As restaurateurs, Michelle Waterson and Joshua Gomez have unorthodox backgrounds.
They drew their experience not from fast food franchises or gourmet operations, but from boxing rings and mixed martial arts octagons. Gomez was a US Armed Forces Championship boxer and Waterson is a longtime star of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, or UFC.
A few years ago, the married couple ventured into the restaurant business with the launch of Tako Ten, the physical embodiment of Dominic Valenzuela’s food truck, Dia de los Takos.
Despite opening just before the pandemic, the restaurant has thrived in its location at Bridges on Tramway, a mixed-use development in the Sandia foothills.
Tako Ten’s success inspired Waterson and Gomez to recently raise the curtain on a few new establishments in Bridges: Refresh, a place to eat healthy and build your own bowl, and Thai Street, a quick and laid-back temple in Thailand. street food scene.
I have visited Thai Street twice recently: the first time for take out; the second for a sit-down lunch.
The restaurant is sandwiched between Tako Ten and the Paletta Bar on the east side of Bridges on Tramway. There is plenty of parking out front, but the spaces on the south and west side of the building are a much less stressful proposition, especially during peak hours.
Inside, a mural of a Thai street scene fills one wall. The counter is artfully designed to resemble a street stand, with a corrugated metal canopy.
The menu, inspired by Waterson’s Thai heritage, features several iconic street foods from the Southeast Asian nation. There are over a dozen entrees, mostly around $ 5, eight entrees in the $ 11 to $ 14 range, and a few desserts and drinks.
The dishes I have tried have largely met or exceeded expectations. Among the most successful was a bowl of Tom Yum Soup ($ 12.99), priced at a meal and certainly carrying the weight. The fiery red broth, reminiscent of lime, chili and lemongrass, arrived filled with broccoli, diced tomatoes and chunky blocks of tofu. A small bowl of rice was served on the side. The broth delivered a convincing balance of acidity and warmth that the tofu eagerly mopped up.
Thai street noodles. ($ 12.99) were great. I ordered them to go and received a cardboard box filled with thin round rice noodles topped with red and green peppers, onions, lemongrass and scrambled egg pieces. The delicious noodles carried a flavorful sauce with a touch of warmth and sweetness. Half a dozen shrimp, added for an extra $ 2, were plump and juicy.
Despite the name, there is no alcohol in the traditional Thai dish called Drunken Noodles ($ 12.99). One theory pinpoints the name’s origins on diners who abused beer to dampen the heat of the peppers. Thai Street’s version kept that promise. The take out version I had looked pretty innocent, the wide, flat noodles cut into small pieces, but it was piping hot. The noodles were accompanied by pieces of finely hammered white chicken meat, vegetables and sweet basil. The dish offers a good excuse to try Thai Street’s fancy version of Rusty Red and Creamy Thai Iced Tea ($ 3.95), which has a strong black tea flavor.
Thai Street’s Yellow Pineapple Curry ($ 13.99) is a tropical dish, flavored with coconut milk and sweet basil and loaded with bamboo and fruit. It was served take out in a plastic container with a side of rice. As with most Thai restaurants in town, Thai Street allows you to indicate your preferred level of spice, choosing from mild, medium, hot, and hot Thai. I found the average level to be reasonable.
Two ubiquitous Thai dishes, a chicken satay appetizer ($ 5.95) and a pad Thai appetizer ($ 12.99), were quite pedestrian. The satay, consisting of four skewers of white chicken meat served with a spicy and sweet peanut sauce, was good but unremarkable. The pad thai lacked the characteristic tangy notes and the crushed peanut filling was not included in the take-out bag.
Among the four desserts is Thai Roti ($ 6.95), a well-known street vendor in Thailand. In the Thai Street version, the hot, buttered, flaky flatbread is cut into triangles and drizzled with a mixture of condensed milk and sugar. It’s heavy and starchy, so even those with a furious sweet tooth will be inclined to share.
Almost everything on the menu is gluten free or can be prepared this way.
The service was excellent when I had dinner. Both servers denied the idea that you can’t get good help these days.
Thai Street has carved out a place for itself in Albuquerque’s crowded Thai restaurant scene with a clean menu, friendly service, and a great location for people in the far east of the city. Based on the background of its owners, it has a chance to thrive.