Chef and Owner Lily Thamibutra worked at her sister's restaurant, Seaside Thai (long since closed), for 5 years before venturing out to create Lily Thai. It's located on First Street, right next to the original Nicola's, where Dos Locos (and Plumb Loco before that) used to be many years ago. Lily's has matured over the years, and on-again off-again service issues are a thing of the past. Lily has
secured a good reputation for authentic Thai food served up in pleasing, if not austere surroundings. Recent visits for both lunch and dinner in early 2013 bear this out.
The signature dishes are the Pad Thai [pictured, right] (with chicken or shrimp) and the Tom Yum soup [pictured, left] (chicken or shrimp with lemon grass and cilantro). Famous for my ruts, I often end up with the same things at Lily's. I love the crispy Papaya and Mango salad [pictured, left]. I do believe that the mango makes it a little sweet, and I'd just as soon have just the papaya. But the citrusy bite of the lime-chili sauce brings the tomatoes and crispy green beans into perfect harmony with the tropical fruit. I order it extra hot. If you're into peppers, nothing at Lily's is going to take your head off, but it WILL get your attention.
When I do vary on the entrees, I go between the Nam Pik Pow (choice of protein sauteed in a wonderful roasted chili sauce with crispy vegetables), and the Lily's Roasted Peanut Sauce (chicken with sweet/spicy peanut sauce slathered atop not-soggy string beans and happily caramalized onion). Savory, crispy and...hot.
On earlier visits, others at the table chose the Spicy Basil Khao Pad (fried rice) [pictured, right] blended with garlic, peppers, string beans and tomatoes. I''ve been getting that one over since. It's some of the best fried rice I've ever had. Also ordered (and enjoyed) was the Lamb Yellow Coconut Curry, served up in a steaming crock. The name says it all. With the al dente potatoes and onions, it could have doubled as a chunky and hearty soup.
More recent visits have included the Tofu Shiitake Stir Fry [pictured, left], a vegetarian's dream, but also a perfectly tasty dish for the carnivorously inclined.
Another veggie dish is the Veggie Coconut Soup [pictured, right]. Again, a vegetarian's choice, but I'd eat it in a second. Creamy and delightful, with the limey bite of kafir leaves, galanga (like ginger) and a mildly pleasant warmth of peppers.
I usually don't make a big deal about specials, since they aren't available all the time, but if the Golden Pillows [pictured, below right] are on the menu, get them. The Chinese have their wontons, the Italians have their ravioli, the Polish have their pirogies, and the Japanese have their dumplings. Lily's Thai take on these universal little bites is wonderful. And they are pretty to look at, too!
Though I have heard mixed reviews in the past regarding service, our experience has always been friendly and accomodating. In fact, our most recent visit in late winter 2013 was delightful, though there was only one server and a surprising number of tables for a cold winter Wednesday. She was efficient and professional. Ratings have been increased to reflect Lily's continued accent on quality.
Lily's is on the east side of North First Street, right next to Nicola's Pizza. Double-check their off-season hours at 302-227-3348. The only place I could find an online menu was Urban Spoon. Check it out by clicking here. (L. except Mondays, D., Bar) Price Range: Moderate -.