We all have our regular orders: the foods that if they're on the menu, they are getting ordered. If I'm getting Mexican, I want tacos. If I'm getting American, I want a burger. If I'm getting Thai food, I want pad Thai. The heart wants what it wants, and my heart wants pad Thai, thank you very much.

Pad Thai is typically composed of rice noodles, protein (chicken, beef or tofu), peanuts, egg, and bean sprouts. For this pad Thai list, I chose to order chicken as my protein from each of the restaurants. While all of these C-U pad Thais were great, they were not the same. Some came with lots of peanuts; some with lots of chicken. Some had bean sprouts on top, and others mixed in the sprouts with the noodles. Some had julienned carrots. For a dish with the same ingredients, these C-U chefs each prepared pad Thai in their own way. 


Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Bangkok Thai Restaurant & Pho 911

On Green Street tucked in a brick building off the corner of Fifth, Bangkok Thai Restaurant's pad Thai is $10 with a choice of chicken, beef, or tofu. I chose chicken for mine. When I called my order in, the staff did not ask me about my spice level, so the default must be mild. 

It was quite a large dish for only $10; there was enough to share and enough for leftovers. Made with the requisite rice noodles, peanuts, egg, and bean sprouts, this pad Thai was very mild. The crushed peanuts added a crunchy topping; the big chunks of thinly sliced chicken and the egg crumbles were yummy. There were a lot of noodles and only a minimal amount of bean sprouts and onion — but it was enough for an occasional crisp bite. Overall, it was a fairly bland dish that could have used some more spice. If you have never tried pad Thai (or are afraid that it might be too spicy), this version would be an approachable option for you. If you like spicy food, be sure to include your spiciness level in your order in case they don't ask.

Call to place your order for pick-up at 217-954-1641. The store has a designated entrance and a separate exit in addition to an extremely fast check-out, so it felt very safe in terms of COVID precautions.

Bangkok Thai Restaurant & Pho 911
410 E Green St
Champaign
M-F 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Siam Terrace

Siam Terrace offers this tasty chicken pad Thai for $11.99 with thin rice noodles, bean sprouts, eggs, crushed peanuts, green onion, lime wedge, and raw carrots. For protein, the options available included chicken in addition to beef, pork, tofu, vegetable, shrimp, seafood, or mock duck. You can select what level of spice you prefer in a rating of one to five. I chose spice level two, and it wasn't too spicy, so I might try a higher spice level next time. If you like spicy food, you should choose three or higher.

Sliced into large chunks and full of amazing flavor, there was so much chicken in the dish that it was in almost every bite. The sauce over the noodles had a light, savory taste. Atop the dish, raw bean sprouts and julienned carrots gave a healthy addition. The soft noodles, crunchy veggies, and tender chicken were a fantastic texture combination that I loved. It was a masterful pad Thai with the most chicken out of all the pad Thai in this list.

You can check out their menu here and place your order here.

Siam Terrace
212 W Main St
Urbana
M-F 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., 5 to 10 p.m.
Sa 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Su noon to 9 p.m.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Sticky Rice

Sticky Rice's pad Thai ($12) came with a choice of protein: chicken, beef, pork, tofu, shrimp, or duck. I called my chicken pad Thai order in and spoke with Mickie who asked me about spiciness level for the dish. I like spicy food, so I went with medium (6/10).

The dish came with thin rice noodles stir-fried with eggs, ground peanuts, bean sprouts, green onions, garlic, a slice of lime, and raw carrots. The flavor of the dish was incredible: sweet, salty sauce brightened with the lime. The big pieces of chicken were flavorful and tender. The plentiful bean sprouts and onions were tossed in with the noodles, and the crushed peanuts and raw julienned carrots gave a good crunch. The color of the dish was more saturated than the others which made it visually impactful. The medium spice was deliciously spicy; the heat lingered for awhile, and I loved it. 

Check out the menu here. Order your pad Thai by calling in your order to 217-954-1929. 

Sticky Rice
415 N Neil St
Champaign
M 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
W-Sa 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Su noon to 8 p.m.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Sushi Siam

This little gem in the Old Farm Shopping Center makes a damn good pad Thai for $11.99. Served with a choice between chicken, beef, or pork, Sushi Siam's pad Thai has all of the necessary ingredients: rice noodles, egg, onion, lime wedge, and a big portion of finely chopped peanuts and bean sprouts on top.

This one was dominated by a strong peanut flavor: crunchy, salty peanut bits paired with a peanutty glaze over the noodles and chicken. The bean sprouts were wonderfully fresh and gave a contrast to the richness of the peanut butter taste. The chicken was chopped to bite-size and had a great flavor, and everything in the dish was well-balanced and in the ratios of noodles to veg to peanuts that I like. I ordered it with medium spiciness, and while it was indeed spicy, it wasn't enough spicy for my taste, so I would increase my spice level next time. If you like only a little spice, the medium will be just fine.

If you are always wishing there were more peanuts in pad Thai, this is the pad Thai for you; it is so perfectly peanutty. You can place your order by calling 217-607-1906. 

Sushi Siam
1731 W Kirby Ave
Champaign
M-Sa 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., 4:30 to 9 p.m.


Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Thara Thai

This Thara Thai pad Thai ($14.99) is the most expensive on the list, but the portion was a bit larger than the others. Made with the approrpiate thin noodles, bean sprouts, eggs, green onion, peanuts, lime, and choice of protein (chicken, beef, or tofu), this pad Thai was a delightful meal. 

The julienned carrots were a small addition that had a big impact texturally to the dish as everything else was warm and soft, having been cooked together. I ordered this with a medium spice level, but it was excellent: not too spicy. It started very mild, and the heat did eventually build to a warm burn that was very enjoyable. The chicken was sliced small and thin — and seasoned very well. The chicken was the best part of the dish, and there was plenty of it. The little bits of egg, crunchy bean sprouts, and the long slices of green onion gave the dish some variety. Altogether, it was a wonderful pad Thai that I would very much eat again.

Check out the menu here and call 217-378-1986 to place your order.

Thara Thai
912 W Bloomington Road
Champaign
T-Sa 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Su noon to 9 p.m.

Top image by Alyssa Buckley.