On Saturday I had the good Chowhound fortune to have lunch with Zim at Thai Aree, which happens to a favorite of both of ours. Eddie, the owner, greeted us as we came in and directed us to the best seat in the house, ok, there really is no best seat in the house, but Eddie is so darn gracious that he makes you feel that way.
Both Zim and I like our Thai food hot, though Zim has a bit of an edge on me, he is a true pepper head, to this effect we told Eddie that we would like our food hot and it was. Zim and I are both familiar with Thai Arees menu, and each have our favorites, so we each picked a couple of dishes starting with pork Larp.
The Larp (#14) was delicious, spicy hot, with bright clean flavors shining through, a perfect blend of the sour, salty, spicy taste that makes Thai food so appealing. As we were munching away, Zim, who along with his wife, enjoy gardening, asked Eddie a question about the fresh hot peppers in the larp. Eddie, after a starting an explanation, said why dont I just show you and led us out the back door of the restaurant to a beautiful back yard garden.
When dining with Chowhounds there always seems to be a surprise in store, the Thai Aree Secret Garden was filled with many kinds of peppers, herbs, flowers and a very Wrigley like Ivy climbing the wall, quite amazing. Zim and Eddie immediately got into a horticultural discussion while I took a few pictures. After a few minutes of Eddie pointing out the various peppers and what dishes they were best suited for he gave Zim and I a few handful of peppers and picked a few more peppers and herbs for the rest of our meal.
Our next dish was Nue Num Tok, medium charcoal-broiled beef and onions seasoned with sour, salty, spicy sauce served with lettuce. (#15). This is a wonderful dish of contrasting flavors, crisp edges of charcoal beef mixed with red onion, scallion, fresh herbs and peppers straight from the Thai Aree garden.
Our next course was charcoal-broiled beef with sweet fresh garlic, this was such a delicious dish that it would be doing it a disservice for me to try to describe it, please just take a look at the Thai Aree pictures I posted. I will say though that I have never had garlic so sweet and flavorful, really incredible.
Our last dish was an old standard of green chicken curry, rich, spicy and quite filling over rice. When we ordered the dish I asked Eddie if they were using Thai eggplant today, as I really enjoy the slightly bitter note that the Thai eggplant imparts to the curry. Eddie was quite upfront and said that no, today they only had American eggplant, but they also had long beans, which I like, and he would be happy to use one, the other or both, we opted for both.
This was a truly great lunch, interesting table conversation, caring attentive service, fresh as a daisy ingredients made with care, pleasant surroundings all prepared and served by people who were happy to have you visit their establishment.
As Zim and I were paying the check he happened to mention that he had never been to Cafeteria Marianao, which is a few blocks South of Thai Aree on Milwaukee Ave, for café con leche and steak sandwiches. Being true Chowhounds we decided a quick stop for a coffee and shared sandwich was in order. As we munched and stared at the pot of bubbling steak oil, which we decided was straight oil infused with the flavor of many pounds of beef, I mentioned that I had never been to Irazu, which was just a bit farther down Milwaukee. We, of course, decided that a quick stop at Irazu was in order and split a steak sandwich there as well as a delicious and interesting oatmeal shake.
A great Chowhound afternoon spent with Zim, and no, I did not eat dinner that night.
One other small note, toward the end of October or early November I would like to put together a Chowhound dinner at Thai Aree, any day but Sunday will work, as Thai Aree is closed on Sundays. I was thinking of keeping it to an even dozen, first come first serve with a set menu of around $20 per person. Feedback and/or suggestions as to date, number of people, menu and price are mildly encouraged.
3592 N Milwaukee Ave
Chicago, IL 60641
Mon-Thur 11am -9pm
BYOB (bring your own booze)
2246 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago, IL 60647
1865 N Milwaukee Ave