This column offers a sampling of dining experiences in the area. It is not intended as a review of the restaurant other than to provide the reader with one diner's experience. It also appears in The Herald's Friday entertainment section, "Ticket."
THI'S PLACE ON MAIN
LOCATION: 210 E. Main St., Rock Hill
Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-8 p.m. Monday-Friday
AMBIANCE: Vietnamese fare, relaxed setting
I met up with a friend on Main Street and strolled through Rock Hill's downtown to stretch our legs and to have lunch at Thi's Place on Main, which serves Vietnamese cuisine.
The one-room restaurant has a nice, vibrant feel with red accent walls contrasted by mustard deco walls, the green of live bamboo in the front window, several marble-topped tables with padded cherry wood color chairs and three large, scenic murals.
There are photo collages of the family framed on one wall. After all, this is a family-run restaurant with a menu that explains its history and that "Thi" means tea. Fresh-cut flowers and white ceramic salt and pepper shakers on each table are a nice touch. It's a quiet, relaxing atmosphere where you can melt away the stress of the morning workday.
I'd never been to a Vietnamese restaurant and was clueless about where to begin, or how to make a choice from the large menu. Luckily, our welcoming and friendly waitress was very helpful, explaining the different sauces such as lemongrass, which is light and zesty; Asian brown sauce, which is sweet and spicy; and curry, not like Indian curry, although the heat can be turned up, but sweet. Meals can come with Jasmine rice or noodles, spring rolls and more. Lunch specials range from $7 to $10.
My friend doesn't eat meat so she went with the lemongrass tofu dish, while I wanted some protein from the meats, including shrimp, beef, pork or beef. Upon suggestion, I went with a chicken stir fry and decided I'd like to try it with the curry. And, boy, am I glad I did.
We didn't have to wait long before our meals arrived, warm, ready and smelling so good my stomach leaped as I inhaled the aroma. The chicken pieces were tender and the Vietnamese curry was so wonderful, I ate all my vegetables and wished I had a spoon to scoop up the rest. If they bottled and sold it, I'd buy.
I took a taste of the tofu lemongrass dish my friend had ordered. I've never been big on tofu, but as my friend said, "If you can try frog legs, you can eat this." I couldn't resist trying it, if for nothing else to taste the lemongrass sauce. It was light and packed with flavor. As my vegetarian friend pointed out, even a vegan could dine here.
I guess healthy eating also can be tasty.
We decided we couldn't walk away without splitting a dessert, and there were options including chocolate cake, cheese cake and our choice, coconut. It was a huge slice perfect for sharing with a richness like wedding cake.
Thi's Place is warm and inviting in its atmosphere and hospitality, so it's no small wonder there's a backgammon-checker-chess game by the front door.
We never felt rushed as other diners came and went. It's a great spot for a dinner date, business lunch, any occasion, even eating alone, as there were several solo diners.
After spending about an hour here, I felt recharged and relaxed -- or was it all that coconut in the curry and the cake that helped me escape for a brief summer vacation?