Kid Hit Menu Items: Various rices (mango sticky, plain sticky, pineapple fried, etc.), and standard Thai noodle dishes are the kid standouts at Jitlada. Most people, however, don’t come to Jitlada for noodles you typically get at any other Thai Town joint. Item #133 on the Southern Thai specialty menu, Slim Pak Boong, is a strong candidate the dullest dish at Jitlada relative to the other stuff that comes out of that insanely prolific kitchen. But the glass noodles, plain tofu, sliced cucumber, and bean sprouts served with a not-terribly-spicy sweet sauce is very useful for young delicate palates. Thai “dim sum” dumplings with black mushroom and chicken ($8.95; either steamed or fried) isn’t going to intimidate any dim sum palaces in the San Gabriel Valley, but it’s a useful item. We’ve had luck with some fish. The famous Coco Mango Salad ($11.95) loaded with mango slivers, sliced coconut, and shrimp may as well be listed with the desserts. Just about every platter at Jitlada is a beautifully composed riot of color.
Adult Perks: Working through Jitlada’s huge menu loaded with off-the-charts spicy Southern specialties by Jazz Singsanong and her brother, Tui, has become a daredevil quest among L.A. food lovers. But this sort of one-upmanship is by no means required. We always make sure to order at least one whole fish ($16.95-39.95, depending on the fish and market prices), and a smattering of whatever strikes our fancy. It’s hard to not get the Beef Salad. No two meals at Jitlada are ever the same; or if they are, that’s wrong, because there’s SO much to explore. Bottles of Singha help manage the spice, along with Thai iced tea and coffee.
Let. Us. In.
Pros: Jitlada is known for some of the most highly praised, complex Thai cooking in town. You’ll find amazing hospitality from Jazz, the ebullient owner. There’s a fountain out by the Thai herb/massage shop next door, so that and the barbershop are interesting diversions for the antsy ones.
Cons: Jitlada’s modest space and growing popularity mean long waits. Call ahead to check on the line, or make a reservation. And GO EARLY. Or go during lunch. Leisurely late afternoons at Jitlada can be lovely. Food wait times can be erratic (see photo below). Even a Monday dinner at 5:30 in December for a group of a dozen or so adults and kids turned into a tough meal for the little members of our party. And definitely leave the strollers and bulky gear behind.
Changing Station: No
High Chairs: Yes. But they’re not all in the greatest shape.Thanks for the honesty! And more reasons to go early or during off-peak times.
Everyone is working hard at Jitlada, including the kid doing homework (at left).
Parking and Access: Competition for spaces among Jitlada customers and the other businesses makes the strip mall’s lot crowded, so parking can be found on Harvard or Kingsley. More reasons to ONLY eat at Jitlada during the early evening if you’re going with children.
Other Tidbits: Back in 2007, word spread that a new team was bringing exciting changes to Jitlada. And it was that year during my first Jitlada visit when I had a restaurant experience unlike any other. Jazz kindly asked, “Would you like me to hold your baby?” “Sure!” So I handed him over, and she walked off. No hovering like I expected; she just took matters into her own hands. I’m not sure who was more thrilled; me, who got to eat an entire lunch with two free hands, or the baby boy, who was treated to an entertaining afternoon with Jazz and a royal tour of Jitlada during the late afternoon down-time. (The food from Jitlada we got for his first birthday party probably went unappreciated by the single-digit set, but the rest of us were psyched.)
The constant demands of running an incredibly busy restaurant make it harder for Jazz to give her customers that kind of sustained attention anymore — although I did recently receive another offer of baby-holding from a different staff member. She’s also become a beloved fixture and local celebrity as Jitlada has received more attention and recognition. And she tweets! Be prepared to see Rachael Ray’s mug around the restaurant, since it was featured in her mag. The original Matt Groening doodles on display will get you back on track, though.
Families will find Jitlada to be a warm, well-worn, happy family-owned place where everyone is welcome. (There’s often a young person working on homework at the table next to the register, too.) But be sure to plan your group meal there carefully. And drink a lot of liquids.
5233 W. Sunset Blvd., East Hollywood (at Harvard)
Hours: Monday 5 – 10 :30 p.m.; Tuesday – Thursday, 11 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.; Friday – Saturday 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.