"That's RIGHT," my friend said when I pointed out Huntington Beach has an inordinate amount of Thai restaurants—probably more than any other OC town. "I used to go out with some girl from there, and we'd always get pad Thai for dinner."
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After breakfast, breakfast burritos and Italian, Thai food is Surf City's favorite cuisine. There are seven restaurants alone on Beach Boulevard, from Heil to Yorktown avenues—roughly one per block. And the best of the bunch is also the one most out of place: Bangkok Avenue. It has a full liquor license, a rarity among Thai restaurants in OC. And it's too pretty for its stretch of Beach, which is mostly tool stores and car lots. The large outdoor patio has a fireplace; inside, large windows and streamlined décor make it resemble a Westside Los Angeles restaurant circa 2009.
That ambiance guarantees a crowd, but so does a menu that respects HB's knowledgable Thai palate. You know you're at a legit Thai restaurant when you see roti, the Indian flatbread that Thais fry and usually eat as dessert; Bangkok Avenue pairs it with a fabulous green curry that beats three-quarters of its county competitors with just one drop. And that's just an appetizer! Bangkok offers sausages that range from the puckering (naem, a fermented pork sausage) to the hellacious. Dinners from pad Thai to Crying Tiger get dressed with the verve of a Beard-nominated spot; the khao soi, a hefty red-curry soup that remains my favorite Thai dish, is spectacular and fiery. Bangok is even audacious enough to offer Thai takes on tacos and ceviche, and while it's not as good as the straightforward specialties, you have to admire an ostensible ethnic hole in the wall that pushes beyond its borders.
Finally, credit is due where credit is due: Orange County Register food critic Brad A. Johnson has praised Bangkok Avenue for years. I trash him when necessary, but the guy knows his food when it counts (he recently, rightfully named Taco Maria the best restaurant in OC again). You beat me this time, Brad—did you like the fries?
Bangkok Avenue, 17221 Beach Blvd., Huntington Beach, (714) 841-9567; www.bangkokavenue.com.