San Diego is one of the prettiest and busiest states in the country, so it’s no wonder people come from all over the world to visit its top attractions. Besides the San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, and Seaworld San Diego, there are hundreds of other attractions in the city, from museums to theatres to hiking trails.
While visiting parks and scouting out Orca’s at the beach can be incredibly fun, one of my favorite parts of San Diego is the eclectic assortment of food all around you just waiting to be tasted. As one of the most popular cuisines in the city, Thai food restaurants are all over the place, but how do you know which ones are worth it?
There are plenty of Thai places in the San Diego metropolitan area to choose from, but these are my favorites.
Lanna Thai Cuisine
4501 Mission Bay Dr #1B, San Diego, CA 92109
Lanna Thai Cuisine is an authentic and unique Thai restaurant in San Diego. They pride themselves on serving up fresh, healthy takes on generational Thai recipes and providing dishes from all over Thailand.
Located on Mission Bay Drive, Lanna Thai Cuisine is right off the San Diego freeway and a perfect lunch or dinner spot for anyone staying at the Fairfield Inn & Suites, or the Holiday Inn Express, which are both nearby.
The restaurant is within walking distance from the Mission Bay Golf Course and the popular De Anza Cove Park. Lanna Thai is a cozy spot with a casual vibe but could easily be a great date spot or place to take clients who are staying in the city.
If you stop at Lanna Thai Cuisine, I’d recommend first trying the classic Thai dishes like Pad Thai and Pad Kee Mao (drunken noodles) before branching out to more unique plates like their New Zealand Mussels or Bangkok Steak.
The restaurant’s specials change every day, with popular seafood dishes like lightly-battered Bronzino bass and wild-caught scallops and prawns making routine appearances.
Supannee House of Thai Restaurant & Catering
2907 Shelter Island Dr. UNIT 110, San Diego, CA 92106
Supannee House of Thai Restaurant and Catering is located on Shelter Island Drive, in the upscale neighborhood of Point Loma in San Diego. Shelter Island is known for concerts, art, and gorgeous beaches and is a well-known spot for locals and tourists alike.
Close to other four and a half and five-star restaurants and hotels, Supannee House of Thai provides casual Thai fare with fresh specialties provided by owner Supannee herself.
Suppanee also tends the Supannee House Garden, where she grows fresh ingredients for the restaurant and frequents the local fish markets to buy seafood for her recipes. The chef, Supannee’s older sister Wan prides herself on making her Thai sauces from scratch.
When you get a chance to try Supannee House of Thai, make sure to try something new like their Crab Pad Thai or specialties like Pompano (golden butterfish) or Chef Wan’s Wild Salmon. My favorites are the Gai Trakai (lemongrass chicken) and Screaming Tiger (marinated flank steak). Supannee’s House of Thai is also well known for its spicy seafood, including Pad-Ped Squid (spicy squid).
Bahn Thai is a homey but modern Thai spot gaining acclaim in San Diego. With University Heights and Hillcrest locations, this family-owned and operated restaurant is an ideal lunch or dinner venue. Voted San Diego’s Best Thai Restaurant of 2021 by the San Diego Reader and RestaurantGuru.com, this eatery is focused on the Thai principle of enjoying time spent relaxing and eating with family and friends.
The executive chefs of Bahn Thai are husband and wife team Sam and Kate, who pride themselves on serving both classic and more obscure dishes while conserving Thai royal cuisine. If it’s your first time at Bahn Thai, try their famous crispy pork with Panang Curry or choose from their “Top 5 Southern Thai Street Food” menu.
Looking for seafood? Try Bahn Thai’s crispy whole sea bass, marinated in fresh turmeric and garlic. Before you leave, make sure to try the always popular mango sticky rice and an authentic Thai iced coffee.
55 Thai Kitchen
55 Thai Kitchen is almost a Thai food staple in San Diego at this point. With locations in Golden Hill, East Village, on the San Diego State University campus, and at Pacific Beach, it’s safe to say this community-focused Thai restaurant has become a favorite in America’s finest city.
Started by Head Chef Vijit Pipatkhajonchai (Jit for short), 55 Thai Kitchen is dedicated to giving back to the communities it’s supported by and making affordable, healthy, and creative Thai food. This spot has a very casual vibe regardless of the location you choose and is perfect for lunch, dinner, or guilt-free takeaway.
