Weary Michigan Avenue shoppers tired of overpriced, tourist-trap restaurants should stroll on over to Dao. Located just two blocks off the Mag Mile, the unassuming noodle shop specializes in traditional Thai dishes at easy-on-the-wallet prices.
Dao's spacious dining room means no waiting, and a friendly mix of neighborhood residents and shoppers resting their feet fills the restaurant. Quirky pillars painted with elephants, houses and people run through the center of the dining room, and a golden Buddha clad in a multicolored patchwork vest sits in one corner.
With an extensive selection of appetizers, soups, curries, noodles and entrees, the menu can overwhelm. To make things easier, Dao has culled a few popular dishes into its "recommendations" section. Favorites include cashew chicken, which comes in a thick brown sauce with pea pods, pineapple and plump cashews, and mussaman, featuring beef or chicken in a zippy curry blend. For the more adventurous, it offers exotic tastes like its papaya house salad, which combines shredded green papaya with boiled shrimp, green beans, tomato, ground peanuts and spicy dressing. Entrees range from $6.25 to $7.75, and lunch specials run from 11 a.m-3 p.m. on weekdays.
Asian-style seating, with carpeted benches taking the place of chairs and tasseled red and black pillows on every seat, ensures that diners will feel like rajahs while enjoying a comfy meal. And for people who are too tired to trek to the restaurant, Dao's generous delivery policy means they'll deliver Thai food to your door almost anywhere within Chicago.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Elisabeth Kilpatrick