You might remember the original In-On Thai from its Lakeview days. It was a great little restaurant that closed in 2016, making a lot of people (including us) very sad. But after four years of fruitlessly searching for another place with a pad see ew we like nearly as much, we can finally stop. Because In-On Thai is back in a new location in Uptown, and the food is even better than we remembered.
In-On Thai’s small space on Broadway is brightly lit, and there’s not a lot going on in the small restaurant except for a few details like fresh flowers and wall-mounted bottle openers - which is convenient since this place is BYOB, and using your teeth is a bad idea. The long menu includes a lot of noodle dishes, stir-fries, salads, and curries. And after eating any one of these, you’ll make sure this place is on your way home from work, even if it isn’t close to either.
If you’ve been to one of the many just-fine Thai spots in Chicago, you’ll recognize that In-On Thai is different. All the sauces and curries here are made from scratch, and it’s clear from delicious things like the kean-pa (a red curry broth) and rich panang that the person making them knows what they’re doing (FYI, it’s the owner’s mother-in-law). The crispy fish jungle salad has a great sauce that’s just on the edge of tasting too tart, but the mango on top helps balance it out with some sweetness. And then there’s that fantastic pad see ew. It has perfectly chewy noodles with a just-right amount of char and a not-too-sweet sauce. We’re thankful we can finally put away our Ouija Board, and stop trying to contact it from beyond the grave since it’s back in our lives.
One thing to keep in mind is that In-On Thai isn’t the most relaxing spot to hang out - bright lights and usually zero background music can make eating here feel more functional than leisurely. But the friendly family running the place is charming enough to make you want to stick around anyway - the owner’s wife takes your order, her mom is in the kitchen, and the owner checks on you to make sure you’re doing OK. And considering your search is over for a new go-to Thai spot, you will be.
We’re still not sure why this is so good, but it really is. It’s simply-fried tilapia pieces topped with thick spicy curry and basil leaves, and it’s delicious.
This is the same fried fish, but sitting in a refreshing dressing made with lime juice, fish sauce, and topped with mango, chiles, basil, peanuts, onion, and cilantro. The sweet fruit balances out the sourness, and this dish is hot as hell. Order it.
Visualize your ideal pad see ew. This is it. We like ordering ours with chicken.
There’s a board of “specials,” but we’ve actually never seen them change. The chicken puff is on there and it’s like a mildly spiced curry empanada. It’s great, go ahead and get it.
The lightly fried pieces of shrimp are sitting in a sweet tamarind sauce and topped with chiles.
This spicy red curry broth is soup-like, and filled with Thai eggplant, green beans, basil, and a bunch of other vegetables.
If panang is your spirit curry, congratulations. This one is fantastic.
Guess what? Another great curry. Have at it.
The meat is dry and chewy, even though we like the sweet and spicy sauce. But to be honest, this is pretty disappointing.