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BEST THAI RESTAURANT Minneapolis 2003 - Seward's True Thai

Readers' Choice: Sawatdee Thai Restaurant

Picking the best Thai restaurant gives us a headache. The styles of our favorites are so radically different. There are the herb-filled dishes at Seward's True Thai, where every meal feels like it's happening in a springtime meadow. There are the elegant, sophisticated concoctions at King & I, and whenever we eat there we feel as though we've finally grown up and assumed our place in the first rank of cosmopolitan movers and shakers. So why are we always drawn to Chiang Mai Thai, the dark, sexy, hipster spot hidden in the back of a mall? Sigh. Part of us fears that we are so drawn there because we are shallow and like to peek at the cuties who pack the tables, sipping the high-class wines and plotting their Uptown bar-hopping. Part of us fears it is merely demographics: We are the paper of the 18-to-35-year-olds, this is the restaurant of the 18-to-35-year-olds. And part of us thinks, Nah, it's just because we've identified a dozen dishes we can't get enough of--the spicy fried cashews, the spring rolls filled with curried beef, the spicy pork dip, the grilled beef with tomato rice, the vegetarian yellow curry with yams, the ginger catfish, and more. And then, because we just can't get enough of them, we find ourselves back at Chiang Mai Thai. And then we're back at Chiang Mai Thai, and then... You get the idea. Anyway, we know all about what makes Chiang Mai Thai great: the friendly service, the spicy northern Thai specialties, the happy atmosphere, the fantastic wines, and the stylish space. So maybe the problem is just that we only wish we could give the top prize to all the finalists. For us, this is like that category in the Oscars where everyone is excellent, and you can't think of how the Academy ever picks. Chiang Mai Thai is a standout among winners--which we only hope they take as a triple compliment.

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