When you think of restaurants in Rantoul, you may not think you have many options. But if you venture further into town than the fast food chains that position themselves by the highway off ramps then I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. You may have even seen Smile Politely’s review of C&C Kitchen back in July (their shrimp po’boy is my favorite). Just down the street from them in “downtown” Rantoul is another one of my favorites — Taste of Thai.
I work in Rantoul so when my colleagues and I saw a Thai place had opened (maybe a year or two ago now?) we were excited to have another lunch option. One of my favorite dishes is Pad Thai with tofu, and that’s what I got the first time I went there. We were all very happy with our experience so we’ve continued to go back.
The lunch crowd is usually pretty decent. Their small dining area can fill up fast. We are always greeted quickly and the food is prepared really fast. It’s easy for a small group of us to get in and out in under an hour. I have two go-to dishes that never fail to satisfy: Pad Thai and Masaman Curry. Both have a little bit of heat but aren’t overly spicy dishes. I’ve gotten the Pad Thai ($7.95) with both chicken and tofu. Pad Thai is a stir-fried rice noodle dish that’s cooked with bean sprouts, egg, and green onion, then garnished with crushed peanuts. It’s always fresh and made to order and comes out piping hot. Pad Thai, when done right, is the perfect balance of spicy, salty, sour, and sweet. You get spicy from the peppers that are used, salty from the fish sauce, sour from lime and tamarind and sweet from using sugar.
My second favorite dish is, as I mentioned, Masaman Curry ($8.95). To me, it’s a comfort food. Their curries are served with a bowl of Jasmine rice to soak up the delicious sauce. You get your choice of meat (like with the Pad Thai): chicken, beef, tofu, or shrimp (shrimp is a $1 more). I’ve always gotten it with beef. The base for this type of curry is made from a variety of toasted spices which makes it a very aromatic dish. There’s a perfect amount of sweet meets heat and I love the creaminess from the coconut milk. Potatoes and onions are simmered in the sauce and it’s also finished off with crushed peanuts on top. Please try it if you haven’t, it’s so, so good. And the portions are great too. Plenty for leftovers!
I usually can’t help myself when it comes to ordering something other than these two, but I did branch out to try something different recently. Taste of Thai also offers carry-out so I placed an order over the phone for fried tofu ($3.95) from the appetizer section and Tom Kha Kai soup ($3.95 + $1 for shrimp). The fried tofu would be a great appetizer to share as it came with quite a few pieces. Sliced thin and into triangles it also came with sweet and sour sauce for dipping. I thought they were just okay, mainly because of how salty each piece was. It was good with the dipping sauce.
The soup was a small portion, which you can assume by the price, but it was actually quite filling when combined with the tofu. It would be good as a side or even on its own if you’re looking for a light lunch. The soup was really good. I’m a big fan of anything with a creamy coconut base. It was heavy on flavor and mild on spice. It’s cooked with shrimp (your meat of choice), mushrooms, celery, onions and cilantro. I also ordered a Thai iced tea ($2.45). It Is. Decadent. I don’t even want to know how many calories might be in that. It’s very sweet — typically made with black tea, varying spices (like cardamom and anise), and mixed with coconut milk or another type of cream like sweetened condensed milk or half and half. The Thai iced coffee ($2.95) might even be better.
I’ve been with folks who have ordered mainly from the stir fry dishes and there were no complaints there either. They’ve also received great reviews online as well. Even if you don’t live or work in Rantoul, it’s definitely worth the trip to check them out and help support a small business. What’s your go-to Thai dish?
Taste of Thai is located at 124 East Sangamon Avenue, Rantoul, and open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
All photos by Bobbie Bonebrake.