Of all the Thai restaurants in Sugar Land, Straight Out of Bangkok may be the most interesting one.
It’s identifiable only by a small banner attached to the Gridiron Bar & Grill, where Straight Out of Bangkok is sharing the bar’s kitchen space. I had to ask the bartender to be sure I wasn’t lost, and he assured me I wasn't.
Aesthetically and on paper, this marriage of convenience is quite an odd fit. But it’s also a microcosm of the diversity of Fort Bend County and the appreciation of multiculturalism that makes it work.
I ordered the “chili with holy basil (ka pow)” for $8.99 from the lunch menu, which comes with a soup or salad. If I could have had a do-over, I would have opted for the tom yum (chicken soup) over the tom kha (coconut soup), the latter of which was too thick and creamy and had far too much ginger for my taste.
Nonetheless, aside from this hiccup, I felt redeemed by my entree choice, which included chicken (you can substitute beef, pork, steamed or fried tofu or shrimp) which is sautéed with crushed chili peppers, garlic, “holy basil” and bell peppers.
If you’re wondering what holy basil is, you’re not alone. It’s a variation of the popular herb that is also known as tulsi and is native to the Indian subcontinent. It has a stronger flavor that shades toward the bitter end of the spectrum and also has a slightly peppery and lemony taste.
The chicken was satisfyingly tender and spicy thanks to the juice from the chili peppers. I had the option to request a spice level of 3 on a scale of 1 being the mildest and 5 being the spiciest. The sauteed peppers and onions had a pleasantly crunchy and juicy bite to them.
All that said, I have to confess that the best part of my meal was not from the Thai food menu at all. It came from the tap at Gridiron.
In my experience, finding the perfect pairing of alcohol to go along with whatever food you’re ordering at a restaurant is exceedingly rare.
My discovery of Los Angeles-based Mango Cart, a light wheat ale (4 percent alcohol by volume) with a crystal clear and natural mango flavor, is one of Gridiron’s best-sellers, the bartender told me. It was the perfect refresher with a mild sweetness to counteract the heat of the Straight Out of Bangkok, and a reminder that sometimes the things most enjoyed in life are found off the beaten path.
Straight Out of Bangkok
Address: 4524 State Highway 6, Sugar Land
Dining Options: Takeout, dine-in, delivery
Hours: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 10 a.m.-midnight Thursday-Friday, 11 a.m.-midnight Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday
Entree prices: $10-$14
Senior discount: No
Healthy options: Classic Pad Thai ($11)
Star of the show: Mango Cart beer
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars