For those of you who have been here awhile, you may remember Monsoon Café’s origins as an artsy second-story Thai restaurant above the current Downtown Grille.* There were funkily painted chairs and wall-hangings, a couple of intimately capacious seating areas, and an appealing and unusual menu. I don’t know exactly when it moved from that privileged evening-on-the-town location to the decidedly less savory house on the corner of 2nd and Market (@Echangy?), but I thought I heard the death knell approaching. Fortunately, I was wrong. Not only has Monsoon survived, it recently spruced up its menu and interior space, and has got it going on pretty much for the first time since those early days on the mall.
The street impression of Monsoon is not abundantly positive. The patio area, which has the potential to be one of the hippest outdoor seating areas in town, looks neglected and grungy. With a little fresh paint and creative lighting, Monsoon could jam some serious traffic on both the street and sidewalk. Inside, they’ve added more tables and freshened things up considerably.
For my money, the food has always been solid, though more recent additions have elevated it above some of our other go-to’s. The Kao Pad Ka Pow fried rice doesn’t plumb the same umami depths as Lime Leaf‘s, but it is superior to Downtown Thai’s and makes for a filling and delicious lunch at $8. Included in that price is a bowl of soup or salad – I had the mushroom soup, which was somewhat standard salty broth – and a delicious, if mildly phallic, spring roll drizzled with sweet sauce. We’ve been a handful of times in as many weeks and the food has been solid each time, though their “brown sauce” is occasionally too rich, with the consistency of pudding. There is also a great menu of beverages for drinkers and non-drinkers alike (bubble tea!), though I can’t recommend the Thai Lemon Iced Tea, which showcases the potential pitfalls of Thai/Southern American fusion.
*Thanks to @Echangy for pointing out our error in the Best in Thai post in terms of this original location.
Erin says: “A great downtown option when Lime Leaf seems way too far of a drive.”
Rating: Erin: Jed:
Pros: Renovated interior, expanded menu, drink menus.
Cons: Crammed seating.
Price: $8 lunch special includes entrée, soup/salad, spring roll; dinner entrées $8-15.
Parking: The usual mall spots.