Walking into Thai Valley causes a strange, but pleasant, sort of vertigo. The world is suddenly dark, small, and quiet, a stark contrast to the restaurant's busy location in Albany Park. Tables are spaced comfortably throughout the long, narrow space decorated in green and dark wood, with most of them elevated slightly in the front area. A defunct bar (it's BYOB) runs along the rear of the space, and all of the standard Thai-restaurant decorations are in place—golden statues, colorful prints, etc. The tables come stocked with clover-shaped dishes of four different sauces and—a nice touch—your own pitcher of water, to be distributed as you see fit.
But nobody's there for the decor. Like most Thai spots, the real highlight is the food, and at Thai Valley they dish out quantity and quality in even amounts. Nicely sized bowls of tom yum soup (get it with seafood) and heartily portioned appetizers (the satay skewers are a nice treat) are only the beginning. Heaping portions of entrees rest on elongated plates that can barely keep them together. The noodles kee mao (you decide how spicy) is easily large enough to feed two (or three people who aren't that hungry), as are most of the dishes. Lots of items are available with crispy noodles for an extra dollar, and the many ingredient choices make customizing your meal a breeze. The friendly and helpful waitstaff won't even charge you that always-annoying corkage fee. Prices for most items stay below ten dollars (with a lunch special below that), so if you're hungry and cheap, Thai Valley will probably keep you full and happy for days.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Mac McCormick