Dining on a Shoestring: Thai Flavor

In Silver Spring, a fiery antidote to chain fare.

The shrimp-filled summer rolls at Thai Flavor come with tangy tamarind sauce for dipping. Photograph by Stacy Zarin-Goldberg.

Silver Spring residents looking for something fast other than Panera Bread, Chick-fil-A, or Chipotle should check out Thai Flavor (8650 Colesville Rd.; 301-495-1234). Open since January, this tiny takeout—which has about 15 seats and a small bar with stools—joins the handful of downtown Silver Spring mom-and-pops serving refreshing alternatives to the Anywhere USA food served across the street.

For moviegoers heading to the AFI Silver Theatre or harried workers coming home, drunken noodles with shrimp ($10.45) makes a wonderful meal, cheap and quick. The spicy chili-and-basil sauce clings to the broad rice noodles. It’s one of the best Thai dishes now playing in the area.

Green curry with chicken ($8.95) benefits from crunchy vegetables and a generous dose of heat. Seafood pad see eaw ($10.45), a stir-fry of noodles loaded with shrimp, calamari, and mussels, usually is very good. But the pad Thai ($8.95) stops just shy of sugary, and its chicken strips are bland.

Among appetizers, the tightly wrapped and fresh summer rolls ($4.95) are terrific. The Thai variation on pigs in blankets, shrimp bikini ($4.95), while well fried, lack any hint of the ginger allegedly tucked into the wrapper. Chicken satay ($4.95) is lifeless, while the crispy crab rolls ($3.95)—imitation crabmeat and cream cheese rolled in rice wrapper and fried—can taste fishy.

Thai Flavor isn’t perfect and it doesn’t suit all occasions, but it’s a refreshing addition to a neighborhood that has lots of chains. The restaurant offers free delivery and curbside service, allowing customers to avoid parking challenges.

The service is welcoming and friendly, too. Owners Wayne Christopher and Vilawan Suansae are ever ready to exchange a dish that’s too spicy or to dilute overly sweet iced tea with a fresh pot of unsweetened.

No such doctoring is required on those delectable drunken noodles.

This review appears in the August, 2009 issue of The Washingtonian.