THE PLACE: Restaurants that share their parking lots with a gas station can go one of two ways. Simply Thai confidently coexists with the 7-Eleven in a Spanish Springs plaza on Pyramid Highway and beats any of its nearby residents on taste, hands down.
The authentic Thai restaurant serves fresh fare with genuinely friendly service.
THE LOOK: Simply Thai is small, with seating along the walls and windows and a few tables appropriately spaced apart on the main floor. There are no booths, but I don't miss them during my visit.
The décor is similar to other Thai restaurants, save for the gas-burning fireplace at the front of the restaurant, which I like for whatever reason its owners decided to put it there. It fits as much as it doesn't.
THE MEAL: I choose pad Thai with chicken ($9.95) on this visit, and my husband chooses green curry with pork ($9.95). The vegetables in both dishes have just the right amount of crunch. The curry positively pops (yes, I sneaked a few bites), and the broth is thin enough that the white rice served alongside pulls in its flavor.
The pad Thai is a touch sweet, which I like, and noodles are appropriately chewy. I can't get enough of the little blocks of tofu included in the dish. Peanuts and bean sprouts provide more crunch.
KUDOS: Service at Simply Thai -- we've been a few times -- is unfailingly great. Our water glasses are refilled constantly, waiters patiently answer my questions about the menu, and we're checked in on just enough (and, importantly, not too much). The wait staff makes you feel as if there is no other place they'd rather be.
QUIBBLES: Spice -- of both the heat and flavor variety -- is king in our house. When my husband requested heat of four on a scale of one to five, it wasn't near as hot as on a previous visit, when his eyes happily watered. That could be on us, though. Sometimes, you've got to assure your server you really can take the heat.
ALTERNATIVES: Simply Thai's specialties run about $15, but the green, yellow and red curries all come in under $10 and can be made with chicken, pork, beef or tofu/vegetable. There are more than a half-dozen noodle dishes all under $10. And the pauk pauk salad with papaya and shrimp (trust me, it works) is a deal at $8.95.
RETURN TRIP?: Simply Thai brings great flavors to the table. It's close to home. We'll happily return.