If there is a mainstay of the Outer Banks dining scene it may well be Thai Room, located at milepost 8.5 on the beach road in Kill Devil Hills. Talk to most anyone who’s an Outer Banks resident or repeat visitor to our area, and they’ll rave about the Pad Thai noodles or the chicken with basil, which is a rather bland name for a spectacular dish.
The remarkable thing is that it’s been 30 years since Jimmy Ngeonjuklin and his brother Ta opened their doors, and much has happened in that timeframe. For example, the Outer Banks population has nearly doubled and much changed at Thai Room too. Jimmy married Thom, who still works in the restaurant today, and they raised a family. His brother Ta is no longer with us and is greatly missed. It was Ta who was the original chef, a job now held by Jimmy who is still there turning out classic Thai food.
For anyone who’s not been to the restaurant, there are a few helpful facts you should know. The environment is casual and relaxed and the prices are reasonable. A family of four can typically eat for well under $50. It is very much a family restaurant with respect to both the patrons and the staff. Although Jimmy spends most of his time in the kitchen, he also makes appearances in the dining room. Thom usually greets and seats everyone, and the Jimmy’s grandmother still makes an occasional appearance.
The menu is mostly Thai food, although there are some Chinese dishes as well, a nod to diners who may not be familiar with foods of Southeast Asia. Not afraid to express his opinion, Jimmy makes it clear where his preference lies, “Why don’t you try Thai noodle? It’s similar, but is lighter and with more flavor.” And he’s right. The rice noodles do seem lighter, offering more subtle flavors, and the dish itself is almost delicate.
As with all Thai dishes, the noodles are served mild, medium or hot. I’m not aware of anyone who’s attempted the hot since it’s well-known the medium spice is capable of curling toes and making the coolest cucumber sweat.
This is a place to share food, so put the plates in the middle and try a little bit of everything, especially when it’s very busy. The kitchen is not large and everything is made to order, so there can be a little delay in getting the food from the kitchen.
The Thai Room is open year round, except for January and February, when Jimmy and Thom make their annual trek back to Thailand where, according to Jimmy, they purchase the majority of the spices and herbs used in his recipes.