Authentic Thai cuisine lives on campus

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Authentic Thai cuisine lives on campus

Pad Thai noodles with chicken.

Pad Thai noodles with chicken.

Juniper Perkins

Pad Thai noodles with chicken.

Juniper Perkins

Juniper Perkins

Pad Thai noodles with chicken.

by Juniper Perkins, Staff Writer

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Nestled between Cream and College Avenue lies 55 Thai Kitchen, a restaurant serving affordable, authentic Thai cuisine to the College Area community since May last year. 

Their motto? “Thai food for the community.” 

Their name 55 Thai Kitchen actually translates to “Haha Thai Kitchen” because the Thai word for five is pronounced “ha.” 

55 Thai Kitchen’s menu boasts a variety of customizable entrees. Most meals start at $8.50 – or less – and include a choice of protein such as vegetables, tofu or chicken. Alternatives like beef, shrimp or fish are also available for a dollar extra. Customers can choose their spice level from a range of mild to medium to hot. 

“We really try our best to keep prices low,” co-owner Ben Methakul said. “Just trying not to take advantage of customers.” 

As a teen, Methakul searched for Thai restaurants everywhere he went in hopes of finding a community. He got involved with the restaurant’s owner as a student at the University of San Diego. 

His favorite dish at the SDSU location is the drunken noodles, one of many authentic Thai dishes that the kitchen cooks up fresh. 

Their yellow curry is homemade and served with jasmine rice that soaks up every last drop of sweetness. Classic pad thai noodles are stir-fried with myriad vegetables and crushed chili, evoking savory flavors with a kick of spice. 

Massaman chicken curry with rice.

House specials include spicy basil chicken and massaman chicken curry, both for $8.75. Thai-style fried eggs can be added to the spicy basil chicken for $2. 

“Thai food is cheaper than a therapist,” one of their posts reads, implying their food is good enough to cure any and all of their customers’ ailments. They’re not far off. 

The restaurant offers half-off teas with the purchase of a meal for students who show their RedID. Flavors range from classic Thai tea to Thai iced coffee and flavored green teas. Boba can be added for an extra 55 cents, and the straws are compostable. 

If 5157 College Ave. is too far to walk, 55 Thai Kitchen is available for delivery on both DoorDash and PostMates. Customers can also order ahead on their website to avoid long lines and ensure their food is as fresh as the restaurant’s ingredients. 

55 Thai Kitchen was founded by owner and head chef Vijit “Jit” Pipatkhajonchai and his family. Originally from Bangkok, Jit worked in his family’s restaurant as a teenager and developed his love for cooking at an early age. He opened his first restaurant at 19 in Bangkok, and now operates multiple locations in the San Diego area.

Discounted teas including mango green tea and boba peach green thai tea.

 

The first 55 Thai Kitchen opened up in Golden Hill in 2017. Hidden by the San Diego Market, the restaurant’s aromas could be smelled from the street. It can also be found in East Village and, most recently, Pacific Beach. Prior to these ventures, Jit started J&T Thai Street Food in Linda Vista and Turmeric Thai Kitchen in La Jolla.

“55 Thai Kitchen is about giving back to the community,” Methakul said. “We want to be more than a restaurant. We’re all about giving back … In our long term vision, we’d like to set up some sort of financial aid program for underserved youth in Thailand.” 

In the spirit of giving back, the restaurant offers a 10% discount to students, senior citizens and public service members. 

“When businesses have a platform and they don’t use it to bring about some positive contribution, it’s a missed chance,” Methakul said. 

55 Thai Kitchen is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. 

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