Photos by Elizabeth Simpson

Thai Canteen
1501 16th Street • Sacramento

After getting settled in cozy downtown Davis for more than two years, restaurant owner, T, is ready to take on the big city.

Coming from a successful Thai restaurant in a college town, the Thai Canteen has opened a second location on the block of 16th and O in downtown Sacramento. The owners, T, his sister and her boyfriend are excited to feed the city with traditional Thai food but with a modern twist.

At first glance you might have a difficult time realizing it is a Thai restaurant because of the modern look and appeal. Instead of a formal sit down restaurant with white tablecloths and a server waiting for your every need, the canteen has a more relaxed and comfortable environment. There are wooden benches, green painted walls, small lights hanging from the ceiling, a water station, bar and front counter to give it more of the “hang out and sit for a bit” vibe, explained T.

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“Once you walk into [a] Thai restaurant they really stick to old and formal. [My sister and I] wanted to do something new about Thai restaurants. So when people come in you can feel something different,” explained T sitting inside the Canteen.

Since opening the new location two weeks ago, T and his sister are putting in 10 to 15 hour days to keep up with both restaurants. He is planning to add more modern artwork to the walls, add food specials and, with a liquor license on the way, possibly start happy hour.

“Within a month everything will be together,” T said with a smile. “After everything is ready and set up, you guys are going to love it.”

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But judging from the dinner crowd on a Wednesday night it seems Sacramento already loves it. But don’t let a few touch-ups and the modern look distract you from the delicious menu; Thai Canteen has plenty of fresh and authentic food to offer. The menu is divided up into five different categories: Rice Plates, Salads, Soup, Noodles and Snacks. And if you weren’t hungry before you walked into the Thai Canteen you will soon be after you read the items listed on the menu and will become overwhelmed with curry, rice, prawns, vegetables and spices. The majority of the plates on the menu range from $7 to $8 and the appetizers are almost all $5 making it an affordable lunch or dinner for everyone.

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My feast for the evening included, Pad Med Mamuang, Pad Thai, crispy taro fries, Thai iced tea and fried banana with green tea ice cream for dessert.

I started with a refreshing and cold Thai Iced tea that made me forget about the previous 110-degree weekend in Sacramento. The Pad Med Mamuang had stir-fry cashews, water chestnuts, onions, roasted chilies, a small dome of white rice on the side and chicken (for the rice plates you have the options of choosing chicken, pork, beef or tofu). The chicken was covered in a rich spicy brown sauce that went perfectly with the crunchy water chestnuts and onions.

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Up next were the crispy taro fries. After eating this I officially have a new favorite fry; they made regular French fries seem greasy and bland. And normally the word fry doesn’t seem to match a Thai restaurant but the Canteen serves up taro fries that resemble three small hash browns, which were crispy on the outside but soft and warm in the middle.

For dessert I couldn’t resist to order the fried banana with green tea ice cream, and I had no regrets. The fried banana was not what I expected. It was a warm, cooked banana wrapped up a mini egg roll-like shell topped with sweet sauce. The fried banana with a side of ice cream was the best way to end the perfect meal.

The best part about going out with friends to a restaurant is that you get to sample a little bit off their plates. It also seemed fitting to bring a big group, because we were not only eating but socializing in the Thai Canteen. Along with my main meal I got to sample the Pad Thai, steak salad and the Pad Si Ew (rice noodles stir fried with broccoli and egg in sweet and sour sauce) and the coconut juice that contained giant slices of fresh coconut on the bottom. Everything I sampled left me wanting to come back to get every dish for myself.

If you live in Davis or Sacramento, you can now experience traditional Thai food with a modern take that is affordable, delicious and will leave you wanting more. If you are a night owl that craves food late at night the Thai Canteen is open late hours Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. and Sunday through Monday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Welcome these owners to Sacramento the right way and grab a friend to dine out and hang out at the Thai Canteen.

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