Pacific Avenue is Santa Cruz’s main street. It’s a fascinating place to go for a walk – there is a lot of street theatre, both deliberate and accidental, and always someone down there making balloon animals, playing the guitar (there’s actually a guy who plays the didgeridoo) or just acting bizarrely. There are also a bunch of restaurants – everything from an Italian place to numerous pizza joints to Betty’s Burgers where you get … well, guess. And what college town main street would be complete, or even worthy of the name, without a Thai place?
Pacific Thai fills the bill. It’s small, family-run and clearly local. They execute the basics really well, and it’s an ideal place to go for a quick dinner before a movie, or as a reward for a long walk.
11:30 – 21:30 Monday through Thursday; 11:30am – 22:00pm Friday; 12:00pm – 22:00pm Saturday and 12:00pm – 17:30pm Sunday
Small, cozy, nice. A rotating exhibit of locally-created art is on the walls – the room is long and narrow, with a portion sectioned off for cooking and service. The overall feel is of a Thai restaurant in a college town which, surprise, is exactly what Pacific Thai is.
Right on Pacific Avenue, Santa Cruz’s main street. There are a several municipal parking garages within easy walking distance, so assuming you have a few dollars, parking should not be a problem.
Address: 1319 Pacific Avenue, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Phone: (831) 420-1700
It is good, although occasionally a little slow. This is a family-run place, and there are lots of regulars, distractions and chores, so they unquestionably know what they’re doing – sometimes they just lack time to do it.
Moderate for Santa Cruz – in the $50 range, not including dessert or coffee, but including beer.
As an appetizer, we began with the classic Thai appetizer of chicken satay – chicken cutlets on skewers, grilled over an open fire. These were perfect – juicy, perfectly grilled, and served with classic Thai peanut sauce and a garnish of cucumbers. This appetizer is the absolute cornerstone of a Thai restaurant meal in the United States, and they definitely have it down.
Similarly, the Thai Noodle Soup was a really nice execution of another staple. This, as always, contained a LOT of different, yet traditional, Thai ingredients. The base is a vegetarian broth with carrots, zucchini, broccoli, green beans, cabbage, celery, baby corn, bean sprouts, and rice stick noodles; topped with cilantro and green onions. This can then be doctored with various forms of protein, including tofu, chicken, seafood, duck, etc. The result is a rich, very satisfying and very filling dish that is a meal in itself.
The other appetizer was a Panang Curry duck dish. This was a typical Thai curry – creamy and sweet, with a lot of the same classic ingredients as the soup — bell peppers, carrots, green beans, zucchini, and sweet basil in a coconut milk-spicy panang curry that can also be doctored up with various forms of protein. I chose duck. I remember reading once that duck is incredibly rich, and that one of the things that led to the early, untimely death of the 19th century American adventure writer Jack London was his intemperate habit of eating an entire duck every single day. I don’t care. I love duck, and this curry was wonderful. Particularly when served, as here, with brown rice, it’s also a LOT of food, and should provide plenty to take home with you for lunch the next day.
Unlike with, say, American Chinese food, where a lot of the dishes have nothing to do with the real cuisine of the real country, Thai food is typically reasonably authentic. What you get at Pacific Thai is not dissimilar to what you’d get in Bangkok. And man, is it good. Not simple – do not try this at home, kids. But really, really good. If you’re up for a solid, good Thai meal in Santa Cruz, Pacific Thai is a great choice.
Published On: Thursday, March 12th, 2015