Budget Epicureans Review: Big Thai

Each week, the Budget Epicureans select an eatery, take-out establishment or recipe that we feel represents high quality and solid value. Bonus points are awarded for healthy options.

Market Street’s Indochine has long been the rock star of Wilmington’s Asian scene, beckoning the hip and beautiful in droves each weekend. But several years ago, it began facing understated competition from Big Thai, hidden in the Brooklyn Arts District on North Fourth Street. The remote location draws fewer people than it should, and, as a result, an intimate dining experience without a wait is there for the taking, an ideal and undervalued destination for a Valentine’s Day visit.

Big Thai’s space appears repurposed for restaurant use, and so the shoji screens, embroidered elephants adorning the walls, and pillows featuring Buddhist deities can’t quite hide the plain exterior or checkered tile floor within. Indications that one had been whisked away to Thailand would quickly have been dispelled by the floating heart balloons commemorating the holiday, in any case. But Big Thai is more about food than flash, and the nondescript space hardly detracts from the experience.

The drink menu features an array of beer, wine and sake, so we tried the Chang beer (a malty, Thai lager) and chilled Shirayuki Reishu sake to warm the evening. Sufficiently lubricated, we selected crab angels ($4.50) and shrimp rolls ($7.95) to start. The ricotta and real crab of the perfectly-fried wontons and the fresh, meaty shrimp rolls confirmed Big Thai’s reputation for some of the Port City’s best apps.

Next were soups: the spicy lemongrass ($4.95), with a dense broth featuring sesame oil and basil, and spicy coconut ($4.95), with notes of cilantro and Kaffir leaves.

Big Thai’s menu is heavy on chicken, fish, and shellfish, with departures such as duck in pineapple curry and specials like rack of lamb. Our main courses for the evening were mixed vegetables with shrimp, served with white rice in a spicy brown sauce ($11.95) and drunken noodles ($9.95), a Thai standard featuring flat noodles and vegetables in a basil-heavy chili sauce. It’s best served spicy, and, although we asked for it Thai hot (the fieriest), could have used more heat. Alas. That minor complaint aside, both entrees were well-prepared with solid portions.

Capping the meal was the house-specialty coconut cake, with a light texture and butter cream icing to cool the palate following the chili-heavy meals. The bill for three cocktails and two four-course meals was $70, straining the definition of “budget,” but still an excellent value given the quantity and quality. A typical dinner check for two is in the $35-$45 range.

Big Thai really is as authentic as one will find in Wilmington, sometimes including servers whose command of spoken English is limited. It’s a minor hurdle to a major dining event, a restaurant well worth the trip into the little-travelled lands north of Market Street.

Cuisine: Thai

Price range: $10-$20

Address: 1001 N 4th Street, Wilmington, NC 28401

Contact: (910) 763-3035 or


Store hours:

Monday – Thursday: 11am to 2:30pm and 5pm to 9:30pm

Friday and Saturday: 11am to 2:30pm and 5pm to 10:00pm

Closed Sundays