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Best Thai

Char Thai Restaurant
5039 E. Fifth St.

READERS' PICK: This tidy little restaurant is a gem almost hidden among its neighbors in a small, unsuspecting strip mall. The family which operates the Tucson Char is related to the owners of the Char Restaurants which defined Thai cuisine for Phoenix residents for decades. Here, they offer the magic of ancient Siamese soul food, deftly combining the familiar (beef, chicken, shrimp, noodles) with the exotic (lemongrass, squid, galanga, fish sauce) in a staggering array of choices. The menu offers more than 100 entrees and appetizers, so you won't run out of new things to try anytime soon. There are also plenty of vegetarian dishes. They'll even customize the hot and spicy factor from mild to nuclear. Don't forget to cool your palate with sweet Thai iced-tea, or your favorite foreign beer. Then start planning your next visit.

READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: Thai food aficionados are no doubt well aware of Karuna's Thai Plate, 1911 E. Grant Road, and the bounty of flavors to be found in the small strip-mall bistro. Karuna's offers an extensive menu featuring a variety of curries and specialty dishes, as well as more standard fare like Pad Thai. Karuna's is a great place for a date (the Catalina theater is right across way); the real detective work here is the hot and sour soup for two, and a plate of steamed spring rolls, which is food enough for Paul Bunyan and Babe, but still easy for your pocketbook to digest.

Case History

1997 Winner: Char Thai Restaurant
1996 Winner: Char Thai Restaurant
1995 Winner: Seri Melaka

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