regular new menu additions make every visit exciting.

BestThaiSF Bird&Buffalo gaigraprao article

Daughter Thai Kitchen

Special southern Thai food is yours anytime at Monclair’s modern-chic restaurant, festooned with flowers and natural light. The menu, crafted by chef Kasem Saengsawang of famed Farmhouse Kitchen, includes robustly spiced versions of expected dishes made with premium ingredients. But branch out! You won’t find better fork-tender panang neua — slow-braised short ribs with yellow curry and grilled vegetables — or crispy Thai-spiced fried chicken.

Farmhouse Kitchen Thai Cuisine

Jack London Square is the second Bay Area location for this super-hip restaurant where revered chef Kasem Saengsawang turns the spice and heat up to eleven. Order the bar-setting pad thai and the green curry with Wagyu beef for baselines, or build your own feast with the weekday lunch special, featuring soup, two appetizers, and one entree, plus blue rice — it’s a killer deal.

Chai Thai Noodles

If you can’t decide between Thai and Loatian food, turn to this local, family-owned mini chain. Serving both in the original East Oakland location since 2008, Chai Thai is your source for ka moo — fork-tender strips of stewed pork with mustard greens countered by lusciously spicy garlic-lime sauce — plus noodle stir-fries, soups, and curries, including an abundance of vegetarian options. ​​

Soi 4 Bangkok Eatery

When you’re not in the mood for the busy happy hour and tables of large parties at College Avenue’s modern, chic, split-level dining room, let the traditional Thai dishes made with farmers market ingredients and premium meats and fish come to you. First stop: the crispy Thai-spiced corn cakes with cooling cucumber vinaigrette and the turnip cakes with spicy sriracha sauce.

BestThaiSF Soi4BangkokEatery article

Yimm

In 2019, this sister to Berkeley’s beloved Imm Thai Street Food brought hip Thai dining to Rockridge. But owners Aya Amornpan and her chef-husband, Note Mansawataphaiboon, keep it real with Bangkok-style home cooking that’ll make you wonder if it was delivered by tuk-tuk. Say yum to Yimm’s perfectly charred moo ping, grilled marinated pork skewers with tangy-hot chile-lime sauce; rich, brothy duck noodle soup; and everything else on the menu.

PinToh Thai Street Food

Thai for portable food container, “PinToh” is also a proverbial vessel for old-school Thai homestyle cooking made with love on the outskirts of Oakland’s Chinatown. It could be tempting to make a meal of snacks — eggplant skewers with peanut sauce, roti bites topped with tender sliced skirt steak and green curry dipping sauce, and deep-fried fish balls with sweet-and-sour dip. But save room for the brightly flavored green curry with chicken, eggplant, basil, and bell pepper; it’s “famous” for good reason. 

BestThaiSF PintohThai rotibites article

Grand Avenue Thai Cuisine

Humble environs and prices belie the noble preparations coming out of this Lake Merritt-adjacent Grand Avenue kitchen. Keep it cozy and down home with everyday dishware, or break out the fine china for the rich and comforting pumpkin-veggie yellow curry alongside familiar soups and noodle dishes.  

ALBANY

Bua Thai Kitchen

Go with the familiar or the new? This is the question at Albany’s San Pablo Avenue shrine to spice and heat. It’s easy to be seduced by the silky, rich coconut lemongrass soup. But alluring, lesser-known dishes — like golden deep-fried whole rainbow trout topped with shredded green apple, carrot, tomato, cashews, and tangy dressing — deserve your attention. Regardless, get the ornate mango with sweet sticky rice for dessert; it’s all heart (you’ll see!). 

BestThaiSF BuaThaiKitchen mangostickyrice article

ALAMEDA

Monkey Thai Restaurant

Crunchy deep-fried shrimp with a sweet mango-mustard sauce and fried calamari with Thai herbs are just a couple of the snack-tastic beginnings at Main Street’s modern, family-owned Thai haunt. You’ll find all the usual suspects done well, including a notable pad thai, with proteins like chicken, beef, and duck; pork Thai barbecue; and fried brown rice with shiitake mushrooms.

BestThaiSF MonkeyThai padthai article

Toomie’s Thai Cuisine by Thai Golden Rice

Park Street’s long-standing Thai resident delivers on all the expected dishes, but it also offers plenty of reason to stray from what’s familiar, especially if you’re craving beguiling entree salads, seafood, or duck. For a perfect meal for two, try the lime-kissed chicken larb, marinated and deep-fried duck lacquered with honey sauce, and a finale of creamy Thai iced tea creme brulee.

SAN RAMON

Andaman Thai

Skip the long wait for a seat amidst the sleek woody environs of this cozy little restaurant, and order in for San Ramon’s preferred Thai spot. Standards are the way to go here. The pad thai promises noodles, shrimp, egg, and tofu richly coated with tangy-sweet sauce, and the deeply flavored coconut curries are generous in portion. Everyone loves the well-priced lunch specials. 

DANVILLE

Similan Thai

Ordering in, you won’t be able to peek through the kitchen pass-through window as cooks wok their way into your heart. But no matter! Avid fans know that those skills translate to takeout. Taste the love and expertise in light-yet-rich tom yum noodle soup, drunken noodles, rich with meats and veggies and slick with spicy brown sauce, and veggie-centric pumpkin curry. Also, a golden rarity with garlicky sauce: deep-fried soft-shell crab!

WALNUT CREEK

Torsap Thai Kitchen

Chef Lalita Souksamlane, head of the Bay Area’s Osha Thai chain, lends her beautifully plated, award-winning hot-sweet-spicy-sour sensibilities to Broadway Plaza’s ultramodern dining room. The vast menu delivers everything your Thai-loving heart desires, plus lip-licking surprises, such as elaborate appetizer sets (including a vegetarian option) and desserts like crispy banana spring rolls with ice cream, shave ice, and a melange of mango sweets.