International Flavor

International food can be hit-or-miss in small Midwestern cities. But thanks to a diverse population and a propensity for eating out, Iowa Citians can eat their way through a culinary world tour within city limits on a reasonable budget. Here are two stops that should be on everyone’s list.

Oasis Falafel
206 N. Linn St., Iowa City

While you might spot their products in local grocery stores, or even the IMU cafeteria, don’t pass up a full, delicious meal at Oasis Falafel. Eating out healthfully can be a challenge. There aren’t many restaurants where the ingredients are few and the dishes are homemade. Even fewer are the restaurants where such food is reasonably priced.

Well known for the authentic falafel­—fried balls of seasoned chickpeas—it’s also popular for its vegetarian friendly menu.

A platter, complete with a falafel sandwich and homemade fries or pita chips is an excellent lunch for under $10. For omnivores, seasoned lamb, chicken or beef may be added for a few bucks. Pile on all the hummus, baba ganoush and mediteranian salads you can eat. If you’re still hungry for dessert after the generous portions, try the baklava, a layered pastry with honey and nuts, which is best accompanied by a Turkish coffee.

Thai Spice
1210 S. Gilbert St., Iowa City

The restaurant makes a fantastic version of the traditional Pad Thai, a stir-fried noodle dish with tofu, tamarind paste, eggs, green onions, bean sprouts and crushed peanuts. Diners will also find the usual stir-fry, noodle and curry dishes, with spice adjustable to your preference.

On my last two visits, I have ordered dishes from the chef’s special menu. I am in love with the fried red snapper in garlic sauce. This dish is composed of a whole red snapper chopped into large chunks, breaded, fried, and served piping hot with rice. The sauce, like so many Thai sauces, is a balance of sweet, salt, savory and heat. My vegetarian partner was more than satisfied with the fried tofu appetizer and spring roll options.

At Thai Flavors, entrees range from $7 to $16 for generous portions making this a great restaurant to experience family style.  Enjoy it all with a cool, sweet Thai tea with milk.

Blog Comments

Regarding your review of Thai Spice: Although my comments may be viewed as picking nits by many, and while Thai Spice serves serviceable Thai, it is by no stretch of the imagination authentic. Of course that is irrelevant — if it appeals to you that's all that matters.

Having lived in Thailand for several years (plus married to a Thai), I've found that Thai Spice substitutes ingredients that have a great effect on the flavor, oftentimes altering a dish to the point that a Thai wouldn't recognise the dish. Moreover, Thai Spice often doesn't use ingredients that are a staple of Thai cuisine — one notable example being Thai Holy Basil and instead substitutes another type of basil that doesn't taste remotely like the former.

I go to Thai Spice if a friend chooses it for a night out, but cringe every time I ask a simple question regarding a dish, only to be met with a blank stare.

In closing, if you like it — eat it. Just don't confuse it with authentic. For authentic Thai, you'll need to travel to Chicago.

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