Why go: With its low lighting and silk pillows, this Thai restaurant looks more like a Penn Quarter lounge than a place for a $6.95 lunch special. More important, the kitchen doesn’t dumb down the flavor or curb the fire.
What to get: The chili-flecked ground-chicken salad called larb gai; curry puffs with buttery, braided crusts that call to mind empanadas; fried firecracker shrimp served in a martini glass; roti-wrapped duck rolls with hoisin; crispy whole fish—large enough to share—with young ginger and shiitakes; fried, lacquered duck with sliced chilies; seared tofu with chili-basil sauce; pad Thai with shrimp; mango-ginger margarita (most of the other cocktails drift into Hawaiian Punch territory).
Best for: A budget date; a night out with scene-conscious friends.
Insider tip: The takeout operation is efficient, and much of the menu travels well.
Open daily for lunch and dinner.
>> See all 2009 Cheap Eats restaurants here