Basil Thai (Paso Robles, CA)

Driving the 500 miles between San Francisco and Los Angeles I planned to take my vegan boyfriend to my favorite veggie friendly spot in central California: Thomas Hill Organic in Paso Robles. Unfortunately a private event derailed our plans. Scrolling through Yelp we saw the v-word pop up for Basil Thai and headed that way.

It’s a traditional plastic gilded interior on the Paso Robles square. The staff is friendly and thankfully knowledgeable:  Our waitress let us know that EVERYTHING is made with fish sauce. Releasing exacerbated sighs, the kind that only come after hours of highway driving, the waitress leaded in and whispered that there were two things we could order.

The first dish out were little bites of Meaing Kum ($7). Fresh leaves of spinach leaves are stuffed with roasted coconut, ginger, onion, lime and roasted peanuts. The traditional Miang Kham sauce is made with fish sauce, so the waitress replaced it with a sweet chili sauce. Unsure of what to do, we placed bits of everything into the leaves and shoved it into our mouths. Mixed together, these elements normally used as garnish make a sweet-tart-crunchy starter. I loved it!

Made with sweet soy sauce, the Pad See Eaw Noodles ($15) is the only vegan noodle option. The price is excessive considering the portion, but the wide rice noodles with tofu, carrots and broccoli were fresh and filling. The charred crunchy bits of the chewy noodles noodles were the best part of the dish. We quickly devoured the carrots and broccoli then hopped back on the 101.

I’m incredibly grateful that Basil Thai accommodated us on the long drive home.

Basil Thai 
828 11th St
Paso Robles, CA 93446
(805) 238-9945

Cook’s Cuisine (Needles, CA)

“Before we sit down, I’ll be sure to clarify if they can prepare vegan food,” I reassured myself and Co as we entered. A spunky woman eyed us from the register. With my (always) friendly smile I asked “Can you make vegan Thai food? You know, like no fish sauce…”

She stared at me blankly.

“Ummm… no meat…” I continued.

She stared for another few seconds, then her eyes lit up, “Oh yes yes, I cook from many difference kind of people!” She then went on to explain that she was vegetarian for 4 years and that she didn’t use fish sauce in any of her food because it’s difficult to get in Needles and none of the locals care anyways. She handed us menus every though every single dish was meat based.

“You tell me what you like and I make it.”

“Well, I like summer rolls, anything in peanut sauce…”

“You like curry?” she interrupts.


“You like yellow curry?”


So we ended up with Yellow Curry and Vegetable Pad Thai. The curry is sweet, with a touch of spice. She kindly offered me a side of hot sauce since she made it on the milder side, worried that my non-Asian companion may not be spice friendly. The curry bowl was filled this cubes of soft tofu, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, red pepper and cashews and served with individual bowls of rice. The fresh veggies were also featured in the not oily, but also not that flavorful, Pad Thai. This belly filling vegan meal came to a very fair $14.

For a vegan or vegetarians traveling on the I40, Cook’s Cuisine is a find. Surely the best Thai food for 100 miles… and it’s 100x times better grabbing dinner at Subway.

Cook’s Cuisine
1400 Needles Hwy
Needles, CA 92363
(760) 326-5081

Cha-Am (Berkeley, CA)

I put this on top because I can't even remember what it was...

I’ve dined at Cha-Am for many years, but can’t seem to remember why. Perhaps it’s the whimsical treehouse dining room, overlooking Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto. Maybe it’s the food, but nothing springs to mind. And so, in this state of uncertainty, I selected Cha-Am for dinner with my Beau’s best friend.

The orange dining room

Walking through the door, everything looked familiar—orange walls, bamboo-colored wood, potted plants strewn about. The menu is typical Thai-American fare with plenty of vegetarian options. Once the food arrived, however, it struck me. This restaurant is completely forgettable, except for one ‘best of show’ dish: The Cha-Am-Fresh Roll.

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Sripraphai Thai Restaurant (Woodside, NY)

My sweet Amanda is dear to me, but the fact that she has a car means I love her a little more than my pedestrian friends. So many prohibitively distant locations become so accessible when you can get to your meals on wheels; so on a lovely weekend she and her man whisked me and mine off to the far-far-away realm of Woodside with the promise of copious consumption of delectable Thai food. We arrived at 5:30, aka Grandpa Hour, and effortlessly snagged a table in the front room (1 of 4 dining areas in this big/small establishment) and perused the novel of a menu – three pages of which are vegetarian, which is thankfully manageable when everything sounds delicious… but is woefully devoid of curry.

Whittling down our food selections, we placed our order with our curt and efficient waiter and soon the dishes began magically appearing on the table. In retrospect I wish I had been a little more diverse in choosing dishes, but I was clearly in an All Fried Appetizers/All Sauteed Entree mood this evening.

My BF fixated on the banal sounding egg roll and was eerily obsessed with consuming these skinny crunchy rolls apparently I’ve been denying him his required dose of crispy fried vegetable products since he plowed through these like there was a prizes at the bottom of the pile.

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