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Thai Joints rule in the Heights

Pick up or delivery, Thai fans have it good on Adams Avenue

A family style spread picked up from Thai Joint
A family style spread picked up from Thai Joint

It sits within an inconspicuous stucco strip on Adams Avenue, smack in the middle of Normal Heights, with a generic sign bearing a generic name: Thai Joint. How many times have I driven past without stopping?

Place

Thai Joint

3456 Adams Ave, San Diego

I had to be told it’s a sister restaurant to the University Heights Thai spot, Plumeria, and to Chi Extraordinary Kitchen, which is also on the stretch of Adams spanning the upper end of North Park (we might as well call it North Park Heights). I’ve been fond of Plumeria’s vegetarian and vegan Thai Cuisine since it opened in 2012. And in the past five years, I’ve also been wowed by Chi Extraordinary’s focus on Thai seafood dishes. In other words, Thai Joint is worth stopping for.

A bland storefront and an almost forgettable name

Turns out, the original Thai Joint opened more than 15 years ago at a different Adams Avenue location. This one’s only been open since 2018, but it doesn’t seem like the residents of Normal Heights forgot the brand. Thai Joint has no patio or parking lot space to dress up as outdoor seating. Nevertheless, during the current pandemic closure, I continue to find a steady stream of customers picking up take-out.

Plastic sheeting covid fortifies the Thai Joint's ad hoc take out counter.

There’s a steady stream of delivery drivers representing pretty much every delivery app — Thai Joint works with all of them. One of the drivers I meet while picking up an order shares how challenging it can be to lose weight while running deliveries. How he’s on an intermittent fasting diet, which means he fasts during the day and only eats in the evening. He used to drive people around for Lyft, but switched to food during the pandemic. Now every time he picks up great smelling meals, it makes him hungry.

House made "e-sarn" Thai sausage

Thai Joint is one such challenging place, he says. When he clocks out, he occasionally returns as a customer. He vouches for the crispy tamarind wings ($).

I vouch for the house made E-sarn (a.k.a. Isan) style sausage. The ground pork sausage has a crispy skin, flavored with ginger, galangal, lemon grass, chilis, and herbs. You can spot the occasional grain of rice in there, responsible for a satisfying tang distinct from that of hot dogs. The $7 appetizer will appeal to sausage fans, and while you may find the same wings at Chi Extraordinary Kitchen, the sausage is exclusive to Thai Joint.

Coconut based red curry, with bell peppers, bamboo shoots, eggplant, and chicken.

Entrees represent the usual suspects of American Thai restaurants: coconut and lemongrass soups; curries of red, yellow and green; noodles and rice dishes featuring ginger, soy, and/or chili based sauces. To some extent these are all better than average, and cost $10 to $12 apiece, depending on your choice of protein, which at this location includes chicken and BBQ pork. Or, you can order a vegan version of just about any of them.

I don’t know how the heights came to be blessed with such abundance, but it’s an easy area to pick up a great family-style feast. Just be warned, these Thai Joints revel is spice: anything higher than level 3 should truly burn.

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A family style spread picked up from Thai Joint
A family style spread picked up from Thai Joint

It sits within an inconspicuous stucco strip on Adams Avenue, smack in the middle of Normal Heights, with a generic sign bearing a generic name: Thai Joint. How many times have I driven past without stopping?

Place

Thai Joint

3456 Adams Ave, San Diego

I had to be told it’s a sister restaurant to the University Heights Thai spot, Plumeria, and to Chi Extraordinary Kitchen, which is also on the stretch of Adams spanning the upper end of North Park (we might as well call it North Park Heights). I’ve been fond of Plumeria’s vegetarian and vegan Thai Cuisine since it opened in 2012. And in the past five years, I’ve also been wowed by Chi Extraordinary’s focus on Thai seafood dishes. In other words, Thai Joint is worth stopping for.

A bland storefront and an almost forgettable name

Turns out, the original Thai Joint opened more than 15 years ago at a different Adams Avenue location. This one’s only been open since 2018, but it doesn’t seem like the residents of Normal Heights forgot the brand. Thai Joint has no patio or parking lot space to dress up as outdoor seating. Nevertheless, during the current pandemic closure, I continue to find a steady stream of customers picking up take-out.

Plastic sheeting covid fortifies the Thai Joint's ad hoc take out counter.

There’s a steady stream of delivery drivers representing pretty much every delivery app — Thai Joint works with all of them. One of the drivers I meet while picking up an order shares how challenging it can be to lose weight while running deliveries. How he’s on an intermittent fasting diet, which means he fasts during the day and only eats in the evening. He used to drive people around for Lyft, but switched to food during the pandemic. Now every time he picks up great smelling meals, it makes him hungry.

House made "e-sarn" Thai sausage

Thai Joint is one such challenging place, he says. When he clocks out, he occasionally returns as a customer. He vouches for the crispy tamarind wings ($).

I vouch for the house made E-sarn (a.k.a. Isan) style sausage. The ground pork sausage has a crispy skin, flavored with ginger, galangal, lemon grass, chilis, and herbs. You can spot the occasional grain of rice in there, responsible for a satisfying tang distinct from that of hot dogs. The $7 appetizer will appeal to sausage fans, and while you may find the same wings at Chi Extraordinary Kitchen, the sausage is exclusive to Thai Joint.

Coconut based red curry, with bell peppers, bamboo shoots, eggplant, and chicken.

Entrees represent the usual suspects of American Thai restaurants: coconut and lemongrass soups; curries of red, yellow and green; noodles and rice dishes featuring ginger, soy, and/or chili based sauces. To some extent these are all better than average, and cost $10 to $12 apiece, depending on your choice of protein, which at this location includes chicken and BBQ pork. Or, you can order a vegan version of just about any of them.

I don’t know how the heights came to be blessed with such abundance, but it’s an easy area to pick up a great family-style feast. Just be warned, these Thai Joints revel is spice: anything higher than level 3 should truly burn.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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