An ameteur foodie’s battle of the dishes

I tried everything on Napa Thai’s menu. Here’s what you should order the next time you visit.

Annalisa Waddick

Alright, I’ll be honest. That deck was a bit of a lie. 

I didn’t actually try everything on Napa Thai’s menu. I’m not made of money, people. 

But I did try 13 main dishes, eight appetizers, and two desserts — all in the span of 10 weeks. Not bad, if I do say so myself. 

My Thai-food-filled semester began back in January, when two friends and I decided to order take-out to celebrate the end of week one. As we walked down N. Main Street to pick it up, I filled the time by asking them what they had ordered. 

“Same as always,” they both replied. For one, that meant drunken noodles. For the other, that meant chicken fried rice. And while I have nothing against either of those dishes — actually, that’s kind of a lie because I do have something against chicken, but I’ll get to that later — this got me thinking: why does everyone do this? Why do people order the same dish every time they go out to eat? 

I guess the answer is pretty simple: humans are creatures of habit. Most of us don’t like change. When we do stretch our comfort levels enough to visit a new restaurant, we probably pick something we know we’re going to like. And then, most likely, we order that same dish until we move away or die or a pandemic prevents us from leaving our houses. 

I decided that I wanted to get out of this rut. I wanted to break my Pad See Ew pattern (that’s my “same as always”), and see what else the world of Napa has to offer me. I wanted to taste as many different things as I possibly could in one semester. 

So that’s what I did. I began putting in an online order every Friday. Eventually, that morphed into Friday and Saturday… and the occasional Sunday. It got to the point where most of the employees knew my name, and some would even ask me about my progress and favorites. 

It was at this time that I decided to transform my little experiment into a journalistic endeavor. After all, if me spending all of this money on Thai food was really “research” for a piece, that meant it didn’t really count as spending money, right? 

Now, before I get to my dish awards, a little disclaimer. I am a vegetarian. Have been for 10 years and am not planning on stopping anytime soon. I’m also transitioning to veganism. Accordingly, I ordered all of my dishes with vegetables or tofu as my “meat.” 

This means that there are some Napa dishes I just couldn’t sample. The best thing on the menu might actually be sweet and sour chicken, but I wouldn’t know it. So if you’re a diehard carnivore, take what I’m saying with a grain of salt. 

Anyway, without any more blabbing, here are the best things to order at Napa Thai: 

Best Overall: Drunken Noodles. 

Somehow, my friend stumbled upon the cream of the crop on her first try. These noodles are fat, dripping with sauce, and heavy with deep flavors. In my notes, I referred to them as “incredible, delicious and heavenly” (and yes, I took notes on each dish!). They have become my new go-to, and I highly recommend them to everyone. 

Best Curry Dish: Panang Curry. 

I wouldn’t consider myself a curry person, but I could eat this dish every day. It’s incredibly rich, but the white rice it’s served with balances the flavor well. The curry itself is sweet, but also has a bit of a spicy aftertaste. To quote myself in my notes, it’s “sooo good.” Definitely a great choice if it’s cold outside and you want something warm or if you’re craving something full of flavor. 

Best Appetizer: Papaya Salad. 

This one surprised me a bit. To be quite honest, I had put it off for some time because it’s exactly the type of thing I normally wouldn’t order. But this salad rocks. It’s composed of thin slices of papaya and carrot, lettuce, green beans, garlic, whole peanuts and a citrus-y dressing. The dressing is a little sour, but when combined with the nuttiness of the peanuts, the sweetness of the papaya and the light crispness of the lettuce, it makes for a winning appetizer. The portion is also huge, and it’s very filling for a salad. 

Best Dessert: Mango Sticky Rice

Frankly, both desserts I had were amazing. The chocolate lava cake was everything one could wish for in a dessert, and I’d happily recommend it to any chocolate lover. But there’s just something so perfect about the rice/mango combination. It’s perfectly sweet, slightly chewy and holds just the right amount of stickiness. The mango was also soft and ripe, which was pleasantly surprising given that I ordered the dish at the end of January (definitely not mango season). I’d give this dessert a 10 out of 10, and I’ll definitely be ordering it again. 

Although these are my personal picks, there’s really no ‘bad’ dish at Napa Thai. I tried 23 dishes in total, and there isn’t a single one I wouldn’t eat again. It’s an amazing restaurant filled with wonderful employees, and we are all so lucky that it’s a part of Lexington. 

Now go support a small business and order some drunken noodles!