Joel Warner's post on the Perk Cycle -- the bike-powered coffee cart that was just rolled out by Wash Perk Coffee Shop -- inspired a response from Michael Rosacci, who sent us shots of Thai street carts that included a full-blown kitchen on the back of a motorbike. Along with his photos, he offered this:
I have tons of pics from Thailand street sellers and markets (and Hong Kong and Japan), but this cart immediately came to mind. There's running water, a grill on the back, a stack of chairs, one hard-working fella and no health dept. to worry about! Really common stuff in much of Asia.
Really common, and really nostalgia-inducing. But while eating curry cooked up at a roadside kitchen (much less a beer garden along the Mekong, like the one I referenced in my recent review of Thai Flavor) isn't common in the Mile High City, it's not impossible. There are two Thai carts on the 16th Street Mall: the Thai Food Cart at 16th and Stout streets, and Liang's Thai Food at 16th and Tremont.
Both spots frequently boast long, long lines - partly because their food is so good, partly because they cook one dish at a time on their tiny, portable stoves, tossing noodles and vegetables into an oiled pan and moving at their own slow pace. It's enough to make you freak out when the guy at the front isn't ready to order, asking about the difference between pad see ewe and drunken noodles while you stand, twenty-dollar bill pinched between two fingers, ready to make your choice. But they're both worth the wait.
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The Thai Food Cart only serves about seven items, including crab and cheese wontons, Panang curry and excellent pad Thai, loaded with chiles and vegetables or chicken. Liang's Thai Food has a more expansive menu, incorporating Panang and massaman curries as well as papaya salad, spicy sour soup and pad Thai and pad see ewe.
I stopped by Liang's today for panang and watched through the window as she cooked my order, slowly and methodically, adding tender beef, basil and chunks of pepper, and then dumping in enough pepper at the end to produce a sinus-clearing burn. It was orange, thick and just a little too sweet, but eating it while sitting on a sunny bench on the first full day of spring satisfied my street-food cravings.