This year, I’ve fallen into a bit of a rut.
I’ve become a creature of habit when it comes to eating out at Louisville-area restaurants. Part of this stagnation is because of (shameless plug alert) my book, Louisville Diners. I was doing nothing but eating at new-to-me restaurants ALL THE TIME while I wrote it last year. When I finally turned in that manuscript at the end of 2014, I happily settled into a restaurant rotation that I haven’t strayed from in what feels like forever.
I also blame my own laziness for my lack of restaurant exploration (and, consequently, a lack of $10 Challenge posts). With grad school and a new job at CNET and a husband and a Roscoe, it’s just easier to pick a restaurant that doesn’t require much planning and anticipation. I think a lot about a restaurant before my first visit, and I’ve just let my daily life tire me out so much that I haven’t had much mental energy to devote to finding new eating places. Is their menu online? How big are their entrees? Is it worth the trip? It takes a lot of work to love food as much as I do.
I know, I know, excuses that I’ve made before. But my new role at CNET has given me a perk I didn’t anticipate: a new work location with new neighborhood restaurants to try. My awesome co-workers have introduced me to some great restaurants in the area, and Thai Noodles on Preston Highway has quickly become one of my favorites.
The family-owned restaurant provides quick service, hearty portions and vibrant flavors at low prices. Thai Noodles is in the space that once housed Thai Smile 5, according to the Courier-Journal. The building isn’t much to look at — just a little red building across the street from a shopping complex. Don’t let the modest accommodations fool you because there’s a lot to love once you get inside. The dining room is a nice open space with booths and tables around the perimeter and more tables in the middle. Despite the open floor plan (I’ve been watching too much HGTV), the dining area is calm and quiet because of the muted lighting and soft music piping through the speakers. I want to talk softly while I’m eating my meal just to match the atmosphere.
The menu offers a nice variety of Thai food. There are plenty of five types of curries, four types of fried rice and more than a dozen noodle dishes. I’ve only visited Thai Noodles during lunch time, and the midday menu is a bounty. Each of the 26 entrees range in cost from $6.95 to $10.95 depending on your choice of meat. The meal also comes with a bowl of soup. Customers can also add a spring roll, steamed dumpling, fried wonton or gyoza for an extra $1.50. It’s almost too easy to keep a big lunch under $10.
The broth-based soup has some tiny pieces of chicken, white rice and scallions and serves as a nice introduction to your meal. It doesn’t hurt that the server brings the soup shortly after you receive your beverage. (And speaking of beverages, save a couple of bucks for the Thai iced tea/lemonade combo. It’s refreshing and creamy with a little citrus kick.)
The dish that made me want to be a regular Thai Noodles patron was the first one I tried: L3, the Pad Kee Mao. This is a stir-fried rice noodle entree with egg, basil, broccoli, carrot, tomato, onions and bamboo shoots in a basil sauce. I chose shrimp to go with my noodles, an option that only cost $7.95. I also sprung for an order of dumplings for $1.50 since the lunch special was such a great deal. With every entree, you pick the level of heat you’d like on a scale of one red pepper (low) to five red peppers (Thai Hot). I picked one pepper because I wanted to be able to live with myself for the next 24 hours.
Just a few minutes after I had slurped up my soup, the waitress brought the steamed dumplings. They were filled with balls of ground chicken that poked out from the open dumpling exterior. The two dumplings were the perfect size for an appetizer in that they aren’t super huge and won’t fill you up too much before your meal. They had a subtle salty, savory flavor, but nothing too bold.
The Pad Kee Mao was a big plate full of vegetables, flat noodles and several plump shrimp. The basil sauce was pretty sneaky because it starts off as sweet, then hits you with some spiciness on the back end of the bite. However, my one-pepper heat level was the right choice for me — just enough spiciness to perk me up, but not enough to prevent me from truly enjoying this delicious meal.
I’ve been happy with my lunches at Thai Noodles, so happy that I’m back here writing a $10 Challenge. It just took a work location change and a tasty plate of noodles to get my groove back.
- L3 Pad Kee Mao with shrimp: $7.95
- Steamed dumplings: $1.50
- Total (excluding tax and tip): $9.45