Siam Pasta nestles in between quaint shops on one of Evanston's characteristically charming streets. The Thai dishes here are affordable and delicious yet, ironically, noodles comprise only about a third of the menu. Hungry passersby can read the selections from the large menu copies taped to the glass entryway, and will likely enter with visions of spices and sauces dancing in their heads. The groove may weaken upon entering the restaurant, thanks to the worn green carpet on the stairs and the dull red walls. The bar seems more like a storage space for chopsticks and glasses or a display case for wine coolers and beer than a social hub. A corridor dressed with slanted mirrors and sequenced elephant tapestries can get a bit claustrophobic, but make that climb up into the tiny square dining room and your nose will be rewarded with sweet smells from the kitchen.
Try a combination of appetizers, soups and salads like Siam stuffed crab with shrimp ($3.95); somtum salad, green papaya, carrot and tomatoes topped with shrimp and peanuts dressed with spicy hot and sour sauce ($6.25); and tom kha, gingery coconut soup with a protein ($3.25). Entrees range from traditional noodle and rice dishes to fried rice and curry, all less than $10. Siam's lunch special (one appetizer and one entrée) goes for only $5.95. When the weather is nice, treat yourself by sitting on the delightful balcony under a lantern-lit, Asian-style trellised roof.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Kate Puhala