11:30 am-10 pm daily. No reservations for parties of four or fewer. $$ Moderate.
[THE THAI YOU DON’T KNOW] Come thirsty to Pok Pok. Unless you have five or more people, you’re not allowed to make a reservation, and you’ll end up across the street at Whiskey Soda Lounge drinking while you bide time for a table. As anyone who’s been to Pok Pok will tell you, it’s goddamn well worth the wait. Chef Andy Ricker’s family-style Thai food has been called out as some of the best barbecue in America, but more importantly, it’s rollicking good fun to eat. One tip for the befuddled novice: Ignore the menu altogether and surrender yourself to the will of your server, who will bring out steaming bowls of the kitchen’s finest offerings. And don’t get greedy—everything here is prepared to be shared, from the national dish khao soi kai (curry noodle soup with chicken on the bone) to the muu paa kham waan (boar collar rubbed with garlic and spice) to Ike’s special fish-sauce wings with cane-sugar marinade. The convivial mood is enhanced by Pok Pok’s layout and decor in the style of a traditional Thai bungalow. With space at a premium, we found ourselves swapping stories and food with folks at the next table. Welcome to the Land of Smiles. JAMES PITKIN.
Ideal meal: Do what your server says.
Best deal: For a one-dish meal, try the meaty khanom jiin naam ngiew ($11).
Chef’s choice: “Whatever laap (meat salad) is on the menu at any given time, because it is such an iconic dish in Thailand, especially in the north; because it is about as far away from yellow curry as you can get; and because it represents exactly what I find fascinating about Thai food—the play between complex flavors, surprising textures, exotic aroma and simple presentation. And because it goes great with beer.” (Andy Ricker)