Smile Politely

Basil Thai: Noodles & rice galore

It’s that time of the year when New Year’s resolutions have started to die down and people have reverted to their old routines and habits. There are certainly people who are able to keep their resolutions for long periods of time, perhaps for many years. A lot of people focus on health related resolutions — losing weight, eating more vegetables, cutting back on sodas — but struggle to keep them. The important thing is to take small steps and not to rush into something that’s too big to handle. I’m not one who makes resolutions in the first place. Why should I choose a specific time of the year to change my lifestyle? If I’m happy with my lifestyle, I’m going to stick with it and make adjustments along the way.

All this talk about resolutions does not digress from my actual point. What I want to share with you is this: you can still eat healthier on a budget. One place in Urbana that I’ve come to enjoy is Basil Thai @ Urbana, a local restaurant that is only a five-minute walk from the Main Quad on and almost directly across from Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. I recently stopped by on a Friday to meet a friend for an early lunch. It was 11 a.m. and customers had already placed their orders and found seats inside. One aspect that I love about the restaurant is the large windows along the east wall, which allows a lot of natural light to enter the interior, making it feel very spacious and welcoming. The decor near the entrance, wall hangings made of what appears to be glass and metal animals and symbols,  also adds a nice touch of character to the simple white walls. In addition, there are large pink flowers that add extra color and several framed photos showcasing a few dishes you can find at Basil Thai.

On this lovely day with my friend, we ordered some of the most popular dishes at the restaurant. My friend ordered Green Curry with Chicken, which is coconut milk-based and comes with bamboo shoots, zucchini, carrots, broccoli, bell pepper, and basil leaves plus a generous serving of rice on the side. For $8.95, I’d say this is a good deal. This dish can easily be turned into two meals and is full of spice and flavor. Like many other Thai restaurants, customers are given the choice spice levels for this curry. I’ve eaten this curry many times, and the combination of heat from the spices and heat from the temperature makes it difficult to eat this immediately, but it’s certainly worth the wait. I’ve burned my tongue one too many times from refusing to wait before eating the Green Curry.

Even though I’m a huge fan of spicy foods, I decided to go with something a little simpler, possibly because I had already made curry in my apartment a few days before and wanted something a little different. I ended up ordering Pad Thai, also priced at $8.95. It’s a stir-fried noodle dish with tofu, egg, green cabbage, broccoli, carrots, and green onion, topped with Pad Thai sauce and crushed peanuts. This was my first time ordering this noodle dish from Basil Thai, and since it appeared on the top-most ordered dishes, I thought it would meet my expectations. Unfortunately, I was rather disappointed by the quality. The noodles were drowning in sauce, like a pile of worms after a night of heavy rain. A little graphic, but that’s the best way to describe it. The sauce was also a little too overpowering, making the vegetables soggy and leaving an unpleasant aftertaste in my mouth. If you’re a fan of Pad Thai, I recommend passing on this one. I’m not sure how it’s such a popular dish at Basil Thai, but I won’t be trying it again.

Thankfully, there a plenty of other dishes to choose from the menu, including other types of noodle, rice, curry, meat, tofu, and vegetable dishes, with entrees ranging from $8.95 to $11.45 and appetizers ranging from $2.95 to $6.50. Basil Thai was was packed within an hour of arriving and there was a long line of customers waiting to order. This is not surprising for a Friday at noon but if you decide to stop by the restaurant on the weekend, plan for there to be a short wait. While Basil Thai will not necessarily help you with your resolutions, it’s a better option than fast food and is still served within fifteen to twenty minutes of ordering. However you choose to look at it, it’s an ideal place for a quick date or meeting and there’s always the option of walking across the street after dining to see a performance at Krannert. 

Basil Thai @ Urbana is located at 701 S Gregory St # B, Urbana. The restaurant is open every day from 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.

All photos by Madeleine Marsh.

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