This week, Eater NY staffers are writing about restaurants we love — ones that might not be hot and might not be cool but have special places in our hearts for one reason or another. They’re love letters of sorts, odes to the places that give us faith in restaurants, and New York, too. Now, editor Serena Dai writes about the true hero of everyday neighborhood dining: the go-to takeout restaurant.
I rarely spend more than five minutes inside the restaurant where I go to more than any other in the city; I only ever take food to eat on my couch. Despite frequent visits, I can’t profess to know the expansive and ambitious menu well, since I’ve only tried like five things, if even that. And though it’s very close to my apartment, I don’t know anyone’s name, and I would bet that nobody who works there knows my name, either. That’s the way I like it, and that’s what makes Luck Thai a perfect, everyday neighborhood restaurant in my life — one that I couldn’t imagine living without.
To understand my affection for Luck Thai, a Thai restaurant in Park Slope at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 6th Street with standards like pad thai and green curry, it helps to go back to when I first moved into the neighborhood. In 2016, I hauled my belongings there from Bushwick with an ex-boyfriend, who I was moving in with again after a break apart. I should have known then what I know now, which is that most “breaks” should be permanent, but I was in love and saw us building a life together, perhaps even one day joining the hordes of young parents in our new neighborhood. I wasn’t just optimistic; I was sure.
Moving to a new neighborhood with a partner meant finding regular delivery and takeout places together, a precious resource that would help define what it felt like to be home.
It took us a while — there were a lot of misses — but we finally settled into a groove with a Middle Eastern spot called Kulushkat, where he could go for a chicken shawarma sandwich and I could go for eggplant a la yafa, a special of the house that involved a garlicky sauce. The delivery was so fast, it once arrived while we were in the shower. It became one of the more solid tenets of our life together; we ordered it at least once a week.
But as literally any of my friends could have predicted, the relationship ended. It was as dramatic as one might expect from a partnership that started in our early 20s and lasted some five years. Mistakes were made, cruel words were said, and once he finally moved out after several tumultuous weeks of sleeping on the couch, I could no longer meet the delivery minimum for Kulushkat.
Not that I wanted to order it anyway. What once tasted like stability now stunk of the “us” that we both spent way too much energy trying to make work. It reminded of a home that didn’t quite function, and of a self-assuredness that turned out to be misguided. I’m sure Kulushkat is still delicious, ordering it just no longer felt right.
This brings us back to Luck Thai. I can’t remember if we ever ate it together, but I do know I eat it far more now than I ever did with him. Of the gazillion Thai takeout specialists in Park Slope, Luck Thai is by far the best, at least for me. I can order it last minute from my phone on the train ride home for pickup when I’m too exhausted and hungry to cook, which for a while was all the time. It’s conveniently located, not too out of the way on the typical walk home. The food is nearly always ready by the time I get there, and if it’s not, thankfully nobody tries to have small talk with me while I wait.
It’s not the top Thai in New York by any means, but my go-to order of pad kee mao is consistent, the wide rice noodles never too gummy or greasy and the accompanying string beans and onions never mushy. A filling meal can cost less than $15, with a tip. Every so often, I try a different appetizer as a low-key form of adventurous eating, though I don’t really feel the need to try anything new there. Sameness is kind of the point.
But best of all, Luck Thai is always satisfying when I’m eating it at home in front of the TV — especially when I’m by myself. Even now that I’m in a loving relationship with someone else, Luck Thai holds a special place for me. It helped make Park Slope feel like my home after I came into the neighborhood with very different intentions. It has been my savior so many times when I felt too drained to make any choices. It has been my hungover destination; it has been a staple; it has been a treat. It feels like mine alone, and I couldn’t be more thankful for it.