Ladies and gentlemen, it has happened. Gainesville finally has a good Thai restaurant. Bangkok Square opened this past Sunday at 6500 SW Archer Road in the same plaza that houses Beef O’Brady’s and Cloud 9 Spa. After the disappointment of Rice Thai and my scary raw chicken experience at the old Bahn Thai, I tempered my expectations on my first visit. But they surely did not disappoint. The restaurant is built on half of the old Hobbytown USA location, and the owners have done a great job of putting together a beautiful dining area. The restaurant is bright, clean, and offers a modern feel while still maintaining some traditional Thai elements. With no roadside signage, this little eatery located roughly 1.5 miles west of I-75 can be easily missed.
But enough about the location, the food is just great. As I mentioned in my previous review, the one dish that I use to measure a good Thai restaurant is their Pad Thai. I mean it’s the Thai national dish, and if a restaurant can’t make this, they aren’t worth visiting. Bangkok Square offers up a beautiful Pad Thai that isn’t the sloppy wet goop you’ll find at some other spots, and you can actually taste all the elements involved (fish sauce, peanuts, tamarind, egg, sprouts). Prices range from $11.95 for chicken, pork or tofu, all the way up to $19.95 for crispy duck. That’s right, Crispy Duck Pad Thai (pictured) is delicious. I mean, game over. You must try this.
Not feeling the noodles? Bangkok Square also offers a variety of traditional curries that again range from $11.95 to $19.95 depending on your choice of protein. Red, Green, Mussaman, Panang, Prig Khing (curry paste, green beans, bell peppers and ginger), and something called Amazing Sauce (peanut sauce, coconut milk, and mixed veggies) are all available. I had the chance to sample the Panang curry, and it was wonderful. The homemade curry was creamy and well spiced, while the fresh zucchini, bell peppers, and peanut were just perfect.
The menu is authentic and you’ll find some Thai standards like Lad Nar (Thai gravy with broccoli, mushrooms, carrots served over stir fried rice noodles), Spicy Basil Fried Rice (pictured – stir fried jasmine rice with bell peppers, onion, fresh basil and choice of protein), Larb Gai ($8.95 – ground chicken with lime juice, fresh mint leaves, chili, onions, and powdered roasted rice), and Yum Woonsen ($10.95 – bean thread seasoned with chicken and shrimp, mushrooms, and lime juice on top of a green salad).
Bangkok Square is also a vegetarian friendly restaurant that offers the option of tofu or veggies on most dishes. Several vegan and gluten-sensitive readers have mentioned they are very accommodating and willing to cater to their specific diets. The restaurant also has a Macrobiotics Diet section, a popular diet throughout Asia that consists of eating whole grains, fresh vegetables, and no processed foods. All dishes are served over brown rice, and choices include Steamed Broccoli, Carrots, Green Beans, and Snow Peas for $12.95, Sauteed Bean Sprouts, Carrots, Snow Peas, and Cashews for $13.95 or Sauteed Mixed Vegetables, Seaweed, and Tofu for the same price.
Most menu items are between $10 and $20 a dish, but the portions are generous, everything is fresh, and the staff is very attentive. The owners are present at the restaurant, interacting with their guests, and they take pride in serving quality authentic cuisine in a beautiful atmosphere. This is what it’s all about, folks. Bangkok Square does it right, and after my second visit in three days, they are quickly becoming a favorite.
Don’t forget to finish off your meal with the Crunchy Banana Dessert ($4.95 – pictured – fresh banana cut up in bite sizes with crunch coconut, wrapped in crispy rice paper, deep fried and topped with honey and sesame seeds). It was one of the best desserts I’ve had in some time! Unless the revamped Bahn Thai stops serving goopy messes and raw chicken, or the upcoming Wah-Ha-Ha completed gutted the old Bahn Thai location, Bangkok Square will be my only choice for Thai in Gainesville.