The DC area is home to a lot of restaurants, and among them are hidden gems that many Washingtonians aren't unearthing. To help guide us to these potential discoveries, we've enlisted some of our city's many food players to share with us their under the radar recommendations for Dining Confidential.
When you're a chef, husband and father sometimes it's impossible to go out for a big dinner in the middle of the week, even if it's to celebrate something important like an anniversary. Steve Mannino, chef of the Rustico in Alexandria, tells Eater about the unlikely spot his family chose for a wedding anniversary lunch.
"My wife and I love Asian food, especially Thai food. In about a six-month period when we would have conversations with friends about dinner options, Thai Pan came up at least 5 - 6 times. We used to always joke about trying the Thai food restaurant "at the gas station." Finally, about a week before our anniversary we decided that we would hit Thai Pan.
The spot used to be a Blimpie with one door acting as the entrance and the other door leading into the convenient store side of the station. Not your typical spot for lunch and definitely not for a special occasion. When we arrived, the kitchen staff was wrapping up their shift meal in the dining room and we were the only diners present. My first thought was to grab the window seat with the view of people pumping gas; that way if all else failed, we would still be entertained by people watching.
Since this was our first time at the restaurant, we decided to stick to traditional Thai dishes so that we could compare them to our past experiences. Pad Thai and larb gai are always the benchmarks that we use to measure a Thai restaurant. We also tried the ka noon jeep (thai dumplings), vegetable spring rolls for our son, pad see ew and the red curry. We shared everything as we normally do and all were very tasty. We were pleasantly surprised how good the food was (again, in a gas station). I sure am glad that Blimpie is gone that Thai Pan is there in its place.
We've dropped in several times since our big anniversary lunch and the word is definitely getting out about this find. Whether we've dined in or grabbed food to go, Thai Pan has always been very flavorful, consistent and priced right."
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Thai Pan [Photo: De B./Yelp]