Fast food in Calgary isn’t what it used to be, and that’s a great thing! Lately, we’ve been seeing a slowly growing trend of quality fast-service restaurant concepts (Watercress Express, Butcher and the Baker), where you may be able to order your food and be out in, say, 15 to 30 minutes, but the effort that the kitchens are putting into the food goes well beyond assembling a Big Mac or layering your Subway sandwich.
Tuk Tuk Thai on 17th Avenue S.W. (just a few doors down from Una Pizza) is the newest entry into this new genre of dining and it’s hands-down one of the best additions yet, offering dine-in our takeout. From the owner of Thai Sa-on, this new little eatery is meant to get you in-and-out with your food in a speedy fashion, but still have you leaving impressed.
Tuk Tuk’s interior features a huge, almost dark and brooding mixed-media mural on its west wall that’s contrasted by bright green and grey walls on the other sides that feature images of Thailand. A once fully functional tuk tuk has been repurposed into a cooler to hold salads and drinks. Truthfully, there isn’t a lot of seating in here, save for a high top, a communal table and some stools, all of which fill up fast, but places like this aren’t built for a complete sit-down meal experience.
In that non-motorized cooler, you can pick up a Thai iced coffee or a pink lemonade while you wait for your order. The iced coffee is not unlike a Vietnamese coffee (maybe a little less sweet), but it’s prepared differently and incorporates cardamom for more of an exotic taste. It’s refreshingly different. Likewise, the pink lemonade is coloured with an extract from a butterfly pea flower commonly found in Thailand. If you’ve had purple sticky rice or purple dumplings at a Thai restaurant before, that is a similar application. The more you know!
The food menu here is pretty straightforward. Naturally, there are appetizers like satay skewers and spring rolls, so try those along with the tukky sticks (pork and taro root rolls) and ginger prawns. Then there are the main affairs like pad Thai (of course), beef masman, green curry and papaya salad, just to name a few. Two dishes that are a bit more unique and worth trying are the moo moo lemon (barbecued pork shoulder and sauted shallots in a sweet-and-sour lime chill dressing) and the drunken basa (fried basa fillet with Thai eggplant, chill paste and basil).
It still might be a little hot out for a bowl of tom yum soup, but at only $5 for a bowl of broth richly flavoured with lemongrass, tangy fish sauce, mushrooms and prawns, it is pretty hard to resist. Actually, one of the best things about this spot is its price point. With appetizers or salads going for $4 to $6, main dishes for $10 and dessert from $3 to $5 (end with the coconut ice cream, obviously), you can come in and order take-out dinner for four without breaking the bank.