Sophia's Thai Kitchen

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sophias_courtyard.jpgSophia's courtyard area. sophias.jpgStreet view of the bar.

Location
129 E Street
Restaurant Hours
Lunch: Mon-Sat 11:30am-2pm, Sun noon-2:30pm
Dinner: Sun-Thurs 5pm-9pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-10pm
Bar Hours
Monday-Friday: 4pm-Last Call
Saturday & Sunday: 5pm-Last Call
Happy Hour: Mon-Fri 4pm-6pm
Phone
(530) 758-4333
Email
<mail AT sophiasthaikitchen DOT com>
Website
[WWW]sophiasthaikitchen.com
[WWW]Menu
[WWW]Music Listings
[WWW]Music Calendar
Facebook
[WWW]http://www.facebook.com/sophiasthaikitchen
Twitter
[WWW]http://www.twitter.com/sophiasthai
Owner
Kevin Wan

Sophia's Thai Kitchen was the first Thai restaurant in Davis and many consider it to be the best food stop in the entire town. At the same time, some consider their food to be the most mediocre of the city's seven Thai restaurants. While these polarizing opinions exist and are hotly debated, there can be no argument to the popularity of the establishment, where wait times on any given night can stretch to 45 minutes or more. There isn't a waiting area, per se, but patrons either spill out into the adjacent courtyard or venture up to the bar next door. To marshal the wait, hosts hand out candybar-sized beepers that buzz/flash when your table is ready. The wait-list is on a first come, first served basis, they will not take your name over the phone, and they do not accept reservations, all "due to limited seating."

The restaurant has a laid back atmosphere with both indoor and outdoor seating. The inside decor is warm and romantic, particularly the "Thai Room", where patrons slip off their shoes and sit eating on cushions on the floor. When it is not tented during the cold months, the outdoor courtyard is the ideal seating option during a warm evening, where the tables reside under the canopy of a giant walnut tree. The food is reasonably priced and conservatively spiced relative to its competition. Most dishes include a choice between chicken, beef, pork, or tofu, and they offer shrimp and duck for an additional charge. As noted on the Vegetarian Options page, you should request all curries without fish sauce if you are vegetarian. It should be noted that unlike the other Thai restaurants in town, which charge for rice, most of Sophia's menu selections include rice with the dish. Also, most famously, Sophia's gives refills on the cuisine's staple beverage: the Thai Iced Tea.

Sophia's namesake founder, Sophia Patterson, got her start in Davis in 1993 operating the kitchen at the now defunct Paragon, bringing Thai cuisine to Davis' then nascent casual dining scene. With the help of her husband [wikipedia]Guido, she eventually struck out on her own in 1995, taking over a failing Moroccan restaurant in Orange Court called Marrakesh. In 2005, she sold her remaining interest in the restaurant to its current owners and moved to Paradise, CA, where she now owns and operates [chico]two restaurants in Chico and Paradise. Much of her legacy still remains in the Davis kitchen, however, such as her commitment to fresh produce delivered daily and the use of fresh meats (e.g. not frozen/bulk) in her cooking. Until 2010, the restaurant did not offer pork as an protein option, as Sophia was Muslim, but due to increased competition and repeated customer requests, the decision was made to finally add it to the menu.

thaiiceatea.jpgSophia's gives free refills on Thai Iced Tea. The originator of this photo needs to get out more often...

Dimly lit, cozy, and complete with tropical fish tank, the adjacent bar is also extremely popular. During dinner, they offer appetizers and drinks while you wait for a table. If you're lucky enough to catch a seat at the bar itself and want to skip the wait, they offer the full restaurant menu from which you can order. The drink menu, while a bit pricey, is extensive and exotic, and they offer a wide array of Belgian beers, small-batch Bourbons, and fine single-malt Scotches, many of which you won't find anywhere else in town. Their frozen drinks are as good as ever, but the bar is really known for its Mojitos, their signature drink, and the one which they introduced to the Davis drinking scene when they first opened in 2001.

mojito.jpgThe Mojito. They usually come full, and with an unsqueezed lime.

If you want to run into a TA on a Friday night, this probably a good place to look. The crowd is usually comprised of a mix of grad students, undergrads looking to escape the usual bar crowds, international students, and young professionals. The Law and Business schools usually dominate on Thursday nights. In the past, Wednesday night's used to have an entirely different feel because of the infamous $1 drink night, drawing out lots of bros in search of T&A (which they'd usually find here), but Sophia's has since discontinued the event.

Want to avoid trouble while eating and/or drinking here? Check out the Bar Taboos page before entering.

