Sunday, October 5, 2014

Desert Thai: an adventure in Adelanto

If you ever find yourself in a place called Adelanto, California, do yourself a favor and visit this charming little restaurant.

It is, without a doubt, the most interesting Thai restaurant you will ever encounter.

Adelanto is a small desert town in San Bernardino County. Except for one busy intersection full of fast-food franchises and drugstores, it consists mostly of boarded-up storefronts, empty lots, and hundreds of Pentecostal churches.

In the midst of this Cormac McCarthy-esque scene, you will find the restaurant “Thai Siam”.

Typical street scene in Adelanto, CA.
When I drove past, I knew I had to try it. I already loved the name of the place—Siam is just an old word for “Thailand”, so the name literally means “Thai Thailand”. I think if I ever start a taco shop, I’m going to name it “Mexican Mexico”.

Next to the entrance to the restaurant is this sign, advertising “LUNCH FROM $”.

I am happy to know that I can use my currency—known as “$” in the parlance of our times—to buy lunch. I also like the repeated use of the phrase “Thai Chinese food”. Of all the Chinese food out there, my favorite is the Thai kind.

I walked in, expecting to find—well, a restaurant. You know, a typical hole-in-the-wall, “greasy spoon”-type restaurant. I was surprised when I seemed to have walked into some dude’s living room.

“Oh, uh…hello, there,” I said to the man sitting in his armchair by the TV. He smiled at me. “Are you…are you open?” I asked.

The man didn’t answer yes or no. Instead, he stood up, silently gestured towards a chair, and handed me an old laminated menu.

Upon closer inspection, I found four tables and some chairs. I guess in Adelanto, this is all that it takes to transform “some dude’s living room” into a “restaurant”.

I asked the older Thai man if he had any lunch specials. He gestured at the menu without a word. Not the most verbose waiter in the world.

I looked down and saw what appeared to be the menu from a totally different Thai restaurant. A different restaurant’s name appeared at the top of the menu, and all the prices had been covered up with masking tape. Someone had handwritten “$7.00” on the tape next to each item (with the exception of a “seafood platter” that was $25.00).

My host then walked to the fridge and, without asking me if I’d like anything to drink, brought me a can of Sprite and a jar of cashews.

Of course. Why would he not bring me a can of Sprite and a jar of cashews?

I asked the owner-cook-proprietor-waiter if he had a separate lunch menu, or if this was the menu for lunch and dinner.

“Price,” he said, gesturing at the menu. “Price.”

I took this as a clear message, and ordered the Pad Thai without any more delays.

By this point, I was convinced that I might be the first customer this man had in months. There were no other cars parked nearby. Indeed, there were no cars driving past, either. I started to wonder how long the ingredients for my Pad Thai had been sitting in the lone refrigerator. I second-guessed my choice of ordering a dish with chicken.   

There was something ominous about the solitude.  It was like that chapter in the seventh Harry Potter book (*SPOILER ALERT!*) when Harry and Hermione go into the home of Bathilda Bagshot. The old woman takes them upstairs without saying a word, and they think she’s going to help them discover the Deathly Hollows. She’s unusually quiet, though. Then she turns out to be Voldemort’s python in disguise and tries to kill them.

To the credit of the Thai Siam restaurant, the food wasn’t half bad. The owner even brought me some tasty Sriracha-style chili paste, before sitting back down to watch his Thai soap operas. True, the price was a little steep, especially for a meal served in some dude’s living room. When it was time to pay, I was even charged for my welcome-in-can-of-Sprite. Still, well worth it for an unforgettable adventure.

If you ever find yourself in Adelanto, do yourself a favor and stop on into this “restaurant”. You won’t regret it.

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