55 Thai Kitchen is known for its delicious Thai staples like Pad Thai and homemade yellow curry and its mouthwatering house specials. Chef Jit’s recipes for Massaman Chicken Curry, Gai Tod over rice, and spicy basil chicken are out of this world, mixing marinated flavorful chicken with tasty herbs, sticky rice, and crisp garden-fresh vegetables.
If you stop by, make sure to try the healthy ginger stir fry with mushrooms, celery, zucchini, and more!
The Original Sab-E-Lee
6925 Linda Vista Rd B, San Diego, CA 92111
The Original Sab-E-Lee offers healthy, flavorful Thai food in the gorgeous neighborhoods of Linda Vista and Rancho Penasquitos in San Diego. Both locations of this authentic Thai restaurant have a very casual vibe. The Linda Vista location is the perfect place for lunch after hiking in Tecolote Canyon Natural Park or a skate at the Linda Vista skatepark or Skateworld San Diego.
With northeastern Thailand (Isaan) born Iron chef Malee at the head, The Original Sab-E-Lee promises authentic Isaan Thai cuisine made with delicious ingredients customized to your spice level. A family-style eatery, the Original Sab-E-Lee has been a local favorite since opening in 2008.
Thinking of trying the Original Sab-E-Lee? Chef Malee recommends Nahm Tok (grilled beef or pork with homemade spicy chili lime sauce), Tom Ka (soup with mushroom and lemongrass), and Morning Glory. In my opinion, you can never go wrong with tasty staples like my personal favorite Pad Thai or comfort dishes like Thai sausage fried rice.
Want something special? The Original Sab-E-Lee offers Thai specialties like grilled pork neck, spicy naked shrimp, or Squid Larb.
Chaba Thai Kitchen
8010 Clairemont Mesa Blvd, San Diego, CA 92111
Chaba Thai Kitchen is situated right off Kearny Mesa road, triangulated between the Hampton Inn and Suites, Courtyard Marriott San Diego, and the Motel 6. Surrounded by other Asian fusion restaurants and the H-Mart, Chaba Thai Kitchen stands out with multi-regional dishes and rare recipes passed down by family members.
Head Chef Matinee is dedicated to creating tastes identical to those you’d find in Thailand. Well-liked by Thai diners in the area, Chaba Thai Kitchen serves up outstanding authentic Thai flavors with options for vegetarian and gluten-free diners.
Chef Matinee handpicks all the produce used in the kitchen from local markets to ensure freshness, and every dish is hand prepped and cooked to order. Chaba Thai Kitchen is well known for its Pad Thai and Khao Soi (Northern Thai egg noodle soup), and I would recommend trying their Khao Kluk Kapi Fried Rice, which I loved.
From Monday to Friday, Chaba Thai serves lunch specials from 11 am to 3 pm, and you can grab many of their delicious plates with added appetizers and their soup of the day.
Koon Thai Kitchen
3860 Convoy St Suite 102, San Diego, CA 92111
Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2020, Koon Thai Kitchen has established itself as a stellar Thai restaurant in San Diego since its opening in 2010. Named for a national flower of Thailand, Koon Thai Kitchen’s mission is to serve you Thai food made with original ingredients and authentic recipes.
Located in the Kearny Mesa area on Convoy St, Koon Thai Kitchen provides a snazzy family-friendly setting that makes it perfect for everything from lunch with the kids to date night. Right off the Cabrillo Freeway, this spot is ideal for those staying at the Four Points Sheraton or visiting the Rady Children’s Hospital.
A fair warning, Koon Thai Kitchen is fairly spicy. The kitchen uses hot Thai chili peppers to spice their dishes, making them more than the usual amount of spicy. Looking for something to split with friends? Try the curry spinach puffs or the Goong Sarong (fried shrimp with egg noodles).
Need a vegetarian option? Koon Thai Kitchen offers all their soups with vegetables or tofu instead of meat. House specials include Pla Sahm Rod (fried fish with sweet and sour sauce) and Jaew Hot Pot.
2789 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116
Sukhothai Extraordinaire is based on the Sanskrit principles of happiness and emergence, and the name means “The Dawn of Happiness.” Designed to create a rustic Thai ambiance, Sukhothai boasts a relaxing and comforting vibe and picture-perfect plates.
With a slightly more eclectic menu than other restaurants in the area, Sukhothai is located between the Metro United Pentecostal Church and the Sri Chinmoy Peace Garden on Adams Avenue in University Heights. Sukhothai’s head chef Samorn promises unique, high-quality, savory Thai meals made with the finest ingredients available. Focused on happiness, comfort, and wellness, Sukhothai is dedicated to inspiring every diner.