From April to October, the bar hosts its acclaimed live music season at night on the deck. Their [WWW]calendar is very eclectic, ranging from bluegrass to folk to indie rock/pop, so the programming promises something for everybody. The concert series has garnered Sophia's numerous accolades and the place is generally regarded as one of the top indie music venues in the region. There's a good chance that a few of the bands during the season will catch some mainstream success, so the venue is a great place to catch an act in a smaller setting before they grow to larger level. There is typically a nominal cover charge (averaging around $5), the majority of which goes to the artists, which results in a much lower ticket price than would normally be charged at a larger venue in a major market. Past performers include Jackie Greene, Brett Dennen, Blind Pilot, The Dodos, The Morning Benders, Dawes, Fruit Bats, Horse Feathers, Telekinesis, Grand Archives, Mirah, and The Head & The Heart.

Tuesday nights feature Sophia's very popular Trivia Night, where teams convene, put their heads together, and answer 40 questions ranging from geography to 80's music to The Big Lebowski. While trivia nights are nothing new, no bar had hosted one in Davis until Sophia's began their quiz in 2005, surprising given the number of students and Geeks in this college town. Prizes are given out in the form of gift certificates ($60 for 1st place) or free rounds of drinks. Also, every week the team with the best team name gets a round of free shots. Occasionally the Quizmaster (usually the owner, KevinWan) will arbitrarily dole out bonus prizes for random things like "most incorrect answer", "last place" or an extra $10 if you can beat Canadian Softwood. There is no cover charge, but there is a one drink minimum. There are also rules to the game.

Sophia's happy hour is Monday through Friday from 4pm to 6pm. All draft beers and well drinks are $3 and specialty drinks off their menu are $5 (this includes Mojitos). At the bar on Mondays after 9pm is Service Industry Night, where anybody who works at a restaurant/bar/hotel/cafe gets a deep discount. Beers and well drinks are $2, call brands are $3, and wine by the glass is $3. Employment is verified by a recent paystub which the bouncers check at the door.

Photos

dollardrinks.jpg$1 Drink Night on Wednesdays

sophias_inside.jpgInside bar area. sophias_couch.jpgThe makeout corner. sophias_liquor.jpgSophia's Wall Of Liquor.

Media



Reviews and comments

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2011-09-06 11:58:00   Worst service I've ever received. Jerky bartenders, power-hungry bouncer, and terrifically inflated prices. Trivia night was entirely too loud, filled with undergraduates looking up answers on iPhones. I'll be in Davis for quite some time now, and I hope I don't ever come back here again. —CockTracy


2010-03-23 18:10:40   Sophia's has a great night atmosphere and I enjoy hanging out at the bar, but for food I'd prefer almost any other Thai restaurant in town. The last few times I've ordered food, the food has been beyond bland. The rice/noodle dishes that should have prominent basil flavor will not have a bit of basil flavoring unless I actually chew the leaves. I went to lunch recently and ordered the 'Thai fried rice'— 20 minutes later, I get a dish that wasn't properly stir-fried that still had clumps of white rice w/o seasoning on it. I might as well have ordered white rice and asked for sweet/sour and sriracha sauce on the side. Another time, I shared a 9-piece appetizer platter with 3 people. We were expecting large sample portions for a $15 "platter", but each of us got 1 tiny spring roll, 1 chicken skewer and 1 shrimp tempura each. It was a rip-off. Again, the atmosphere is nice but the food is not up to par. —halona


2010-04-15 12:16:17   I love eating at Sophia's. I've been coming here for years, and I'm going to keep coming back. I've never had a problem with the service, and the refills on the thai iced tea are awesome. —septemberain


2010-05-17 12:33:48   love love love their food. always consistent and good portions. One of my favorite Thai places in Davis, and I know there are A LOT. —sophiaxtai


2010-06-11 18:02:33   For what it's worth, I have enjoyed the food every time I've gone, but can't make any specific comments about it (I'm not a connoisseur and most definitely not when it comes to Thai food, which is not my preferred cuisine).

That said: if sitting outside won't be too wet, cold, or hot, sit outside. The inside of the restaurant is cramped and dark, but worst of all, the acoustics are terrible. The room suffers from a snowball effect where one person talks a bit louder than the rest, causing a dull, but apparent resonance that prompts the rest of the guests to speak with even greater volume. When prime time rolls around, you can basically rule out any possibility of having a meaningful or private conversation. —AbbYu


2010-07-16 17:37:45   The food here, in my experience, is watered down and dry. —JasperD


2010-07-17 08:43:30   This is, without a doubt, one of the top three restaurants in Davis. The food is consistently delicious, the drinks are consistently creative, the beer selection is consistently hoppy, and the service is consistently attentive. Whenever we have guests from out of town visiting, this is where we take them since we know they'll enjoy themselves. —BrianPakpour


2010-07-24 09:16:49   I miss my bar! I shall return. And soon!


