In so many ways, Thai X-ing (Thai Crossing) reminded me of a restaurant you would find in South Philly, or even Rome, not a hipster part of Washington, DC.
Random location – Our Uber let us off across from Shaw’s Tavern on a gridlocked Florida Avenue, and we walked toward 515. Only it was just a series of rowhouses, nothing that looked particularly like a restaurant. There was a sign marking the house number, and a leafy canopy covering part of the yard. You have to be looking for it to find it.
Tiny space – A hostess asked us to wait while she set up the table. So we stood on the sidewalk, watching as plates of food, including beautiful looking whole fish, were carried up the stairs. After a few minutes, she showed us to a small living room area crammed with tables and chairs – the restaurant dining area, or one of them. We had a choice of two tables, a very small table for two with the two chairs perpendicular to each other (think: sitting knees to knees), or a slightly bigger table for four, right outside the kitchen, which we selected.
It’s cozy, but not the kind of place where you linger. We got there at 9:30, and they got us in and out in a little over an hour.
You get what you get – We sat down, and a man put down two bowls of soup. It was a delicious chicken (?) broth. In the broth was a piece of cucumber stuffed with ground chicken, pork or a mixture. We were starving, and the soup was delicious. After we finished, someone else came out of the kitchen to collect our bowls and put down a papaya salad. There was no menu, no chalkboard even, with the day’s specials. You just get whatever courses the kitchen prepares for the evening. Apparently, the theme was meat, fish and vegetables on our night.
BYO – This was the big surprise, and I can’t believe that G’s friend who recommended the place neglected to mention that the restaurant didn’t serve booze (!). We only figured it out when G asked our server for a beer menu. No menu, he says. No beer. What? He tells us that we can buy beer 2 blocks away and points at the door across Florida Avenue. I have not been to a BYO place in DC in years, maybe decades. I’m thinking back to when Full Kee in Chinatown would send us to the sketchy liquor store on the corner to buy Tsingtao.
As we pondered the BYO surprise and whether we really wanted beer with dinner or not, I recalled that G left his wallet at home. It wasn’t a big deal, I had told him I would take him out, but now … After a few bites of the papaya salad, enjoying the texture and slow heat, I got up. I’m going to get beer. So I played frogger across Florida Avenue, walked past a few houses, crossed Rhode Island Avenue, and ended up at a liquor store with two hipsters following me inside. My usual beer tastes lean toward Michelob Ultra, but the selections here were more high brow. I looked through the microbrews and picked a four-pack of Allagash White, which I thought would go nicely with the Thai food.
Heading back, I started to wish I had worn my Merrells instead of four-inch open-toed booties. At least it wasn’t a spike heel.
Bountiful portions of ethnic food – When I got back, G had tucked into pumpkin curry, and there was a large portion of salmon that I’ll describe as Thai-style tandoori and a noodle dish waiting on our table. The food is home-style, so not your typical Thai place, and not the “street food” style of Little Serow, either. The pumpkin curry is the signature dish, and it was so rich that I was pretty much full after a few bites. All the dishes were good – and very filling. And this isn’t the kind of place where you demure or leave hungry. In fact, I think the nice staff would be upset if you didn’t eat (nearly) everything.
Cost-friendly – As we went to pay, I was a bit worried the restaurant would be true Philly – cash only. But they took credit cards. And the price is apparently a bit of a mystery, too. Thai X-ing charges a fixed fee for the multi-course meal, and the price depends on what the kitchen prepares. In our case, it was $40 per person for four courses plus dessert of mango and sweet sticky rice. Very reasonable.
So next time, we’ll be prepared for the BYO part and skip the pre-meal snack. We might even stop by Shaw’s Tavern for a post-dinner drink, if we don’t overindulge in food.