Grandma’s makes great Thai food. It's all intensely flavorful, from the colorful curries, crisp salads, and savory noodles to a number of outstanding house specialties that perfectly balance sweetness with heat. But the chaotic, uneven service and inconsistent experience leave as strong an impression as the level five spicy bamboo shoots.
The BYOB in Midtown Village comes from the same team as South Philly’s Ratchada Thai & Laos Cuisine. It has a casual, brightly lit dining room framed by white leather banquettes, wooden tables, and hanging plants, and is bustling with groups and couples on easygoing date nights. Grandma’s menu is extensive and made up of classic Thai dishes like papaya salad, basil chicken, and drunken noodles, as well as a few Northern Thai specialties. Everything is meant to be shared, from the spicy, deliciously creamy panang curry to the mountain of pineapple fried rice. The most notable dishes, though, are inspired by the restaurant’s namesake, the chef’s grandmother.
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But the reason we’re not eating here weekly—and that Grandma’s doesn't have a higher rating—is that the experience, especially when the restaurant is busy, can be a mess. During the week, it’s a popular lunch choice for the Center City set, and it’s always teeming with people stopping by for takeout (which, as it happens, is probably the best move here). But those delicious dishes lose some of their wow when you’re seated and ignored, or can’t find a server or host without asking the kitchen staff, or receive the first half of your order 10 minutes before the second arrives. What good is a perfect panang curry if it’s finished by the time you have the rice to sop it up with?
If you’re craving delicious Thai food in Center City, this place has it. But since dining in is consistently a crapshoot, don’t do it if you’re on a tight schedule, trying to impress your guests, or don’t carry an auxiliary supply of rice on your person.
These pork meatballs are made with a blend of lemongrass, ginger, kaffir lime leaves, garlic, and cilantro, making them lighter and brighter in flavor than most. They’re tossed in a slurpable sweet-savory chili sauce and fried shallots, which makes the whole dish fresh and flavorful. It’s a must-order.
Tender grilled skirt steak and crisp vegetables are tossed in a tamarind sauce. It’s mildly sweet, but balanced nicely by chilies and crisp scallions.
Spicy Garlic Eggplant
We were pleasantly surprised to find out this velvety eggplant is accompanied by firm bites of tofu. The whole dish is—you guessed it—spicy and garlicky, with hints of ginger and tangy vinegar.
This is our favorite panang curry in town. It’s thick and rich—more stew-like than saucy—and packed with crisp, tender vegetables, and a protein of your choice (we like it with chicken and shrimp). The curry adds some heat, but it’s balanced by coconut cream and peanuttiness.
Pineapple Fried Rice
This fried rice is packed with pineapple, vegetables, and cashews, and has a mildly sweet flavor. It arrives on the table with a crispy fried egg and fluffy pork floss on top. It’s a perfect complement to the meaty main dishes.