2010-11-02 17:04:42   The tables and patio in the courtyard had nice ambience for a luncheon. The food however, was mediocre at best. Too bad. —LWolk


2011-03-07 12:35:25   The food and ambiance is great! —marinamccarron


2011-03-29 12:12:28   Sophia's is okay. Service in the restaurant is friendly enough and good when they are not crowded. Bar service is cold at best. The food comes fast all the time and hot about 70% of the time. They lose about 50% of my business because you can no longer split checks. Apparently the 10 secs of time and 10 cents of credit card fees became too much a burden to continue offering what I view as an acceptable level of service. The draw back to college town restaurants that they do classless things like popping corks and pouring bottle beers at the bar instead of the table. It'd be fine if in addition pinch every penny by charging cake fees, corkage fees as though they are some sort of fancy restaurant. This once cool small local restaurant has turned into just another cookie cutter mediocre thai restaurant. Good for profits; bad for people that remember the local gem it once was. —WillODonnell


2011-04-29 09:26:28   I noticed that The Paragon is apparently where Sophia, of Sophia's fame, got her start. Does anyone have info about Sophia they could add here? Is she the chef? —TomGarberson


2011-05-05 21:48:29   The drinks and ambiance here are great. The food is terrible except for a few items, like the calamari or the shrimp with lettuce appetizers. —bobobb


2011-06-10 23:10:26   My wife and I first ate at Sophia's when it was in the paragon about 15 years ago. We were unimpressed with the watery curry sauces then and didnt return until today. Well, first the positive. The rice was good, the cashier was nice. The food was uniformly lousy. The curries were mushy and tasteless. The food was warm, not hot. The vegetables, though at one time fresh were cooked to a point where that was no longer relevant, though the potatoes were crispy ironically. The dishes were colorful but lacked taste and depth. Thai food is known for its savory blend of flavors, garlics, basils, kafir leaves and curries. Sadly, I cook better Thai food than this, and Im not a gifted cook. Save your money, buy fresh ingredients, a thai cookbook and go to town. What a disappointment. Do yourselves a favor Davisites, cook your own Thai or go to one of the other Thai restaurants —Gourmand


2011-06-23 11:11:06   WORST LUNCH SERVICE EVER!!!

I went out to Sophia's with my roommate to celebrate her birthday. We arrived some ten minutes before they ended their lunch hour. We thought about going somewhere else but the waitress told us we could still pick a table and order lunch. That was great.

However, the customer service that was provided in the next thirty minutes was horrific. A couple of waiters kept walking back and forth, trying to clear out our table whenever any of us just finished our drinks. For instant, my roommate just finished her lemonade, put the glass down and two seconds later, a waiter already picked it up, saying that he'd take the empty glass for her. No refill was offered. When we finished our food, a waitress arrived with our check. I asked to split the check. The waitress did not look happy at my request. She agreed and then turned away abruptly, rushing to the next table to give them their check. My guess is that they were also the last customers, besides us.

My experience at Sophia's was rushed and not very enjoyable. Our table was constantly being cleared out as if they couldn't wait for us to leave. We were treated so poorly that if someone convinced me their horrible manner was because I forgot to pay for my food, I would almost believe him. It's a pity that the food is so good. But even with the food temptation in mind, I am very reluctant to come back to Sophia's. —maytpham


2011-06-23 22:36:01   We've only gotten out to Sophia's twice but loved each visit. We sat once inside on the floor and once outside in the screened porch. Tonight we couldn't get a baby sitter until late and ended up being seated about 5 minutes prior to the kitchen closing. Our waiter was very knowledgeable, helpful, prompt and pleasant. Unfortunately I cannot remember his name. We've had soups, stir fries, & noodle dishes all of which have been wonderful and super filling. We forgot that the first time we ate here we decided to share one appetizer and one entree. Went home with one whole plate of leftovers between the two of us (to give you an idea of how this is possible- I ate less than half of my plate and my husband ate 3/4 of his)
I love the thai iced tea and their ginger beer. So refreshing. —EmC


2011-08-07 12:52:35   Why are the curries so watery? And their Thai iced tea has some kind of aftertaste. And the pad Thai was the worst I've had. I asked for extra sauce and it was very tomato-y and not very "Thai." this is my least fave Thai place in town. We are eating curry there right now cuz we had a groupon and the flavor is ok but it's as thin as water. :( —StephHolm


2011-08-08 16:47:14   Sophia's Thai Kitchen seems to be pretty overrated. My boyfriend and I went there for a Valentine's Day dinner, partially because of reviews praising the atmosphere, and the free thai ice tea refills (which we loved). We had the calamari as an appetizer, and calamari is something we order a lot since we both love it, but this calamari was strangely prepared. It wasn't little circular bits of fried squid, but it was in "chunks", which made it hard to eat, it was tough, and breading was so sparse. My boyfriend had pad thai (he orders this at every thai place we go to), but it was extremely underwhelming. It wasn't in the slightest bit browned, like all pad thai dishes should be, it didn't even have the traditional pad thai peanuts on top. It looked like a plate of bland, white noodles, and thai food should never, ever taste bland. I don't even remember what I had it was so unimpressive, but I'm pretty sure it was an average order of curry.

