In this city, restaurants come and go faster than you can say "sustainable locavore burger." And even though there are great new additions to the culinary landscape popping up every week, you've gotta give kudos to anyone who can stick it out for over a year. With that in mind, we bring you Still Got It, our tribute to establishments that continue to serve mouthwatering meals and drinks long after the buzz has faded—or if the lingering hype is still justified.
After spending more than a decade beneath the subway tracks just off Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights, Arunee Thai made a big jump to 37th Avenue earlier this year, taking the place of the much-beloved and sadly departed Novo. Arunee, well-known for its outstanding cheap food and cozy atmosphere, was quickly transformed into a large restaurant with a liquor license, a chic electronic soundtrack and sleek light fixtures. And while something has certainly been lost in Arunee's jump to the big-time, the food remains just as delicious.
To start, definitely order the satay and mango salad. Use the satay to gorge yourself on peanut sauce while enjoying the fresh mango in the salad. For the main dishes, the pineapple fried rice is the best fried rice one could ever experience, served in a half-pineapple. The tom yum soup is also incredibly delicious and spicy, and the serving size is ample. Their pad thai is also exquisite, while the pad prik khing is unique and divine.
The kitchen remains arguably the best thai food in New York City. THAT BEING SAID, it appears as though the younger generation (now put in charge of the restaurant) seems to be buying into their own hype. An etiquette guide at the front of the menu immediately criticizes the customers for apparent slights and rudeness (ie, "If you say you know the owner, you don't know the owner," "Tip the bartenders, don't give them your digits," &
"Don't snap your fingers at us"). This is simply unfunny and offensive. The owners would be better served by putting this type of attempted humor behind the bar, but certainly not the first thing a customer sees on arrival. Arunee, a Queens staple, must remember its humble beginnings.
Arunee Thai is located at 78-23 37th Avenue, in Jackson Heights, Queens (718) 205-5559.