In a city bountiful with chain restaurants and Southern cooking, it can be difficult to experience a different culture through food.
Less than 2 miles from campus, a Thai restaurant offers fresh cuisine for Jackson as well as a unique atmosphere.
Punporn Johnson, a native of Thailand, operates Thai café at 605 Carriage House Drive.
She has been cooking since a young age, she said, because learning to prepare traditional dishes from her region is part of Thai custom.
“Punporn has her unique blend of seasonings that she prepares for all her dishes, Pad Thai being one of the most popular,” said Thai Cafe server Shannon Morris.
Pad Thai is available with chicken, beef or shrimp, and a choice on a spicy scale of 1-10, with 10 being enough to make most people’s eyes water.
I ordered Pad Thai with chicken with a spice level of four.
The spice blend covering the rice noodles had a hint of peanuts that made it stand out to the average meal.
The dish is served hot but has enough to save and re-heat for several days or be shared.
“Thai food has a unique flavor blend to it,” Morris said. “It’s healthier than a lot of foods available around Jackson. We don’t use MSG at all.”
The best part of the meal was the Thai Tea that I had to drink.
Miller said Johnson orders the main ingredient for the Thai Tea from Thailand and creates the mix for the drink from scratch.
As it is stirred, the evaporated milk in the tea mixes in with the sweet ingredients, turning it a deep amber color.
This tea has a similar consistency and sweetness to Horchata, a traditional Mexican drink made with cinnamon.
The sweetness of the tea balanced the spice and salt of the Pad Thai.
The atmosphere at Thai Cafe is surprising given the simplicity of the entrance, which can be tricky to notice in between the Pizza Hut and tanning salon, but the ornate stained glass and brightly colored walls inside are unique for a restaurant in Tennessee.
“The best value for $10 in my opinion would have to be the Supreme Fried Rice,” Morris said “It’s $12.95, but can easily be split between two or three people.”
The Pad Thai with chicken costs $10 and was enough for three full meals.
An average meal cost of less than $3.50 is not bad for a college student on a budget, especially when compared to the average amount of money I spend on fast food.
Typically, no music is on at Thai Cafe, creating a calm and relaxing atmosphere, despite the bright walls and hanging lanterns.
IF YOU GO
Thai Cafe has been in its current location for about six years and is open from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and from 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays.