Eat & Drink

Thai Spice

1438 S Carrollton Ave, New Orleans, LA 70118, USA 70433

Restaurant Review

Anecdotes & Analysis

The story of how the North Shore came to have the best community of Thai restaurants in the New Orleans metro area was so peculiar that it may largely explain itself. It started with zero Thai eats in the early 2000s, grew to eight restaurants by a few years after Katrina, then settled down to punctuated mediocrity in the current day. The gravitational force in this was a longtime Asian restaurateur who went by the name of Ricky. He had a unique personal style in the dining room, and knew where to find great Thai cooks. Ricky seems to have been involved in at least five of the Thai restaurants in the Mandeville-Covington area, leaving a trail of both great Thai food and animosity with former partners. This reached an ultimate of oddity when two nearly-identical restaurants--Thai Spice and Thai Thai, both excellent and both with Ricky's name on the marquees--operated across the road from one another.

Two years ago Ricky was arrested on a number of unsavory charges and dropped out of sight. Thai Thai changed hands, but soon closed. Thai Spice went from being great to mediocre. Most of the other North Shore Thai restaurants seemed to decline, too. New Thai restaurants opened but got nowhere.

With all that in mind, I returned to Thai Spice for the first time in a year recently and found it back to its formerly fine self. Across the menu--a bigger one than found in most places--the sauces are polished, the meats and vegetables fresh, and the flavors exciting. A second trip showed that they're consistently cooking like real Thai people. Which is to say in a soupy, peppery style. Ricky has not been heard from.

Why It's Essential

The best demonstration of the health of Thai cookery on the North Shore is that this one is serving not only excellent Thai food, but doing so in a way that would require an explanation elsewhere. In Thailand as in Vietnam, the most popular entrees come across to Westerners as soups. That's how Thai Spice cooks, and very well.

Backstory

Thai Spice was originally on the other side of Causeway Boulevard, but a family squabble caused a split, with one branch of uncles and nephews leaving the tiki-looking original place to move into a space in a strip mall on the other side. There seems to have been at least two changes of management since then, but the current people seem to know what they're about.

Dining Room

The slot in the strip mall was originally built as a Mexican fast-food operation. Although Thai decor was added wherever it would fit (since two walls are completely of glass, there aren't many such places), the restaurant is still rather spare, but gets a good feeling from the brightness and high ceilings. The staff appears to be family.

For Best Results

You can get any meat with any dish, but ask the waiter what he recommends with the sauce you're interested in, and go with his suggestion.

Bonus Information

Attitude 1
Environment 0
Hipness 0
Local Color 0
Service 0
Value 2
Wine 0