Richmond and Columbia counties have a mostly healthy rivalry. No matter what the subject, the two just can’t help but compare themselves and claim superiority over the other.
Those who love Richmond County cite its eclectic downtown and beautiful Hill area, as well as the convenience of getting where you need to go in no time flat. They love knowing everyone in town (as well as their daddies) and passing Walton Way houses down through generations almost as much as they love wearing their khakis (guys) and Lilly Pulitzer dresses (ladies, obviously) to grab a happy hour cocktail at Sheehan’s.
To Richmond County residents, those who live in ColCo (often doctors whose work brought them here from out of town) are seen as fancy-schmancy, suburb-dwelling snobs who love their crime-free, chain-chicken-joint, better school system existence as much as they love clogging up traffic by driving 10 miles below the speed limit on Washington Road during rush hour.
This debate goes back and forth constantly and, for those without a dog in the hunt, it’s easy to see the good and bad on both sides of the rivalry.
Well, except for one. Unfortunately for Richmond County residents, Columbia County is the clear victor when it comes to Thai restaurants. Despite the growth in the past 10 years of locally owned, trendy restaurants like Tako Sushi, Crums on Central, the Bee’s Knees and Manuel’s Bread Cafe, no one in Richmond County seems to want to open a decent, authentic Thai restaurant.
And no, we haven’t forgotten about Thai Jong on Washington Road. It is closed for Masters Week so that it can offer its substantial lawn to vendors, but diners love this small, family owned restaurant the other 51 weeks of the year. Unfortunately, the owners have learned to cook for their customers, which means they offer Chinese as well as Thai cuisine, and don’t offer the most authentic versions of dishes like Pad Thai.
Which means we who live “in town” are left with no option but to drive way out Washington Road (almost to the Walmart… are you kidding me?) to Thai Kitchen.
Located in the Kroger shopping center, almost hidden from view, this restaurant is nearly as small as its Richmond County counterpart and, likewise, is family owned. It’s worth the 10 or so mile drive, however, because this is as close to the real deal as you’re likely to get in the CSRA when it comes to Thai cuisine.
When you visit, you’ll walk directly into the small dining room and, chances are, an adorable younger member of the family will lead you to your table (take 2-3 steps, turn, sit) and hand you menus. It’s an extensive menu, so here are some suggestions. Skip the wontons or eggrolls and go straight to the Mee Grob appetizer, If they have this crispy fried noodle dish that is both tangy and sweet (and they sometimes don’t), you won’t be sorry you branched out. If they’re out of the Mee Grob, soup is always a good choice.
Don’t know what anything on the entrée menu means, despite the descriptions? Don’t worry: we haven’t been let down yet by the Thai Kitchen crew. We have found, however, that the coconut milk contained in many of the dishes gives a little balance to the hot red curry and even hotter green curry.
Oh, and ask about the doughnuts with peanut dipping sauce: They’re not on the menu, but we hear they’re fantastic.
That only leaves one thing: What Richmond County is going to do about this. Because if there’s one thing residents can’t stand, it’s losing to ColCo.