I’ve been to a handful of local Thai restaurants, but after I stumbled upon and fell in love with Mekong Thai Cuisine, I stopped trying to make my way around all of the wonderful Thai locales that the Queen City has to offer. That was, until a couple of friends moved near Green Papaya and invited me along with their first tryst with the notorious Thai delicacy. (Thanks for letting me tag along!)
Location: Green Papaya calls the intersection of Wasson, Paxton, and Isabella home, which allows for multiple ways to get to it, and convenience from Oakley and Hyde Park. The parking lot isn’t huge and I can see how parking can present a problem during peak and weekend hours. The spot we found around 6:15pm on a Thursday was the last in the lot and, while there is parking on the side streets in Hyde Park, that can also mean a pretty hefty walk. But seeing as I ate about 9,000 calories in my dinner, burning at least 6 of them probably wouldn’t be too bad.
Atmosphere: The entrance is a little bizarre, but after you make your way past the “butcher drapes” (y’know, the clear things that hang down from a door opening), the interior is actually very quaint and serene, yet played the part of Thai restaurant very well. There was plenty of seating as well, which probably means there’s never any kind of wait. I will say that the lighting was pretty dim (as you can see in my “foodie shots”) and the service was not amazing, but those are my only two gripes. And, to be fair, the guy who kept coming around to fill up our waters was outstanding. I’ll touch more on that later.
Food: I originally wanted to go with Pad Thai because I know it’s the most standard dish as far as Thai food is concerned. However, our server told me that she considered the Green Papaya Mango Fried Rice to be the best menu item and, seeing as I don’t love noodle dishes (and much prefer ones of the rice persuasion), I happily obliged. Mango Fried Rice is served with chicken and shrimp and I was pleasantly surprised when they asked for a heat level for both the meat/fish as well as the rice. I decided medium for both (on a scale of mild, medium, or hot) and I’m not sure I’ve ever had a more perfect heat level on any dish I’ve had. The moderate spice lingered in my mouth throughout my meal, and my nose even ran a bit. The spice level could have provided an all-around unpleasant experience, but thankfully our water was re-filled often, and that was not an issue. Before my moderately spicy delight, the three of us shared (read: I downed and they dabbled) a TaTa roll, which was 14 pieces of shrimp, smoked salmon, cream cheese, and avocado, lightly fried with spicy mayo and eel sauce. As a self-professed Sunday Morning roll obsessor, I was blown away by the wonderful flavor of this roll. Dare I say it may have topped its wonderful predecessor from Dancing Wasabi?
It’s hard not to compare Green Papaya to my all-time favorite Thai place and dish (Thai Garlic Chicken and Mekong Thai Cuisine), but I will say that it’s the next best I’ve had in the area, and I will certainly be back if I can help it.
Overall grade: A- [out of a possible A+]