The Best Pad Thai in Los Angeles

"Thai style" pad thai at Pailin Thai Cuisine | Photo by Zach Brooks

Pad thai blends together the best parts of Thai cooking: sweet, spicy, sour and funky. Almost all pad thai has egg, ground peanuts, scallions and a lime wedge. The very best will also have dried shrimp, pressed tofu, chili powder and even crispy pork. More and more versions are being served around L.A. as off-menu specials or alternates to the overly sweet, bright orange noodle dish that’s offered on the average menu. Here are the 10 best pad thai dishes in Los Angeles.

Pad thai at Yai Restaurant | Photo by Zach Brooks

Yai Restaurant

One of the earliest adopters of the alternate pad thai, this old school Thai Town dive on Hollywood and Wilton makes a version named after the Isan city of Khon Kaen. You’ll only find it on the specials board (usually labeled “KK”), and it comes with whole shrimp, pressed tofu strips, chili powder for a bit of heat, and a smattering of dried shrimp. There’s a slight aftertaste of the Chinese/Thai food that may or may not have been cooked in the wok before it. Since you’re already there, you should try their intense seafood curry wrapped in tin foil, which resembles Jiffy Pop.

Pad thai at Krua Thai | Photo by Zach Brooks

Krua Thai

This longtime Jonathan Gold favorite serves up two versions of pad thai. The one you want is the Pad Thai Krua Thai, a noticeably more sour and funky iteration of the noodle dish than you’re probably used to. The ground chicken is a unique touch, and they don’t hold back on the dried shrimp. Definitely worth the trip to North Hollywood.

Pad thai at Lacha Somtum | Photo by Zach Brooks

Lacha Somtum

Located in Thai Town, Lacha Somtum is mostly devoted to papaya salads and the like (they have almost 20 variations on the menu). If you had to pick a second specialty it would surely be the pad thai. They don't have one or two, but three versions on the menu, two of which are listed under the “Recommended by the Chef” section. There’s the crab pad thai made with egg and glass noodles, and another with crispy pork that is strangely enough also named after the Isan city of Khon Kaen.

Pad thai at Sticky Rice in the Grand Central Market | Photo by Zach Brooks

Sticky Rice

When Sticky Rice first opened in Grand Central Market, there were no noodles to be found anywhere on the Thai diner’s street food inspired menu. That all changed with the opening of Sticky Rice 2, a separate take out counter located behind the original. The menu of the annex is almost exclusively noodles, including a solid Chiang Mai noodle soup (khao soi), a decent version of pad see ew and one of the best plates of “phat thai” in L.A. The balance between sweet and sour is perfect, and the chili powder is served on the side so you can regulate your own heat. One thing is for sure, you won’t find better Thai food anywhere else in Downtown L.A.

"Thai style" pad thai at Pailin Thai Cuisine | Photo by Zach Brooks

Pailin Thai

A great pad thai is the last thing you’d expect to find at this restaurant specializing in khao soi, a curry noodle soup from Northern Thailand. But if you order the pad thai and ask them specifically to make it “Thai style,” you get a slightly sweet, slightly spicy mound of peanutty shrimp noodles studded with egg and dried shrimp. It’s surprisingly good, but you’ll probably still want to tack on an order of the khao soi.

Pad thai at Wat Dong Moon Lek | Photo by Zach Brooks

Wat Dong Moon Lek

This perpetually packed Los Feliz Thai restaurant is popular with hipsters who don’t want to travel the extra half mile into Thai Town, but you wouldn’t know it from their “sidewalk” style pad thai. Spicy and funky, it comes with big hunks of crispy pork and an egg blanket that makes the whole thing resemble an omelette - it’s a preparation you’ll see in some parts of Thailand. If that’s not enough fun for you, they also do a similarly spicy version that gets rid of the egg and replaces the rice noodles with glass noodles.

"Old fashioned" pad thai at Pho Thai Town | Photo by Zach Brooks

Pho Thai Town

If you believe that it’s impossible to get good food in a restaurant that serves dishes from two different countries, this place will ruin that theory. Their ridiculously cheap bowls of pho are tempting, but you’ll want to order the Thai specials written on the board behind the counter, like their “old fashioned” pad thai. Your mom may not make pad thai, but if she did it would probably taste like this.

Vegan pad thai at Night + Market Song | Photo by Zach Brooks


You might be surprised to learn that the pad thai at Night + Market and its sister restaurant Night + Market Song is vegan, especially considering how much pride the restaurant takes in serving things like pig neck and blood soup. But Chef Kris Yenbamroong conjures a surprising amount of flavor without the benefit of fish sauce, dried shrimp, pork fat or even eggs. It doesn’t punch you in the face like the rest of the versions on this list, but we can’t imagine there’s a better vegan pad thai in L.A.

Sen chun phad pu at Sapp Coffee Shop | Photo by Zach Brooks

Sapp Coffee Shop

Technically, Sapp’s super popular crab noodle dish with egg is sen chun phad pu, not pad thai. But it hits all the same sweet and sour notes as the other dishes on this list, with a dash of heat from the chili powder. Plus it’s the only one on this list that’s even vaguely orange. So if you insist on your pad thai being that color, this one is for you.