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Thai on the Fly: Thai home cooking at a drive-through speed 

Thai home cooking at a drive-through speed.

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A while back, I started hearing whispers about a magical drive-through on the Eastside that serves up some of the best Thai food in town. I was skeptical. Not only is it hard to imagine the words "magical" and "drive-through" in the same sentence, but every time I drove out that direction with an eye open for it, the elusive little shop escaped my notice. I was starting to think that this so-called Thai on the Fly was an urban myth, when finally I caught sight of the tiny trailer tucked next to the Xpress Lube at Greenwood and 7th St. It is a wonder that food of this caliber can come out of such modest digs and at such a reasonable price point. But it is, in no small part, chef and owner Kaew Sumner's way with customers that keeps them coming back. To Sumner, everyone is "honey" and from her perch at the drive-through window treated like a special dinner guest.

Of course, as many in the know may be thinking, Thai on the Fly - officially, A Taste of Thailand - is far from a new discovery. A long-time locals favorite with a very enthusiastic following, Thai on the Fly celebrates its ninth anniversary this December. (If you need extra incentive to pay a visit, to mark the occasion dishes will be buy two get one free, December 7 - 19.) In fact, the most shocking part of my Thai on the Fly revelation is that it took me so long to get there. My stomach weeps for all the meals that could have been.

There is a short menu of items available every day, but otherwise the lineup changes. Among the several dishes I have tried, the baseline was "very good" with some combinations bordering on "great." But one of greatest things about Thai on the Fly is that Chef Sumner plies each car that drives up with samples from the kitchen while they peruse the menu, so you can simply choose whatever works for you that day.

The standards are done well and served in enormous portions. The Pad Thai came with a whole chicken's worth of cubed meat (also available vegetarian) and the Satay, which was particularly good, was essentially two whole chicken cutlets on a stick. Perfectly charred, the sugar in the marinade gave off a caramelized taste that blended very nicely with the peanut dipping sauce. My favorite on the "Everyday" menu, though, was the Tom Kah Gai hands-down. The traditional soup of coconut milk, lemongrass, lime leaves and chicken was a lovely version.

Probably the best among the entrees were the curries, which alternate green, yellow, red and massaman throughout the week and are usually available with chicken or tofu. Every one I tried was delicious, but if I had to pick a winner, it would be the green curry with chicken, bamboo shoots and basil leaves in a blend of green curry paste and coconut milk. For something a little different, try the red pumpkin curry, a nicely seasoned puree with chicken and chunks of what I think was actually yellow squash. Entrees featuring red meat like garlic pork, ginger beef and beef with Thai on the Fly sauce were solid across the board with good flavor, but were even better with a healthy dose of hot sauce. Probably knowing the Central Oregon palate well, Chef Sumner tones down the heat on most dishes but always offers ample hot sauce to those of us who like to feel the burn. Oh, and did I mention that with one exception, an $8.50 charred salmon dish, every entrée on the menu is $7 and comes with a pile of rice?

There is really nothing not to like about Thai on the Fly, from the funny and friendly service to the quality Thai cuisine to the incredible value. It's truly a magical place.

Thai on the Fly

Greenwood Ave. at 7th St.
(next to the Xpress Lube), 815-0180.
Mon.-Sat., 9 a.m.-8 p.m.

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