You may not think that one of the best meals in the Milwaukee area can be had at a strip mall in St. Francis, but so it is. Many Milwaukee publications claim that the best Thai food in town is downtown, but we have eaten at those establishments and find our strip-mall store-front Thai spot to beat the competition, hands down. Bangkok House is located in the same strip-mall as a Pick-n-Save, dollar store, tobacco shop, and other fine St. Francis businesses, but as you enter the restaurant and are greeted by the gracious owner of Bangkok House, the strip-mall flavors melt away.
We have found that many Thai restaurants in the area douse their droopy meats and vegetables with heavy, sticky sauces and cap off the meal with a fortune cookie. In comparison, Bangkok House stays truer to the Thai way with fresh ingredients, sharp flavors, and crisp textures (plus no “Chinese” fortune cookie, thank you). We have been to Bangkok House at least thirty times over the past two years and can’t think of a single bad meal.
Bangkok’s menu is extensive with many vegetarian options. While everything that we have tried has been good, we tend to order a few favorites most often. For an appetizer, you must try the Yum Woon Sen, which true to billing on the menu is a “must for noodle lovers.” It has the lovable noodles, cooked ground pork, shrimp, peanuts, onion, chili peppers, and a clear sweet and spicy sauce. We also enjoy the fresh spring rolls, larb (beef, spiced with chili, lime juice, mint leaves and onions, served with tender cabbage), and Tom Yum Goong (hot and sour soup with shrimp and straw mushrooms, specially seasoned with lime juice, lemon grass and hot pepper). They have many refreshing soups, and you can order them in a hotpot that comes to your table. It would serve two for a meal and four for an appetizer. For entrées, our favorites are 1) sweet basil with squid and 2) panang curry with chicken. The squid is always well cooked, not rubbery. It makes for a healthy dish accompanied by peppers, onions, and of course lots of the Thai basil, tossed with a garlic chili sauce. The panang curry has tenderly cooked meat, bold flavorful curry sauce, and an assortment of vegetables including carrots and peppers. While not shy to a little bit of heat, in most cases, we like to order the heat level at medium to enjoy the chilis, but still be able to finish our meals. The “medium” at Bangkok House is higher than many “mediums” in the Midwest, but the levels vary a bit. Once you go to Bangkok House more than twice, the staff starts knowing you and makes the food and drinks to your taste.
Bangkok House has a full bar, and when the usual bartender works, the drinks will be served up tasty and potent. I especially like the Patpong Scorpion, one of their “specialty drinks” which comes in a fun tikki glass (we never said the place was completely authentic!). There are many other specialty drinks, beers, and a fairly extensive wine list.
In the interest of being difficult reporters, we tried to think of some negative aspects of Bangkok House. The only two minor points we could come up with were 1) the music is fairly annoying, bordering on kitschy and amusing (kind of a Thai Musak with tweeting birds sometimes thrown in!) and 2) while the restaurant is smoke-free, the bar isn’t and the occasional (very infrequent) smoker at the bar can be detected throughout the restaurant. But obviously, those are both minor points. We love the Bangkok House. It is a family-run restaurant with great food and pleasant service. The entrees are more than reasonably priced, our bill is easily half that of what you might spend at one of those downtown Thai places. It is not a super fancy restaurant, but it consistently gives us great food. Give them some of your business!