13. Zabb Elee - East Village
Neighborhood: East Village, Manhattan
Address: 75 2nd Ave.
You used to have to make the pilgrimage to spots like SriPraPhai in Woodside if you wanted anything resembling authentic Thai food in the city. Thanks to this Manhattan spinoff of Queens' Zabb Elee, though, you can now burn your face off without leaving the East Village. The menu reflects the spicy, funky cuisine of northern Thailand, so don't expect pad Thai. Instead, eat succulent fried chicken, fiery duck larb, and som tum thai (papaya salad) that, no joke, made me cry. Word to the wise: “Level five” is the code phrase for Thai-level spicy. Use it judiciously.—CS