Houstonians have a lot of big opinions, especially when it comes to food.
When I first moved here, I was told that no matter what I write about burgers, barbecue or Tex-Mex, readers are going to challenge me because Houstonians hold these three things very dear. I have something to add to that trifecta, though: Thai food.
It seemed odd to me at first. Why would Texans -- lovers of all things big and beefy and cheesy -- be so opinionated about the veggie-heavy cuisine of a small Asian country? In 2011, we wrote about the top five Thai restaurants in Houston, and the article garnered nearly 50 comments, most of them disagreeing with the author's choices. Last year, Katharine Shilcutt wrote a favorable review of Njoy Thai, but the comments reverted back to a discussion of the best and worst Thai joints in town. I recently mentioned the green curry at Nit Noi in a roundup of my 100 favorite dishes, and readers accused me of knowing nothing about Thai food.
Why is their so much disagreement about the best Thai food in Houston? One person's favorite is another person's "awful Americanized Thai," and there's not even a consensus on which neighborhood is a good bet for Thai food. I feel we're destined to disagree about Thai food as long as there is Thai food in Houston.
I'll tell you what I thought; I loved it.
The interior is sparse, and from the outside you'd never know that the tiny strip center restaurant churns out not only tasty Thai, but delicious dishes influenced by other Asian cultures as well. I've sat at a table with Thai people and eaten food prepared by Thai cooks, and the curry at Morningside rivals the homemade stuff that first piqued my interest in the cuisine.
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The menu is more American Thai than traditional Thai. You won't find any green papaya salad or fermented rice or pork blood. But you will find some of the friendliest staff and best curry in Houston, and I'll stand by that claim no matter what.
The red curry with roasted duck is a classic Thai dish, and Morningside's chef/owner Ying Roberts represents her home country well with her version. So, too, is the pad thai an excellent version of a classic dish.
I never hear Morningside mentioned among the best Thai restaurants in Houston, and it's a shame, because it's an authentic family affair. I think when it moved from its previous location (actually on Morningside) and was forced to close for several months because of the move, people sort of gave up on it. It's only now being rediscovered in a Braeswood shopping center as a quick and delicious lunch spot and a reasonably priced dinner destination.
Though many of the orders coming in and out of the kitchen on any given evening seem to be for takeout and delivery, the little restaurant is still welcoming a steady stream of customers, eager for a soothing bowl of curry served with a smile and a giggle from one of the waitresses. And it's still churning out great Thai food. Is it the best in Houston? You tell me.