The Newport Highway traffic roars by outside, but inside there's a subtle buzz of the afternoon crowd talking over their plates of pad Thai and curries.
The little red building in north Mead has housed a few different food places: an Italian restaurant, a donut shop and more recently the Mercury Grill. But for about a year, Maw Phin has been at that location serving up Thai food.
Diners are greeted with a plate of crab rangoon — dumplings that are externally crispy and internally juicy — when they sit down. The menu is chock-full of traditional Thai dishes, such as stir-fries, noodles and rice, curries and the ever-popular pad Thai.
They also serve house specialties like pad woon sen ($11.95), which features stir-fried bean thread noodles, shrimp, carrots, eggs, celery, onions, broccoli and bean sprouts, as well as pineapple curry ($9.95) made with coconut milk, carrots and jasmine rice.
We tried the drunken noodles ($10.95), which came out as a steaming hot heap of stir-fried flat, wide rice noodles mixed with pork (you can also choose chicken, beef, shrimp or tofu), bamboo shoots, broccoli, red and green bell peppers, mushrooms and onions, topped with Thai basil leaves. Suggestion: Pair it with a glass of their sweet-but-not-too-sweet Thai iced tea ($2.50).
Owner Robert Zornes previously worked in construction, but switched to the restaurant business, using what he learned from his family, who had been in the business. "When I was young I was always around it," he says.
Zornes opened Maw Phin for his wife, who is Thai, and brought in chef Nicky Fair to run the kitchen. Fair has cooked at other area restaurants, including Grandma Jai's Excellent Thai in Airway Heights and Linnie's Thai Cuisine in downtown Spokane, and his sister owns A Taste of Thai on Hastings Road.
"People come from Airway Heights, the Valley and Newport once they find out he's cooking," Zornes says.
Fair says he's been cooking all of his life and considers making food for people a source of happiness.
"I say to myself, 'Always cook from the heart, always,'" Fair says. "People like that.
It tastes better from the heart." ♦
Maw Phin • 14819 N. Newport Hwy., Mead • Open Tue-Sun, 11 am-8 pm • 466-8424