This Week's Cafe Review: Morningside Thai Makes Great Thai Food...But Is It the Best?

Categories: On the Menu

orningsidethai.JPG
Photo by Kaitlin Steinberg
Not only is the food beautiful at Morningside Thai -- so are the dishes.
Houstonians have a lot of big opinions, especially when it comes to food.

When I first moved here, I was told that no matter what I write about burgers, barbecue or Tex-Mex, readers are going to challenge me because Houstonians hold these three things very dear. I have something to add to that trifecta, though: Thai food.

It seemed odd to me at first. Why would Texans -- lovers of all things big and beefy and cheesy -- be so opinionated about the veggie-heavy cuisine of a small Asian country? In 2011, we wrote about the top five Thai restaurants in Houston, and the article garnered nearly 50 comments, most of them disagreeing with the author's choices. Last year, Katharine Shilcutt wrote a favorable review of Njoy Thai, but the comments reverted back to a discussion of the best and worst Thai joints in town. I recently mentioned the green curry at Nit Noi in a roundup of my 100 favorite dishes, and readers accused me of knowing nothing about Thai food.

Why is their so much disagreement about the best Thai food in Houston? One person's favorite is another person's "awful Americanized Thai," and there's not even a consensus on which neighborhood is a good bet for Thai food. I feel we're destined to disagree about Thai food as long as there is Thai food in Houston.

Which is why I want all of you to go to Morningside Thai, the subject of this week's cafe review, and tell me what you think.

I'll tell you what I thought; I loved it.

The interior is sparse, and from the outside you'd never know that the tiny strip center restaurant churns out not only tasty Thai, but delicious dishes influenced by other Asian cultures as well. I've sat at a table with Thai people and eaten food prepared by Thai cooks, and the curry at Morningside rivals the homemade stuff that first piqued my interest in the cuisine.

The menu is more American Thai than traditional Thai. You won't find any green papaya salad or fermented rice or pork blood. But you will find some of the friendliest staff and best curry in Houston, and I'll stand by that claim no matter what.

The red curry with roasted duck is a classic Thai dish, and Morningside's chef/owner Ying Roberts represents her home country well with her version. So, too, is the pad thai an excellent version of a classic dish.

I never hear Morningside mentioned among the best Thai restaurants in Houston, and it's a shame, because it's an authentic family affair. I think when it moved from its previous location (actually on Morningside) and was forced to close for several months because of the move, people sort of gave up on it. It's only now being rediscovered in a Braeswood shopping center as a quick and delicious lunch spot and a reasonably priced dinner destination.

Though many of the orders coming in and out of the kitchen on any given evening seem to be for takeout and delivery, the little restaurant is still welcoming a steady stream of customers, eager for a soothing bowl of curry served with a smile and a giggle from one of the waitresses. And it's still churning out great Thai food. Is it the best in Houston? You tell me.

Location Info

Venue

Map

Morningside Thai Restaurant

2473 South Braeswood Boulevard, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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7 comments
HTownChowDown
HTownChowDown

We love this place, and drive in from the Woodlands to enjoy the great food and warm hospitality.

marina
marina

The sisters here are perfectly nice (is there just one sister doing duty here after the fall of Erawan Thai?), but the food is pretty average, even with a lovely orchid atop doing the work of a parsley sprig.

 I too recall bringing a son to the old Morningside location, and it was a good memory. Fortunately we continued our quest beyond that stodgy house and pedestrian cooking, and eventually had better laughs, and food, at places like Vieng, Kanomwan and V's way out west.

But I'm glad you're covering Thai again....try V's and Thai Lily in one trip out west....across the street from one another.

John
John

The thing is Houston just isn't a great city for Thai food. I think there's like one place that serves khao soi, it's impossible to get good Isaan food and 98% of Thai joints, including many of the "top" ones, don't even use holy basil in pad grapow. That doesn't mean this food is bad -- it's not -- but it's kind of a silly debate when the dining landscape is so uncompetitive. (It is a shame that HP has never reviewed Asia Market, though, where you can get dishes that actual Thais actually eat fairly regularly, like boat noodles).

bodl
bodl

Morningside was the first restaurant mentioned in the comment section in the 2011 Top 5 article. It IS often mentioned among the best Thai places in town. Glad you have found it.

Anon
Anon

Long Story: 

Morningside Thai, to me at least, is not just the best Thai food in town, but the best restaurant in town. A  little more than 20 years ago my family would frequent Morningside Thai almost every week. The family that runs the place were so nice that they would let my parents enjoy a quiet meal by themselves while they took my brother and I into the back and babysat us for free. I have fond memories of them playing with us, feeding us, putting us to sleep and genuinely treating my brother and I like we were their own family while my parents got a well deserved night off (we were bratty little kids).  It got to a point when we would beg to eat there so we could hang out in the back with the family and get our faces stuffed or go into the kitchen and watch them make everything. 

As a little white kid growing up in West University I don't think I even ate Chinese food til I was a pre teen, since we would almost exclusively go there for Thai. Although I haven't been to the new location I did visit the original location after I graduated college and they recognized me as soon as I walked through the door, even though I had not seen them in over 10 years. These really are great people and deserve all the business in the world, I am sort of disappointed in myself for not trying the new location, but will soon. 

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