A major part of eating great food is experiencing it with other people. Dishes get passed around, debates commence, and everybody leaves with a shared memory under their belt. But sometimes (read: most times), you want that food all to yourself. We’re here to tell you that’s completely OK. Just make sure that when the selfishness arises, you’re at Northern Thai Food Club.
The family-run spot in East Hollywood is one of our favorite Thai restaurants to open in LA in years, and though its dime-sized space practically requires you to eat in solitude, the food here is so good, you’re more than happy to have it to yourself.
Located on Sunset Blvd. in Thai Town, you’re going to need a sharp eye - or a well-trained GPS - to find NTFC. The only thing marking its strip mall location is a vinyl banner above the door that says “Northern Thai Food” with their phone number below it. Many of LA’s great restaurants look closed from the outside, and Northern Thai Food Club is one more we can add to the list. Once inside though, you’ll find a restaurant that’s not just open, but overflowing with excitement.
If you time it right, you might be able to snag a chair at the small communal table in the middle of the all-green room, but chances are you’re going to be eating one of the best bowls of khao soi in town pressed up against a window, trying to balance yourself on a stool next to a stack of old newspapers. You probably have someone in your life who wouldn’t be able to handle this kind of setup (we sure do), and it’s at this point you’re thankful you don’t have to deal with them. When you start eating the incredible food, however, you realize you’re actually thankful you don’t have to deal with anybody, period. This is your meal - no one else’s.
Northern Thai Food Club’s menu is filled with everything from vermicelli noodles in a rich tomato curry to a savory jackfruit salad we told our therapist about, but to only order off the printed menu would be a mistake. One of the things you’ll notice when you walk inside is the small steam bar in the back, home to specialty dishes that change daily. Spend some time here chatting up whomever’s behind the counter and picking out the things that sound the best that day. Whether it’s minced pork larb, whole fried fish, or jeen som mok kai, a sour-pork-and-egg sausage wrapped in banana leaves, there are no bad orders here. That said, make sure the sai oua (spicy pork sausage) finds your way to your table. It’s the best thing here and a dish we’ve eaten multiple times and still order extra helpings to take home just in case the apocalypse randomly hits before we get back to order more.
The tell-tale sign of every great solo meal is the inability to decide what you want to eat, and thus, over-ordering. Plan on that being the case every time at NTFC. But don’t worry - the leftovers are just as good tomorrow, and you have no plans to share those with anybody, either.
This spicy pork sausage is the best thing at Northern Thai Food Club and we’ve ordered it every single time we’ve eaten here. Packed with a mix of different herbs and spices, the sausage is fragrant, slightly sweet, and packed with the kind of heat that hits you hard at first, but never lingers. And that’s the kind of heat you want.
Some of our favorite khao soi in LA can be found in the neighborhood surrounding Northern Thai Food Club, but this version already deserves to be in that company. Rich, creamy coconut milk broth with a giant chicken leg that’s so perfectly cooked the meat falls off with one brush of your fork. Ideal if you aren’t already gnawing at it with your mouth.
Tum Kha Noon
There are a handful of different salads on the menu here, but the jackfruit is our favorite. Young jackfruit pan-fried with curry paste and seasoned with lime leaves and fried garlic. It’s a fairly simple dish, and yet, tastes like there’s 100 different ingredients involved. To be clear, that’s a good thing.
One of the mainstays at the steam bar, it’s easy to pass up this dish for some of the flashier ones, but don’t. The pork is perfectly minced and so slammed with flavor, you’ll feel like you’re cheating on every other pork larb you’ve ever had.
Tum Ma Muang
This isn’t a bad mango salad by any means, but we’ve found it to be slightly inconsistent. On a few visits, the nutty flavor of the green mango was completely overpowered by the garlic, chile, and fish sauce it comes mixed with it. There are better salads here.
Kha Nom Jean Nam Ngiaw
With tomato curry sauce, fermented yellow beans, dried flowers, ground pork, pork ribs, and blood cubes, there’s a lot going on with this bowl of vermicelli noodles. That said, it’s also one of the most interesting dishes on NTFC’s menu and one you can’t really find elsewhere in LA.