Well, this has got to be one of the best lunch deals in this town.
Banana Cafe (982-3886) recently opened downtown in Santa Fe, at the corner of San Francisco and Guadalupe. This is the location of the old "Fabbio's" restaurant that hung around for five years or so. The new folks have re-done the inside, keeping the wood floors and viga-d ceilings, and it's really quite nice: lots of bright colors that make the rooms feel quite light and airy.
I can't give much of a review, as I had lunch with a male friend (so we weren't sharing tastes, as my wife and I are wont to do). They have twelve (really fifteen, because you can choose from red or green curry with beef or chicken, yet that's listed as one dish) lunch specials that range in price from $5.95 to $7.95. These specials are served with a cup of delicious vegetable tofu soup (wonderfully fresh veggies) and a large side of your choice of coconut-milk, brown, or steamed rice.
I had the red curry beef and coconut milk rice for $6.50. The heat (adjustable for your taste, but I thought I'd leave it "as is" for my first shot at the place) was enough to be noticed, but not overwhelming (for someone who's been eating chile daily for almost 15 years now). The delicate flavors of the sauce (wonderful amount of beef flavor) and fresh vegetables in the dish were outstanding. The lean beef slices were plentiful. I got a Thai iced tea ($2.50) and water on the side, and was quite full at the end of my meal.
My friend got the Pahd Thai ($6.95) with brown rice and Thai coffee, which he was quite pleased with. I was impressed with the number of prawns that were included for the fairly low (Santa Fe) price. (My friend had been to Banana Cafe once before, and also gave high marks to the Spicy Chicken with Cashew Nuts that he had during that foray.)
The Banana Cafe menu (they call the chow "Contemporary Thai Cuisine" on the menu) is considerably more extensive than the lunch specials, though, with four soups, eight appetizers, four beef dishes, six chicken dishes, nine noodle and rice dishes, and eleven seafood plates. There is a separate vegetarian menu section as well. I vaguely recall a dessert listing, but it's not on the takeout menu that I snagged.
They have no liquor license, though, and I don't know whether one is in the works.
The service was very nice. My water glass was kept full (a blessing with spicy food), and our orders were promptly taken and brought. The check was brought immediately after we asked for it, but not until then. It was actually unusual (but very refreshing!) the way that we were allowed to keep conversing after eating and were not pressured to leave in any way - even though there was a standing crowd waiting to get in and use our table.
It got pretty busy at lunch, with a standing crowd waiting by noon (we arrived at 11:45 and were seated with no trouble whatsoever).
I'm glad there's a Thai place in downtown SF now, and I'll definitely be going back. The food is delicious and incorporates fresh veggies in an artful way, and it's amazingly cheap for the location. The service is very good, and the decor is comfortable and attractive. I didn't find a thing not to like (and I'm a grumpy curmudgeon!).