I'd be surprised if there aren't more than 200 Thai restaurants in San Francisco. And, that's restaurants with seating, not carry-outs. A lot of them are good, some really good!
Out of all these places, and don't even imagine I've been to a quarter of them, I do have a favorite. It's Bangkok 16, near the corner of 16th and Guerrero, in the Mission District: 3214 16th Street, phone 431-5838 http://www.bangkok16sf.com. I've been eating there for more than ten years, still keep going, and hope to continue going for many more. My wife nearly went into a Full-scale panic a few years ago when the owner considered selling the restaurant. We ate there maybe more than we really should have eaten out for the next 6 months.
There are several reasons I like this restaurant so well. First, the food is excellent and consistent. In another posting, I wrote about the wonderful fish cakes at Thai Time. Granted, the cakes at Bangkok 16 are not quite as big or thick as those at Thai Time, but they are fantastic! Their spicing is exquisite, the outsides of each cake is ever so slenghtly but deliciously tough and crunchy, and the sauce compliments them very well. The sauce is on the sweet side of cucumber sauces, but it's great. Back to the food in a moment.
The owner, Terry, and his family as well as the restaurant staff are extremely personable. We've come to know all of them over the years. Terry has a friendly greeting for everybody and exemplifies Thai manners and sensibilities. He has even been known to prepare food from fresh ingredients you bring to him at the restauran. He is artistically creative in restaurant appointments, and carves a raddish in ways you'd never have imagined before seeing it. They decorate beautifully for every holiday including Christmas, New Years, Valentine's Day, Hallowene, St. Patrick's Day, and Easter.
Also, Bangkok 16 has a large collection of Thai condiments for their food. Many types of dried peppers, hot sauces, and other items are available if you want them.
Now, back to the main event: food! Bangkok 16 features 208 items on its menu. In the apetizer category, the Thai egg rolls are excellent, and the sauce is slightly peppery and a great compliment to them. Sometimes, the restaurant has shrimp chips which are particularly wonderful. One of my all-time favorites is the curry pops: small fried pastries with meat and curry seasoning inside the dough.
They have several salads as well. Our favorite is the Papaya salad. Order it spicy and with extra dried shrimp. It doesn't get any better than that.
Besides a wide array of coconut milk soups, a special soup with clear broth is offered. It's one of my favorites, and can be had with tofu, beef, pork, chicken or shrimp. Try the tofu: you won't regret it!
Things get complicated when you get to the main dishes. Besides the standards of chicken, beef, pork and shrimp, there are other choices you can make. The menu features several duck, lamb, fish, scallop and shellfish dishes. There are also lots of fish dishes with halibut, salmon, and other varieties. Some of these have previously frozen fish, so you may wish to ask about the ingredienffs before placing a firm order. If you don't want something that was frozen, Terry will gladly tell you what is best for that day! Our friend Bernard loves the curried chicken!
From there, you can choose noodle dishes, rice dishes including a delicious Thai fried rice, and a variety of vegetable dishes. It's a big selection.
Whatever you order, pay particular attention to the specials. One of our favorites is the Sweet 16. It's a meat and veggie combination, great Thai peanut sauce, and a big serving of sweetened greens that add incredible body, texture and flavor to the meal. It was created by Terry to celebrate his daughter's 16th birthday. We have been celebrating ever since.
then, there are the deserts, and absolutely DO save room for this. I recommend you ask for the Thai pancake. Believe me: You can't go wrong. It's a thin dough with sugar and I don't know what else inside. It comes cut into six wedges of sweet delight that you'll never have anywhere else. Just one caveat here: DO NOT get this to go! It just doesn't work.
Opentable has a category for "neighborhood gems". Bangkok 16 is absolutely 1000% right for this category. Check it out when you can. I'm certain you will not be disappointed. I have never been disappointed, not once in all of my many, many visits.