When you think of the great streets in LA you might think of Wilshire, Sunset, Hollywood and Vine. If you’re thinking of great streets for foodie you might think of Sushi Row on Ventura Blvd. or Culver Blvd. But unless you’re a local you probably wouldn’t be thinking about Sherman Way. Sherman Way is one of the main arteries of the San Fernando Valley and it’s lined mostly with strip malls and auto shops. But there’s a section of it in North Hollywood that lovers of Thai food should not miss. It’s referred to as the Thai Gulch. It starts roughly a little past Woodman and runs to near Whitsett. The places here serve a largely Thai clientele and keep their dishes authentic and affordable.
Sanam Luang Café has two locations, one here on Sherman Way and another in Thai Town in Hollywood. The location in Sherman Way shares a strip mall with the Bangluck Market. Parking is always tricky in the Thai Gulch. The mini mall lots aren’t that big but Sanam Luang has additional spaces in the rear (just be careful when exiting.)
Graffiti aside, Sanam Luang does not look like a hole in the wall. It has a nice patio for al fresco dining and the interior is all metal, neon and Thai artwork. Sunday lunch sees a pretty big crowd of mostly Thai families.
I sat down and set about studying the menu. It was as thick as a magazine and crammed with all kinds of choices. The Thai restaurants can be broken down into two groups, those that offer tapas –like small plates and ridiculously low prices and those that serve large portions, usually meant to be shared at affordable prices. Sanamluang Café serves the large portions with most dishes under $10.
That day I felt like a nice bowl of noodle soup. When I first started eating Thai I was all curry this and curry that. But eating in Thai Gulch has taught to appreciate their noodle soups. Like Vietnamese Pho these can be simple or wildly complex. I decide to get a bowl of noodles for my lunch and choose the house special, The Sanamluang Noodle Soup.
I get a huge bowl full of rice noodles with a half dozen kinds of meat, liver, beef, pork, beef balls, fish cake, and shrimp. It’s sprinkled with cilantro and bits of sweet crispy garlic. It’s topped with a fried wonton which I dig into right away so it doesn’t get mushy. The broth is rich and flavorful but not spicy. I feel like being a pepperhead and sprinkle in a little powdered chili from tableside. Just a little bit is all you need. It concentrates as you get near the end so the last few slurps are spice heaven. It makes for a great refreshing lunch that isn’t too heavy. And with tip it comes out to just under $10.
Sanam Luang Cafe
12980 Sherman Way
North Hollywood, CA 91605
Price Range: Under $10 for most dishes