Chef Samorn recommends delicious Thai favorites like young coconut Tom Yum, three flavors fish, and braised beef Panang curry. My favorite is the old-school pad Thai, with Miang Kham (grilled shrimp with toasted coconut, lime, peanut, and ginger) as a flavorful appetizer beforehand.
If you’re a fan, you’ll order from Sukhothai’s hidden menu, which includes tasty tangerine chicken.
Plumeria Vegetarian Restaurant
4661 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92116
Plumeria Vegetarian Restaurant is located in the middle of University Heights, near Trolley Barn Park and the San Diego Diversionary Theatre. After a walk in the park or catching a show, find your way to Plumeria for vegan and vegetarian versions of your favorite Thai dishes.
Deviating from traditional Thai fish-based sauces and animal products, Plumeria Vegetarian Restaurant uses the finest ingredients to prepare fresh plates of flavorful, healthy food every single day. Healthy also means no MSG and organic, non-GMO, gluten-free tofu locally produced in San Diego. Plumeria also works hard to meet the dietary needs of its customers.
If you are trying Plumeria Vegetarian Restaurant for the first time, try the light flower cups as an appetizer and the crispy tangerine tofu or pumpkin curry for an entree. Looking for something sweet at the end of your meal?
Plumeria has more dessert options than a typical Thai restaurant, and I adored their banana caramel cheesecake egg rolls and Bau Loys (pandan, taro, and pumpkin rice balls with coconut milk).
4618 Mission Blvd, San Diego, CA 92109
Thai Village is located in Pacific Beach, on Mission Boulevard, perfect if you’re staying at Tower23, the Crystal Pier Hotel, and Cottages, or visiting Law Street Beach. With made-to-order dishes and modern takes on traditional Thai recipes, Thai Village is quickly becoming a preference for beachgoers, both local and visiting.
With a very chill and relaxed vibe, Thai Village is ideal for a lunch spot or a low-key date night not too far from the shore. Thai Village offers both meat-eating and vegetarian options and is known for colorful plates featuring excellent flavors.
Thai Village serves specials like half chickens with spicy, Rama or Thai barbeque sauce. I would choose the spicy scallop special if you’re trying it for the first time. Taking a step away from tradition, Thai Village also serves fruit curries, including avocado curry with eggplant, pumpkin curry, mango curry, and pineapple curry.
If you’d prefer something with vegetables, definitely try the zucchini with tofu for a healthy spicy treat.
Thotsakan Thai and Vegetarian Cuisine
1153 Sixth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
Another favored restaurant for vegetarians, Thotsakan Thai and Vegetarian Cuisine, is an award-winning restaurant with three awards from Yelp in 2017, 2018, and 2019. Thotsakan is located in downtown San Diego in the Core-Columbia district, near the Marriott Vacation Club Pulse and the Balboa Theatre.
The meaning of Thotsakan is to pay tribute to the guardian of the gates in Buddhist temples. Serving up Thai standards and specialty dishes, as well as veggie-based options, Thotsakan Thai and Vegetarian Cuisine is the quintessential Thai restaurant with statues and a casual but relaxed vibe.
My favorite dishes were the tofu summer rolls, the Pra Ram (steamed spinach, broccoli, and carrots with peanut sauce), and the pineapple fried rice. Thotsakan Thai’s most popular plates include Thai chicken spring rolls and drunken noodles with garlic chili sauce. If you’re looking for enough options for the entire family, Thotsakan is the spot for you.
AAHARN by Koon Thai
1202 Kettner Blvd Admin Office, San Diego, CA 92101
Aa-Harn, a restaurant by Koon Thai, offers original Thai tastes in three locations in San Diego. Aa-Harn means food in Thai and backs the restaurant’s mission to provide healthier and tastier Thai food. Modern, colorful spaces in Kettner, University Heights, and Rancho Penasquitos serve up Aa-Harn’s unique blend of authentic Thai flavors.
Focused on a healthy take on traditional recipes, Aa-Harn uses minimal oil in all of their dishes and is proud of doing no deep frying in any location. High-quality ingredients are imported from Thailand to ensure that all dishes are created using genuine Thai staples.
Trying Aa-Harn for the first time? Try modern takes on older recipes like leek spring rolls or chive cubes. Entrees include wok sauteed dishes, curries, noodles, and Thai fried rice. Of everything on the expansive menu, the asparagus lotus root saute and mango glazed chicken was my favorite, but other specials like the cashew crusted salmon or vineyard golden fish are also highly favored by customers.