Thai@Main Street, 317 West Main Street, Durham, 984-219-7444, www.thaiatmainstnc.com

It seems like you can get just about any dish in downtown Durham, from empanadas to pizza to ramen, but until this summer, there was nary a plate of pad Thai in sight. But Thai at Main Street, which opened in June in the former Dame’s Chicken & Waffles space at 317 West Main Street, has filled the void.

The greatest hits are all here—pad Thai, fried rice, and coconut-based curries—alongside a smattering of dishes that explain the “Bangkok Twist” tagline on the restaurant’s sign. These include entrées such as Bangkok duck and Bangkok shrimp, which are also a nod to chef-owner Jay Aparoj’s hometown (Aparoj also runs Bangkok 54 in Chapel Hill). As a third-generation restaurateur, Aparoj has plenty to draw on from his family’s recipe book (see: golden grilled chicken), but he’s putting his own stamp on it with dishes that don’t shy away from spice, such as a cant-miss papaya salad.

Vibe: Laid back, in a bright, contemporary space. Photos of Bangkok at night hang on the grey-and-yellow striped wall, accented by orange banquettes and a turquoise wall behind the bar, where Food Network is likely to be playing on the small flat screen. Service is prompt and friendly, and servers are knowledgeable and can help steer your order if you’re looking to sample something beyond pad Thai or fried rice. It’s definitely a downtown lunch hot spot—by 12:30 p.m. on a Wednesday, the place was packed, so get there early if you’re on a lunch break.

Menu: The lunch menu offers a handful of curries, pad Thai, fried rice, and the like, with either chicken, pork, beef, mixed vegetables, or tofu (or you can upgrade to shrimp, squid, or scallops for a couple bucks more). Each comes with Jasmine rice and a side salad or soup—opt for the soup, which comes with glass noodles, scallions, and mushrooms in a clear, restorative broth. For less pedestrian dishes, look to the house specialties side of the menu for entrées such as mixed seafood with fish, shrimp, scallops, and squid in a red-curry-coconut broth.

What to order: If it’s pad Thai or fried rice you’re after, you’ll get solid takes of each, but don’t sleep on the golden grilled chicken, listed under house specialties (and available as a lunch menu set) and made according to a decades-old family recipe. Bone-in, skin-on chicken is marinated in lemongrass, makrut lime leaves, fresh garlic, and curry powder (which also gives the dish its subtle golden hue), then chargrilled—the pieces with smoky, char-lacquered skin are the best. It’s served simply with steamed broccoli and rice, so pair with the papaya salad, which packs a spicy-sour jolt (though I wish there was more of a smack of fish sauce to bring the funk).

More slaw than salad, the pale green ribbons are dressed in a vinegary, piquant sauce sluiced with lime juice and laced with Thai chili powder, then scattered with julienned carrots, halved cherry tomatoes, and peanuts. Your server will ask how spicy you’d like it, on a scale of one to five, but be warned that the one is more like a three right out of the gate. It’s best to order it at a level one and add heat to taste with the accompanying caddy of chili sauce, vinegared chilies, or chili powder. If you want to double down on the heat, staff may recommend ordering one of the Bangkok-style dishes, such as the duck, served with a coconut red curry sauce, or the shrimp, fried and topped with a tri-chili pepper sauce. For a milder option, the green curry—a coconut-milk base strewn with cubes of chewy tofu, bamboo shoots, and red bell peppers—is a fine rendition of a classic.

Price: Apps start at $3 for spring rolls and hover around $7 for satay, wings, and meatballs. Curries, noodles, and rice dishes start at $11. House specialties are $13 to $18. Lunch sets are $9 to $12.

Perfect for: Thai without the commute; banishing cold-weather blues; a quick lunch  downtown.

laylakh@indyweek.com