The name seemed familiar, but when I walked past Bangkok Spices shortly after it opened on 30th Street, I couldn't quite place it. Eventually I realized I'd been to a restaurant of the same name a mile north, on El Cajon Boulevard. Sure enough, Bangkok Spices moved out of that location a little while back when the lease expired (now it's a pho joint). A second Bangkok Spices also recently closed in Kearney Mesa. Now the reliable Thai spot does business in a converted Craftsman home midway between Upas and University.
3627 30th Street, North Park
I'd call it a good move. Aside from the Paesano Italian family restaurant that's held the same spot for nearly 50 years, this section of 30th has been an oddly dormant stretch of North Park's restaurant row. But lately I've seen it start to come alive with new businesses. Nothing as flashy as you'll find a couple blocks north or south, but there's decent, affordable food for neighborhood residents to enjoy when diners from other parts of town gobble up the parking and tables around local hot spots.
While Thai Buddha statues and other southeast Asian décor aren’t the first things you'd associate with San Diego's early 20th-century Craftsman style, the juxtaposition actually works quite nicely here. Without trying to be glamorous, this is a comfortable and appealing space that feels a step up from the old locations.
My lunch felt almost hybrid as well. I picked lad na, a wide noodle dish with carrots and Chinese broccoli smothered in tapioca gravy. I always marvel at this dish because, while the delightfully slippery stir-fried rice noodles read pure Thai, the savory chicken stock gravy would not taste out of place at a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.
Like other entrées on the menu, this dish ranged in price from 8 to 14 dollars depending whether I opted for a veggie, meat, or seafood version. I went with chicken at 10 bucks, and asked for a spice level of 5 (out of 10). All in all, a pretty milquetoast order for a Thai restaurant, and if you're looking for a more adventurous Thai experience, it'd be pretty easy to ramp up the spice, or dig into the restaurant's seafood options, which include grilled salmon, steamed sole, and fried catfish.
But I have no regrets. It tasted great and was just about large enough to serve two modest appetites. Add an appetizer and you've got a winning date night at what feels like a cozy, out of the way spot … in the middle of North Park.