Wheaton Thai In A Nutshell

Before things slow down here for the next few days, the first in a series of planned posts about the overall state of various cuisines in Wheaton.  This is more for my own benefit than anything, reminding myself about the lay of my own land, but if it helps anyone else, that’s great too.  I’m starting with Thai because the overall quality here is excellent, and Nava is, in my opinion, not only the single best restaurant in Wheaton, but is also as good as any Thai restaurant I have found outside of Thailand, including having lived and eaten for years in Seattle and the San Francisco Bay Area (I have not been to Portland’s acclaimed Pok Pok, but that day of reckoning will eventually happen…oh yes, it will happen!). Anyway:

Nava (11301 Fern) — the best, Jerry, the best! Everything is good, the spicier the better. Just turn to your server and smile and say “Kaprow!” and all will be well. Even the pad thai is worth getting, notably better than other restaurants’ versions. But ordering more exotic, less-well-known-to-Westerners dishes also pays off here.

Ruan (11407 Amherst) — very good, just not as good as Nava, and much smaller, the gem of the extremely divey strip mall near the Wheaton Post Office just North of University. We tend to get takeout here rather than eat-in. Their website is fairly new and similar to the restaurant in its simple quality. Soups and pad prik khing are my favorites here; massamun curry, while not 100% authentic, is still tasty although on the sweet side.

Suporn (2301 Price) — food equal to Ruan, and one commenter here once praised its vegetarian options as better than Nava’s. Bigger than Ruan, similar decor. I have only eaten here once in the past five years but it was recent (2009), and very good.

Dusit (2404 University) — once great, but fell apart in 2006 or 2007, when (I think this is right but I could be wrong) their chef quit and moved to Nava. If true, it would explain a lot.  We had back-to-back disastrous experiences here right around that transitional time (whatever happened, there was a clear transition from great to not) and haven’t been back since. Would be interested to know if anyone prefers it to any of the other three notable Wheaton Thai places. No Dusit website that I know of.

I don’t know if the place behind Hung Phat, where Nava used to be, is strictly Thai or more pan-Asian, or what — it was Thai when I visited right after it opened but I think it may have changed some since then. Gotta get back there.

In sum: Nava is the bomb, but you can’t go wrong with Ruan or Suporn, and if those three weren’t so good, I would have given Dusit another chance by now, but why bother when you know you’ll get good Thai at the other places.

7 responses to “Wheaton Thai In A Nutshell

  1. Interesting question:

    My friends & I swear by Nava. I’ve heard good things about Ruan, and in the interest of giving anything a shot, think I should try it….

    BUT how do you voluntarily go there and essentially pass up a perfectly good meal at Nava Thai?!?! I fear I may never have any Thai in Wheaton other than Nava, and you know? I am perfectly ok with this fact.

  2. Hey! I’ve lived in Wheaton since 2007 and agree that there is really awesome Thai food here. (And I LOVE Wheaton, delicious!!) I have to disagree about Dusit though. Dusit is really good and I hate to see anyone slam it, especially since their business seems to have been affected by yet another Thai restaurant opening in the neighborhood. The inside of Dusit may not be much to look at, but their food is remarkably, consistently, delicious. They have the best red curry and talay around and really excellent service. They are totally comfort food. If you had a bad experience there, I feel like something else was going on, because I’ve never had a bad experience there and make a point of eating there weekly. I agree with your summations of the other places–Nava Thai is really good, Ruan is okay, but Dusit is great and I hate the though of them loosing even more business.

    Also, just a side note and my own personal opinion – aren’t there enough closed businesses around here? If you don’t like a place, that’s fine, but don’t you feel some responsibility writing negatively about a place that may be impacted by your words, possibly close down, and therefore impact your own property values and quality of life?

  3. I love Thai food, and I’ve been to all of these places except for Suporn, so here’s my review:
    Nava: We end up going to Nava the most because it’s closest to our house and it’s dining room is also the nicest, so we can take friends and family there without scaring them (unlike Ruan’s run down strip mall location!). I think their drunken noodles are some of the best I’ve had and I also really like their duck curry. I’m personally not a fan of their pad thai, but I think it’s just a personal preference.

    Ruan: They have my favorite version of pad thai around, and I love their crispy watercress appetizer (but they’re too heavy with the fish sauce for some people’s taste). I’ve also had their whole fish (flounder when I tried it) with chili basil sauce and it was out of this world. So, personally, I have Ruan in a tie with Nava, but Nava wins out because of location and ambiance.

    Dusit: I’ve gone here a few times since we moved to Wheaton over the summer and I’ve always liked it. They’ve got the usual thai menu offerings, so it’s not quite as interesting as Nava or Ruan, but they did a good job with everything we’ve had there. Maybe they’ve gotten their act together since the last time you went there. Their dining room decor is straight out of the 80s (with neon wall art!), so I find that pretty amusing.

    Suporn: I saw some bad reviews of this place on City Paper’s website, and with 3 other good thai food options close by, I haven’t been willing to risk a mediocre meal there. It sounds like I may have to give it a try, though!

  4. eatinwheaton

    Christine: that’s a fair question, and I don’t go out of my way to slam anyone, but I’m also honest about my own preferences, and the sad fact is, we had two consecutive more-than-an-hour waits at Dusit (when assured on the phone it would take a half hour or less) and then the food was not up to par when we finally got it. And why go back, when we have three other good Thai options within blocks? But I’m glad you and WheatonCalling posted to defend Dusit, because I know different people have difference experiences, and the bottom line is nobody should ever just assume I’m right about anything — people should try restaurants themselves and come to their own conclusions.

    WheatonCalling: thanks for the comment, although I have to say, Ruan’s pad thai seems to me like pretty much any other average-to-good version, while Nava’s is unusually good — but I agree that, since it is in some way different (I think more tamarind, maybe among other things), it won’t appeal to everyone. I think the Nava version is more authentic, to whatever extent that matters (maybe not at all to most people!).

    Candace: good point! Sometimes we just like to change it up, and Ruan really is very good.

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  6. My wife and I love the Tom Kha at Dusit, so we go there most of the time. Been in Wheaton since 2003; haven’t tried Nava, but we will off the recs here. Ruan is good as well. Yeah, not exactly wordy, am I?

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