January 2006 100 Very Best Restaurants: Thai Square

THE SCENE. The unassuming dining room–glass-top tables, nondescript furniture, framed travel posters–will resonate with foodies who think that flash is often trash and that the most riveting food is found in plain-Jane, family-run restaurants with a native clientele.

WHAT YOU'LL LOVE. Familiar dishes are likely to be done better here than elsewhere, and some you've never come across will awaken you to new possibilities. The prices are low enough and the menu long enough that you'll want to make frequent trips here to unearth more discoveries.

WHAT YOU WON'T. Those lovingly cooked plates sometimes take their time getting out of the kitchen.

BEST DISHES. Crunchy, chili-dusted sun-dried (and deep-fried) beef that's tender and chewy and thoroughly addictive (the pork version, an occasional special, is fabulous, too); fragrant green-curry shrimp; sweet pig-knuckle stew with tart pickled lettuce; catfish with a double whammy of chili paste and chili peppers and Thai eggplant for a smoky note.

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