Em-On's Thai Cafe
2364 Immokalee Rd
About the restaurant
Em-On’s Thai Cafe
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday
Beverages: Soft drinks are $1.50, as is iced tea, green tea and jasmine tea. A Thai iced coffee or Thai iced tea is $2. If you’re looking for alcohol, they have a few reds and a few whites for $3.99 to $4.99 a glass, $9.99 for a half carafe or $16.99 to $18.99 for a full carafe. They also offer sake for $7.75, two Thai beers for $3.95, along with Corona and Heineken, or $2.95 for domestic beers.
Prices: Most entrees on the lunch menu are $7.99, and they come with a choice of soup (hot and sour or wonton) and a fried spring roll. You can also order off the dinner menu for lunch. Appetizers include fried spring rolls, chicken or pork satay, vegetables with peanut paste, stuffed, boneless chicken wings and more, range in price from $4.75 to $6.95. Salads range from $8.95 to $11.95. Entrees including fried rice, noodles, curries, stir-fry and house specials range from to $10.95 to $18.95.
Atmosphere: Small, casual restaurant with booths and tables. The walls and a railing are decorated with wood carvings, and there’s a disco ball hanging from the center of the ceiling. It was busy the first day we went for lunch around 12:30 p.m., but we didn’t have to wait. The second time we went later — around 1:30 p.m. — and there was only one other table.
A lot of good restaurants in Southwest Florida are tucked away in strip malls next to supermarkets, shipping places and nail salons. Em-On’s Thai Cafe is one of those places, and it’s worth locating.
We went for lunch on both visits to Em-On’s, and since the lunch menu doesn’t have appetizers (other than the soup that comes with your meal), we ordered appetizers from their dinner menu.
The first time, we chose chicken satay, which is pieces of grilled chicken on sticks with peanut dipping sauce. This chicken satay ($6.95) was wonderful because the chicken wasn’t just grilled, it was marinated or rubbed in yellow curry spices and coconut milk. It came with a peanut dipping sauce that was a perfect combination of salty and sweet, as well as chopped cucumbers in a sweet sauce.
On our second trip, we ordered the crispy spring rolls ($4.75). I was looking for non-fried spring rolls wrapped in clear rice paper, but they didn’t have any. They were crispy fried on the outside and filled with shredded veggies on the inside. They came with sweet plum dipping sauce.
For entrees, Thai curries are always my go-to ordering option. They’re vegetable and meat dishes served over rice with a generous portion of flavorful sauce made from coconut milk and Thai curry pastes. The pastes are made with a variety of spices including chiles, ginger, cumin, coriander, garlic and more. Some curry sauces are sweet, others are savory, and they range from mild to very spicy. On both trips, the server didn’t ask our spice preference, so be sure to tell them.
When you order from the lunch menu, you get wonton soup or hot and sour soup and a spring roll. The wonton soup tasted like you’d expect — clear broth, dumplings with meat inside and some floating greens for flavor. The hot and sour soup was spicy, with a much heavier spiced taste and generous amounts of vegetables and chicken.
On our first trip, my friend ordered the panang curry ($7.99). She ordered it with chicken, and the pieces were cut up nice and small, allowing for a good sauce-to-chicken ratio. The flavors are complex, with sweet coconut milk as a base for the liquid sauce with bright, flavorful spices and the spice level was mild. It came with green beans and bell peppers.
On our second trip we ordered ma-sa-man curry and gang-dang curry (both $7.99). Ma-sa-man curry has a savory taste that masks some of the coconut milk’s sweetness. We tried it with beef, and decided that beef was a better choice for this type of curry than chicken. Mixed with the beef are potatoes, peanuts, tomatoes, onion and pineapple. The slices of pineapple add a bit of sweetness into the dish, and it came out mildly spicy.
The gang dang curry was similar to the panang curry, though the spices tasted slightly different and it had different vegetables: Cucumbers, peppers, bamboo shoots and broccoli. We asked the server the difference between the panang and gang-dang curries, and he said it’s just different spices in the curry paste. The gang-dang curry packed a lot more heat, and was much too spicy for my friend, who prefers mild food.
The last entree we tried was the pad thai ($12.95) off the dinner menu. It’s rice noodles tossed with generous amounts of shrimp and chicken, crushed peanuts, green onions, bean sprouts and egg. My only complaint was that it didn’t have any heat, but my friend, who had visited the restaurant before, knew we could ask for sauces to make it spicy.
They had the traditional, red sriracha sauce, but my favorite was a sauce made of chopped chiles of all different colors.
The server was very helpful when we had a lot of questions about the food. On our first trip, the server filled our drinks multiple times without asking, but the second time a different server forget about us for awhile.
All in all, Em-On’s is a great casual restaurant where you’ll get a generous helping of tasty Thai food for lunch or dinner for a reasonable price.