I suppose it was good to try at least once, but I probably won't be going back there again. The prices were also a bit steep, compared to the other tastier thai places like Thai Nakron. Service there was also a bit disappointing. —susiebear


2011-09-19 02:32:15   I enjoy their calamari salad with the chili dressing... I also enjoy the curries. They aren't spectacular, but they seem pretty consistent. It's a little on the pricey side but I do make an effort to go on a semi-regular basis. —KurtSassenrath


2011-10-10 20:00:02   The first time my husband and I ever went to Sophia's it had just opened. The owner came to our table and told us the history of why he and his wife opened the restaurant and he took us back into the kitchen and showed us around. The restaurant has long since expanded and changed from that time, but I am happy that the service and the food at Sophia's has not declined. Each time I have gone there, the service was friendly and prompt, and regardless of what I have ordered, the food is excellent each time. The portions are plentiful and the prices are reasonable. Since that first time we dined at Sophia's many other Thai restaurants have opened in David. Sophia's continues to be our favorite! —johkir


2011-10-13 03:00:51   Still love my bar. Love, love, love Sophie's! Yes, I used to come here so often that it was often referred to as "Sophie's." That's how close we were . . .And are.


2012-01-13 15:58:15   Sophia's doesn't serve the best Thai food in Davis, but it is a very nice place to go and have a drink and couple of appetizers. —DrS


2012-02-12 23:59:54   My friends and I have been playing trivia here on Tuesdays on and off for the past two years, and I have to say it is awesome. Crowd can vary, but Kevin does a great job with the questions and the bartenders and bouncers are friendly once they see you around a few times. I don't eat at the restaurant much, but a few weeks ago my boyfriend and I ate in the "Thai Room" (no shoes, cushions on floor). We practically had the place to ourselves, it was great. —bethjoyce


2012-07-01 20:35:33   My partner and I went to Sophia's for the first time on Friday night. We were told it would be a 25 minute wait, but less than 5 minutes passed before we were escorted into the Thai Room. It was a cool atmosphere, the service was phenomenal, and the drinks were awesome. The food came quickly, but it was not good. I would definitely come in again for drinks, maybe dessert, but I will continue my search for Thai food in Davis. —rhamm


2012-08-05 07:35:24   This restaurant has extremely few vegetarian options. We've been told by the staff that the deep fried food (tofu) is cooked with meat, so that's gross and that >>no curries can be made vegetarian<< Even though I like the flavor, Ket Mo Ree has a ton more vegetarian options. —JaneBF


2013-01-13 00:21:31   Never received worse customer service. As a customer, I pay top dollar and well above market value for a product, if I get respectful and welcoming customer service.

Unfortunately, Wayne (a bartender with black hair and a black heard) and the Sophia's staff did not feel customer service was a priority. I ordered 3 drinks on a relatively slow Saturday night, and Wayne served me 2 incorrect drinks. As an understanding consumer, I simply assumed he was having an off night, and to save them money and hassle, accepted the incorrect drinks. Finally, my third drink was correct and handed to me. I paid for all three drinks, and went about my evening. The bartender, Wayne, decided it was necessary to berate my girlfriend about the drink she ordered, claiming she "fucking stole" it from another customer, despite it being placed directly into her hand.

I have never experienced such blatant, unprofessional service from an establishment. To make matters worse, I covered the bill for "Wayne's" mistake/poor customer service by paying for an extra drink. Apparently, me paying for his mistake from my own pocket was not enough. He felt it was necessary to rerun several times in the next 15 minutes to berate and falsely accuse my party of stealing a drink.

It was enough to make me vow to never contribute one more dollar to this horribly run and unprofessional establishment. —Amart79


2013-06-16 23:29:48   There are few good bars in town for non-students and this one fits the bill. They book great live music, something that's surprisingly rare around here. I do have to agree with Amart79 - the doorman/bartender Wayne is among the worst "servers" I've ever encountered in my life. Overall he's an incredibly rude, egomaniacal ass, and I've seen him treat customers like dirt over the years. How he keeps his job is beyond me, he gives an otherwise good business a terrible name. —TucoChavis

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