Monday, February 4, 2013

Thai Cafe, Ottawa, IL

Not to be mistaken for Ottawa in Canada, the city of Ottawa in Illinois doesn't have that much to offer. A tiny town located 85 miles southwest of Chicago, it isn't exactly an ideal vacation destination. But, I find myself here once a year for an event and I have to find a way to survive. And when I say survive, I mean find vegan-suitable food. I think you are pretty much limited to three options here: a Mexican restaurant, a Thai restaurant, and a Subway in a gas station. In fact, options are so limited that I often just buy Amy's frozen meals and eat in my hotel room.

So, on this special night, we headed to the Thai Cafe. It had a real dumpy sort of look to it from the outside, but I remembered enjoying my meal here last year so I was actually looking forward to this dinner. When we arrived, there were only a few other tables occupied. We had about seven people with us so we had a fairly big party. We took a look at the menu for a bit then began to wonder if they'd ever bring us water. I finally had to actually request water for the table. After a 30-minute wait, a woman finally came around to take our orders. I ordered an appetizer and an entree. They had vegetarian duck, but I wasn't sure if it was vegan and the woman taking our orders not only didn't speak much English, but also didn't seem to have much time to answer questions and appeared to be the only server there that night, so, I stuck with a safe tofu- and vegetable-based entree.

The guy working in the kitchen then proceeded to fill our orders as if we were sitting separately. And he was preparing the appetizers at the same time as the entrees. So, one person at my table would be served an appetizer and an entree, then about five minutes later, another, then another, and so on. I was one of the last people to be served and by the time I received my food, most others at my table had finished. How awkward! I had ordered a tofu-based appetizer and entree so when they served them at the same time, I refused the appetizer. I no longer needed it.

To make matters worse, they no longer serve alcohol so we couldn't even have a drink while waiting.

Needless to say, my entree was a complete disappointment. I ordered the Basil sauteed entree that was supposed to come with tofu, zucchini, onion, basil, pepper, and garlic chili. I suppose it actually did come with all of that, but it was not well balanced. The dish was mostly tofu and onions with just a few zucchini cut in the shape of crinkle fries and a few peppers. I basically ate a pound of tofu with onions. The sauce was runny as well.

So, even though this is one of the few vegan options in this city, I can't say I'll ever return. The food and service were poor. The price for an entree was only $10, but considering the quality, I think it was overpriced. I can honestly say that I enjoyed my Amy's black bean enchilada meal the night before better. This is one of those experiences that make me thankful that I live in a vegan-friendly city.

Thai Cafe
610 Columbus Street
Ottawa, IL 61350
(815) 431-8090

Thai Cafe on Urbanspoon


  1. I am sorry to hear about your experience in Ottawa. It really is a nice place to live and visit. We just moved here in August and love it. You totally need to come in the summer while we're having all the festivals, farmers markets and art/music in Washington park!

  2. Just visited the Thai Cafe tonight and sad to say that 4 years later it hasn't gotten better. First and last time at that restaurant!