Get ready to feel old. Thairish turned 21 on Nov. 2.
Owner and chef Kerrigan Kitikul is still behind the counter at this cheerful and sunny walk-up in Mount Vernon's Park Plaza building. Thairish survived the December 2010 fire that gutted the Park Plaza, and it's outlasted a dozen or so other neighborhood restaurants that have come and gone over the past two decades.
Hanging on the walls are reviews of and articles about Thairish from the early 1990s, when Thai food wasn't quite as omnipresent in Baltimore is it is now. A few of the framed clippings explain that the restaurant's name, Thairish, is a combination of Thai and Irish — Kitikul's wife is Irish, and the chef/owner is an admirer of Irish culture. But don't worry, there are no corned beef curries. The menu is strictly Thai.
Some of the framed reviews from the early days of Thairish show Kitikul sporting a headful of bushy white hair. The hair is shorter now, but the menu at Thairish and the cooking have remained remarkably consistent. It begins with spring rolls and three classic Thai soups and includes the classic pad Thai, a noodle dish with onions, bean sprouts, peanuts and egg, as well as khao pad, a Thai take on fried rice.
But the specialty is the mild, medium and hot curry sauces that Kitikul stir fries with vegetables — almost always broccoli and often zucchini — and serves with steamed rice. Customers can choose to add in either tofu ($7.95) or chicken or shrimp ($8.95).
I've always been partial to the stir fry made with phrik pao, a roasted red pepper sauce whose paste-like consistency helps it cling to pieces of chicken, shrimp or tofu. The key word, though, is roasted. The sauce has a wonderful, nutty aroma and a very satisfying bite. The sauce is not fiery hot, though. Most diners will be able to enjoy it just fine.
If you can make time, have your Thairish lunch at one of the half dozen tables. You'll have your food served on prettily decorated plates and enjoy a glass of the delicious Thai iced coffee. There are always interesting Mount Vernon residents and workers from the nearby cultural institutions coming into Thairish, too, as they've been doing for 21 years now.
Where: 804 N. Charles St., Mount Vernon
Contact: 410-752-5857; no website
Hours: Open Tuesday through Sunday for lunch and dinner
Lunch entrees: $7.95-$8.95