If you ever find yourself lucky enough to be in the University District in Seattle, Washington head just north of 45th and University Way. You will find a dank little restaurant called Thai Toms. From the outside you wouldn't know that it is one of the best restaurants in the U District, and perhaps Seattle for that matter. A humble neon sign sits outside beckoning the strange mix of college students, professors and those gifted with the knowledge of the restaurants existence. At first sight one's expectations must be low; Thai Toms is literally a hole in the wall. It is dimly light making it hard to see anyone's face but maybe that's a good thing, after all Thai Toms has been known to be home to a roach or two. But that doesn't seem to scare away the customers who are shoved in every nook and cranny.

Upon entering you will be greeted with the smell of exotic spices and meats. A server will quickly rush you to a tiny table, that is, if you are lucky enough not to wait in line. They will quickly bring you a tattered menu and take your order. Then one of the more subtle pleasure of the Thai Tom experience begins, you are able to watch your food cooked in front of you. The kitchen is set just across from the bar for everyone to see. The cooks are masters themselves. There are a number of them but their chief is Thai Tom himself. He has a long ponytail and is the master of his kitchen. One pan may be boiling over while another has become a small oil fire, meanwhile Thai Tom is sautéing up a mixture of garlic, onions, green peppers, and other unidentifiable vegetables in a third pan. Somehow he is able to bring order out of chaos.

In a short time your food will be done and the cook will pour your chosen meal over a plentiful heap of rice. The server will then whisk you the meal, tossing it in front of you. After all they don't need to worry about customer service. Not to say they aren't hospitable, but if you don't like it you can leave and there will be someone eagerly waiting for your place. In fact, everything about Thai Toms is laid back. There is not set opening time, sure the sign says 11 but try showing up at 11. You'll be greeted with a "come back in 30 minutes" but I am straying from my topic, the food.

When your food arrives, your 15 minutes of Zen will begins. (yes, only 15 minutes, the waiters will make sure you're in and out, after all there's a line waiting.) Once you take that first bite all your worries about school or work or family or whatever just drift away. It is just you and an incredible mixture of vegetables and spices and rice. A smile comes to your face, and if you're lucky enough to be with some friends the laughs begin to flow freely.

The food itself is heavenly; there is a wide variety to choose from. Unlike many other Asian restaurants Thai Toms uses high quality ingredients. The chicken is tender and the vegetables are flavorful. But the real key is the mind blowing sauces. The most popular is the Swimming Rama with Fried Tofu, but anything you order will be great. In fact, that's part of the fun, you can try out a number of dishes and not need to worry if you will like them.

Soon after you start eating the spices will start to hit you and you will need water, and lots of it. Never fear, if the servers are good at one thing it is keeping your water cup full which makes Thai Toms a great place for recovering from a hang over. You're going to drink 3 or 4 glasses of water just to keep up with the spices. And for that matter you're probably going to have to blow your nose a few times but that's just a sign that it's good food.

All to sudden your meal is over, you've eaten everything, including the stray single grains of rice just because they're covered with that magical sauce. Somehow your bill is already waiting for you, you throw down your cash (cash only!) and leave satisfied with the knowledge that you will be back soon for another fine meal....later that night.

Important info:
4543 University Way N.E.
Get the Garlic Pepper Chicken, it's phat
thx to Kalon for reminding me to add the address