Friday, March 23, 2012

Smiling Banana Leaf in Highland Park

I like Thai food, a lot. We're lucky in Pittsburgh to have nearly a dozen solid Thai restaurants. (I visited Urban Spoon and 41 Pittsburgh area restaurants tagged as "Thai".) I've been to other medium sized cities where this is just not the case. Pittsburgh even had quite a selection of Thai cuisine twenty years ago--did you know that Mad Mex on McKnight Road was built on a former Thai spot called "T2?" (It would be interesting to see what Big Burrito might do with Thai.)

Normally I eat at Nicky's Thai Kitchen on Western Ave. in the North Side. They're good people who serve great food in an elegant space. It's also three miles door-to-door for me, so I've no reason to go elsewhere. The other night, a friend of mine suggested we visit "his" Thai place. I knew good things were in store based on what I'd heard from others. It was 75 degrees and there wasn't a cloud in sight. In Pittsburgh. In March.

Chicken Satay.
I showed up early and found us a seat inside of an intimate dining room with just a handful of tables and a wooden banquette with small pillows. Everyone was smiling over their food but engrossed in conversation; this is always a good sign. I was running rarely early; only as my friends were picking up beer along the way. By the time they arrived, some sidewalk seating had freed up and I was led outside with my menu.

We had a casual dinner, leaving all choices to the chef. We drank beer, ate spicy and flavorful food slowly and shared a lively conversation. Sidewalk Thai food on a warm evening in Pittsburgh in March--what a dream. I thought it was so good that I've returned for another dinner in just three nights. In fairness to Nicky's; I'm willing to concede that some of the lustre may've been due to the beer, or wine, or the San Diego-like weather. Both places are solid, but I like The Smiling Banana Leaf just a little more overall.

They offer BYOB, accept major credit cards and parking is not difficult. (Just beware of the yellow curbs as PAT buses swing past frequently and need the space to turn.) They're on a corner and are able to deploy their sidewalk seating and umbrellas whenever the weather is nice. The Smiling Banana Leaf is quite close to food places like E2, Park Bruges and Food Glorious Food and a new noodle shop I have not even researched. Take a look at the photos; visit their website. I hope to post a detailed review of their food soon after a few more meals. I'm sure it won't be long.

Smiling Banana Leaf on Urbanspoon

Spring Roll--they are in sharper focus in person.

Tom Kha Soup.

Green Curry with Tofu.

Crispy Calamari.

Sweet Mango with Sticky Rice.

The corner.


  1. love thai. will check this place out!

  2. One of my favorites! Pretty close to CMU too.


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