Thai Orchid is one of SouthPark’s oldest and best-kept secrets. It’s been around nearly 20 years by my reckoning, in an area that’s NOT known for vegan-friendly OR ethnic food.
It’s a bit hard to find, being tucked away in the Strawberry Hills Shopping Center at Providence and Sardis. Signage is subtle. If you park on The Fresh Market side, look for it behind The Fresh Market … if you park on the Red Rocks side, look for it on the same left hand side as Red Rocks, across from Il Nido Italian restaurant.
Being in the SouthPark area, Thai Orchid does a booming “business lunch” business, with well-groomed people in power suits. At night, it’s not as busy, and you’re more likely to see everything from young couples on dates to people in jeans and flip-flops.
- Thai Orchid is one of the very, very few vegan-friendly restaurants in the notoriously veg-unfriendly SouthPark area. In fact, the only other vegan-friendly restaurant in SouthPark that immediately leaps to my mind is Brixx.
- The staff is exceptionally friendly and sweet. (I know, “sweet” sounds like an odd word to use describing waitstaff, but they are all just so doggone nice there!)
- They truly understand what vegetarian means. The entrees off their luncheon menu, for example, all come with a soup of the day and a spring roll. If you place your order as “vegetarian,” they will only bring you the soup if it’s vegetarian, and they will bring you a vegetarian spring roll instead of their standard one with chicken and shrimp. If you order Pad Thai or Pad See Ew or any other noodle dish that normally contains egg, they will automatically leave the egg out.
- If you order vegetarian, they will only “use sauces of a vegetarian nature.” No worries about fish sauce accidentally slipping in!
- Not as much “atmosphere” as some Thai places. There’s nothing actually wrong with the atmosphere – it just lacks the “ethnicity” or “edginess” of many Thai restaurants, or the “date night” atmosphere of Bangkok Ocha.
- This is yet ANOTHER Thai restaurant where, if you like really spicy food, it’s hard to get your food really hot. No matter how hot you order it, it tends to come out “American Hot” rather than “Thai Hot.” That being said, their “American Hot” is still way hotter than anything I’ve been served at Dejai Thai. And, even though the heat may be missing, their food does have a certain richness of spices – so, even if it’s not as hot as you would like, it’s never bland. They also have a bottle of hot chili sauce at the table so you can adjust the heat a little on your own.
- Some of my omnivore friends have complained they would like more chicken (or beef, or seafood) in their meals. Of course, that’s not an issue for us!
- The iced tea is Thai iced tea, which means it contains cream.
- They say they can make any underlined item vegetarian – which, indeed they can. Usually in a Thai restaurant vegetarian is equivalent to vegan. But there are a few items – including Kway Tiew Lard Nar and Ba Meee Lard Nar – which contain egg noodles. So read the descriptions carefully.
Thai Orchid may not be my absolute favorite Thai restaurant out there (I prefer HEAT in my Thai!) – but it’s better than many, and an absolute godsend for the SouthPark area.
Besides, who can resist such friendly, smiling service?
One location: 4223 Providence Road, Charlotte, NC 28211
Lunch Monday – Friday 11:30 – 2:30 PM
Dinner Monday – Thursday 5:00 – 9:00 PM
Dinner Friday – Saturday 5:00 – 10:00 PM