Bangkok 54 is one of the coolest restaurants in Arlington’s upscaling Columbia Pike corridor, but it has been open for much longer than the developers and gentrifiers have been transforming the area. Whereas Rincome Thai Restaurant, which is across the street from Bangkok 54, is homey and familial, Bangkok 54 is hip and cool.
Still, on a weekday lunch shift earlier this week, patrons of all walks gathered to dine on the restaurant’s tasty Thai treats. There were young professionals, Arlington County employees, older folks all grubbing out in Bangkok 54’s frilly dining room. There are tasteful decorations hanging from ceilings and gold statues sitting in the windows. The overall vibe is more downtown than suburb, but that brings a diverse flavor to the Columbia Pike corridor. Also, the storefront is unassuming, so it still fits in with the look of the rest of the commercial space it’s surrounded by.
First of all, the Bangkok 54 has a great weekday lunch deal, with 12 entrees to choose from, each of which cost $7.95. It’s in the price range of fast casual restaurants like Chipotle, but the quality of the food and ingredients is much higher because it’s an actual restaurant, not a fast food spot. And if you don’t have time for a long lunch, no need to worry – the wait staff at Bangkok 54 is attentive and courteous and the food is prepared and delivered to the table quickly.
The food doesn’t suffer because of the speed of the service at Bangkok 54. The dishes have great presentation. And they’re tasty, too.
Among the winners that you can’t get just anywhere are the Thai Curry Puffs ($6.95) on the appetizer menu. With deep-fried breaded pouches filled with potatoes in curry spices, the Thai Curry Puffs are a delicious starter. The dish comes with a sweet, light sauce with jalapenos and cucumbers to perfectly complement the puffs.
There are nearly 50 entrees to choose from at Bangkok 54 and there is a vegetarian menu with 11 dishes to choose from. One of my favorites on the vegetarian menu is the Red Curry Jae ($11.95), which consists of fried tofu, Thai eggplant and mixed vegetables in a red curry sauce with sweet basil. The dish is a dreamy marriage of savory and spicy, with enough kick for the heat lover.
Most recently, I tried the Chili-Basil Fried Rice ($10.95 – $14.95) and was pleasantly surprised. Fried rice usually reads as pedestrian to me, but because the dish included two of my favorite ingredients, chili and basil, I decided to give it a try. Bell peppers, onions and fresh basil, mixed with your protein of choice, stir-fried with fiery chili basil sauce, the dish is subtle, but flavorful.
There is an active schism in my group of friends, mostly Arlington natives, over which Thai spot – Rincome or Bangkok – is the best on the block. Although Rincome Thai Restaurant is my favorite of the two Thai eateries that share the same neighborhood, Bangkok 54 is a great date night spot, or somewhere to go if you want to make a good first impression.
Bangkok 54 | 2919 Columbia Pike | Arlington | 703-521-4070 | bangkok54restaurant.com