Quick: Name three restaurants on Atwood Street. Mad Mex and India Garden are two, right? And the third? Maybe La Fiesta, for its late-night half-price specials when you can't get a table at Mad Mex. Maybe Ginza, for its unusual Korean food, or one of the pizza places, or Dave and Andy's, although that doesn't really count. What about the Spice Island Tea House?
Actually, the Tea House should come first. I love Mad Mex as much as the next hungry half-pricer or stressed-out student in search of a margarita. But before 11pm, I'd choose the Tea House every time.
There are a couple things that should be noted about the Tea House:
- It's not just tea, although they have that too. The hot or iced tea of the day is a bargain at $1.
- Ignore the reviews online (except for this one). They're somewhat mixed, but as far as I'm concerned, I've never had a meal there that's less than great.
Of course, maybe I'm biased: the cuisine is pan-Southeast-Asian, from Burmese to Indian to Thai to my personal favorite, Indonesian. It's a little inventive too: not just pho and satay (although they have that too). For example, the "monsoon of vegetables" lives up to its name, not because it's soggy, but because of its intense flavor: spicy, salty, and sweet all at once. This is a dish I'd order again if it weren't for the fact that I never order anything twice. Rendang, an Indonesian dish, was creamy, coconutty, and super-tender.
It's got atmosphere too; casual enough to show up in jeans, but dark and intimate enough to take a date. Here's the reason it's great for students: the prices. Almost everything is in the $7-9 range. You could eat a fantastic dinner, with tea, and leave with your wallet only $10 lighter, including tax and tip.
If I gave these reviews numerical ratings, the Tea House would get the top rating. As it is, I'll just have to say – if you're a student, eat at the Spice Island Tea House. You won't regret it.
Restaurant type: Southeast Asian
How to get there: A 15-minute walk. 253 Atwood St.
Price for an entrée: $7-10
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