Ian Pike noon, Dec. 8
There's a guy in tears at one of the three small tables inside Banh Thai. There are three more tables outside, but that is all the seating available.
"They make it way spicy here!" he says. "They don't play around!"
His tears are half joy, half exposure to excessive Scoville Heat Units.
He's not just a wimp, either. I'm tougher than most güeros when it comes to spicy foods, and I order my plates "hot" at this little University Heights shop. "Extra hot" would probably be too fiery to be enjoyable. I'd have to be in the mood for punishment, which is a once-in-a-blue-moon scenario. In that rare case, the aforementioned tearful customer assures me that the kitchen at Banh Thai will make dishes as spicy as the guests want, even to the point of agonizing, eye-watering, mouth-scorching overkill.
The food presentation isn't fanciful by any means. Everything comes on a styrofoam plate (or in a take-out container), and the water's in a self-serve bubbler in the corner. But the service is friendly, the tables are clean, the food's well above average, and the prices are low. The main dishes are all priced at $7.95 for chicken, beef, pork, tofu, or vegetables; and $8.95 for the executive option, shrimp.
Bahn Thai's drunken noodles are quite good. Spicy, plentiful, and generous with the fried basil. An entrée is enough food to fill most diners without appetizers, but tom yum soup ($3.95) or a shredded papaya salad ($5.95) will get the job done in a heartbeat. The red curry plate is a milder than the drunken noodles, and much richer. It's equally filling, however, as it comes with an enormous amount of rice.
4646 Park Blvd #3