Unless Jitlada Thai House was recommended to you, chances are you haven't checked it out. Shoved into the corner of a nondescript plaza overlooking Halsted Street on the outskirts of Boystown, the exterior would not charm the unsuspecting passerby into stopping there. But once inside, it feels as if you've walked into the dining room of a Thai household; comfortable elegance surrounds you, reminiscent of the atmosphere during holiday meals. Mirrors, flowers, and Thai souvenirs adorn the white walls and shelves, with several royal portraits hanging about; the restaurant is named after King Rama IX’s palace in Bangkok.
Larger groups can seat themselves in the more formal area, with wall-lined wood seating as well as shiny black tables and chairs. But most will opt for the cushiony gray leather booths next to the window. Generously sized meals come in decorative ceramic dishes, adding even more to the family dinner feel.
But few can be so lucky as to have relatives that cook like these chefs. Immediately, it becomes abundantly clear why this little gem has won numerous "best of" awards in recent years. For $8.25, you can indulge in Jitlada's version of divinity—the house special tofu, topped with ground chicken, peanuts, basil and the chef's sweet and sour sauce. The scrumptious, puffy concoction may even woo over non-tofu believers. The rest of the menu includes favorites like pad thai, satay and tempura, with everything under $10. Those who want to try something a little different should go for the roasted duck curry or the spicy catfish, which comes with curried peppers, bamboo and eggplant.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Paige Gray