After going to see Captain America: Civil War, Lionel and I were downtown and looking for something good to eat. Since it was just a short walk away from the theater, we decided to try Thai Smile.
On a different weekend a while back, Lionel and I were with out-of-town family and had almost stopped inside to eat at this very same place. Though the outside doesn’t look like much, the location is fantastic, right in the heart of downtown. We’d first found it while wandering around after a trip to the Tennessee Aquarium.
A quick look at the menu, though, had made us hesitate. For lunch, the prices seemed a little higher than we were willing to risk on a place we didn’t know while entertaining guests. (Basic fried rice, for instance, started at $11.99.)
This time, however, we were alone, and we were really in the mood for Thai.
The restaurant had just opened when we arrived, and the lunch rush didn’t really start till about 1 o’clock, when were were getting up to leave. The interior was what I’d expected, with warm, dark colors, and golden decorations from Thailand. The booths were comfortable and we were seated right away.
I ordered hot green tea, which came in a pretty little teapot with tiny cups ($2.50). Lionel ordered a Singha beer ($4.50).
I had read online that some diners found the service slow, but that was not our experience. Our waitress was friendly, quick, and returned just frequently enough for my liking.
As we waited for our food, debating whether we stood with Ironman or Captain America on the issue of superhero regulation, instrumental versions of pop songs played in the background. Just as a piano rendition of Bastille’s “Pompeii” was wrapping up, and we both had determined that, regardless of which side of the civil war we stood on, Spider-Man’s scenes were really cool.
Lionel got Pad Thai with pork ($11.99), and I ordered a few dishes off the appetizer menu: Golden Tofu ($3.99), Chicken Satay ($6.99), and Fresh Rolls ($4.99).
I loved all three of my items. The Golden Tofu consisted of little bites of fried tofu with a sweet and sour dipping sauce. The Chicken Satay came with chopped, sweetened cucumber, peanut sauce, and three skewers of grilled chicken.
My favorite dish was the Fresh Rolls—cold vegetables and rice noodles wrapped in rice paper and served with peanut sauce. While living abroad in Japan, I had eaten this often, but there it was typically served with a spicy mayonnaise.
Lionel loved his Pad Thai. I thought it was great, too, but I’m pretty picky, since I can’t help but compare it to the Pad Thai that my friends from Thailand used to cook for me. The sauce was a little heavy for my preference, and I missed the dried shrimp and bean curds. Since the peanut dipping sauce was also a bit sweeter than I was used to, I couldn’t help but feel the recipes had been adjusted a bit for American tastes. To be fair, though, there didn’t seem to be anyone but Americans eating in the restaurant.
An interesting note about the menu was that it not only came with a guide for spice levels (1-3 was “American” and 4-6 was “native Thai”), it also came with a warning. If you ordered your dish too spicy and asked for it to be remade, you would have to pay full price.
Lionel had gone with a level 4 for his Pad Thai. It turned out fine for us both, with kick enough to linger but not overpower. That being said, we tend to like things fairly spicy.
All in all, though we really loved the food, and the portions were good, the bill was $38.19 before tip, certainly a bit more than we like to pay when eating lunch for two. After arriving home and checking the website, I realized my oversight.
Though Thai Smile has a lunch menu—with prices I would absolutely expect to pay ($7.99 for most curries, $8.99 for noodle dishes or basic fried rice)—they don’t serve from the lunch menu on weekends, meaning we were paying full dinner price for our midday meal.
We will certainly be back, but perhaps not for lunch on a Saturday or Sunday.
Location: 219 Market St., Chattanooga, Tn 37402
Hours: M-Th 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.
F 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Sat 12 p.m. - 10 p.m.