What’s Good Here: Mai Thai Cuisine in West Columbia

Special to The StateOctober 17, 2012 

DEENA C. BOUKNIGHT — Special to The State

  • Mai Thai Cuisine 2249 Sunset Boulevard in West Columbia Prices: The range is from around $7 to $18, depending on ingredients. Hours: Lunch is 11:30 a.m. to 3:20 p.m. Monday through Friday; dinner is 5-9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 5-9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Closed Sundays. Details: (803) 939-4795 or www.maithais.com

What’s good here?

The menu at this Sunset Boulevard restaurant is extensive. Drunken Noodles features stir-fried flat noodles with chili paste, basil, red bell peppers, carrots, snow peas, mushrooms, baby corn, zucchini and onion. Amazing, with its peanut sauce, and Prig Khin, in a special Thai curry paste, are other favorites, according to Jany Lloyd, one of the owners. Patrons say the coconut soup is the best they’ve ever tasted. It is made with coconut milk broth, lemongrass, mushrooms, cilantro, red bell peppers, scallions, lime juice and a choice of chicken or shrimp. There are also salads, like Larb – with minced ground chicken, lime juice, scallions and onions in a Thai spicy sauce on a bed of lettuce.

What else?

Mai Thai makes it a point to educate patrons about Thai food on their website so that they can dine prepared. Pepper illustrations indicate which dishes are spicy. However, Lloyd says, “They’re not all that spicy. We just indicate it for people who can’t have any spice.”

Every dish is cooked fresh. “This is no fast-food restaurant,” she says. Produce is purchased, as much as possible, from the local farmer’s market and other local providers. Basil and other herbs are grown specifically for the restaurant in the warm months; while seafood is purchased fresh. For customers who especially enjoy a special sauce or dressing, side orders are available for purchase.

How did Mai Thai get its start?

“My mom’s uncle owned a Thai restaurant in Florida, so my family gained experience there before moving here.” Lloyd points out there is a difference between country Thai food and city Thai food (Bangkok style). Mai Thai cooks in the Bangkok style. “We won’t have sticky rice like is offered in the country areas of Thailand,” she says. Lloyd and her mother and brother opened Mai Thai five years ago. Some cousins and friends assist in the business as well.

Who eats here?

A majority of customers during lunchtime are from Lexington Medical Center. Dinner attracts families, couples on dates and business associates for casual meetings. “We’re glad to be open in this location because we have so many regulars,” says Lloyd. “They have become like our friends.”

What does the place look like?

Mai Thai is in a shopping center and can seat about 45 at tables and in booths. Inside the somewhat non-descript building is authentic Thai artwork and decorative items in a rich jewel-tone color scheme.

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