Restaurant news: A tale of two very different Edmonds restaurant experiences

Exterior of Thai Wisdom Bistro.
Thai Wisdom Bistro interior.

I love that everyone has a favorite restaurant in town to eat — whether you are going out for a special occasion, a weeknight dinner, a date night or just for an evening when you don’t feel like cooking at home.  I visited a new Thai spot in the Westgate neighborhood and a Mexican place that has been around for almost three years. It was my first time visiting both restaurants, and I made a point of visiting during the week rather than on the weekend. You may be surprised about which one I preferred. I ordered two drinks, an appetizer, and two entrees at each restaurant. One dinner cost me $83.96 with tip and the other cost me $64.56. The food and service was stellar at one and the other left us scratching our heads as it was so disappointing. I reached out to the CEO/general manager of one of the restaurants for a comment about my experience but I never heard back from her.

Thai Style Basil Chicken.

So let’s get to the details. Thai Wisdom Bistro has been open for three months and is located in the Edmonds Westgate QFC strip mall where two other Thai restaurants preceded it. We were greeted warmly by two servers. The place was empty, but they were doing a very brisk take-out business. We had our pick of a table in a dining room that is almost unchanged from the previous eateries. The menu is very comprehensive and almost overwhelming. After some thought, we ordered two Thai beers ($4 each), one order of Prawn Fresh Rolls ($11), Mama Noodle with shrimp ($17) and Thai Style Basil Chicken ($18.50). The food came quickly, was abundant (we had plenty of leftovers for another meal at home) and well prepared. The Thai flavors were front and center, and both dishes had generous portions of protein and vegetables.

Prawn Fresh Summer Roll.
Mama Noodle with Shrimp

Obviously you can order online but I would encourage you to enjoy the dishes hot off the stove in person. The service was attentive and it’s rare to find beer for $4 at a sit-down restaurant these days. The extensive menu offers soups, salads, noodles, entrees, curries, fried rice, house specials and many more options.  The lunch specials are reasonably prices and include an entrée with choice of protein, noodle and rice for $15.  I’ll be going back to try out more dishes. In fact it was so delicious that I can’t stop thinking about it and I hid the leftovers in the refrigerator so that my husband couldn’t find them. I hope that three times is the charm and that Thai Wisdom Bistro (with other locations in Kirkland and Capitol Hill) is here to stay.

Thai Wisdom Bistro

22814 100th Ave. W., Edmonds

Hours:  Lunch Monday-Sunday (11 a.m.-3 p.m.) Dinner Monday-Sunday (4 p.m.-close. Call to make sure they are open as the closing hour varies until they establish a solid Edmonds clientele.)

Exterior of Kahlo’s Cantina.
Kahlo’s Cantina interior.

The Mexican restaurant that I visited was Kahlo’s Cantina. It has been in the old Skipper’s building across from the Edmonds ferry terminal since 2021. I chose to eat outside on the patio facing the ferry because it was a beautiful evening and we wanted to watch the sunset. We ordered two versions of their margaritas — the Scratch Rita and the Kahlo’s Rita at $14 per drink. They were not overly sweet but it was obvious that they skimped on the tequila. The highlight of the meal was the hot appetizer called Camarones al Mojo ($18.99): Sautéed prawns and mushrooms arrived in a skillet with guajillo butter and tequila sauce. They were beautifully cooked and my only disappointment is that they only brought four small slices of bread, which was not enough for two of us because the sauce was so delicious!

Skillet Shrimp Appetizer.
Mango Salmon.
Fish Tacos.

We split the Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos ($18.99) and the Mango Salmon ($32.99). We had to wait to eat because we did not have forks for our entrees. We waited and waited for them to come and finally I got up from the table and found another server to bring us forks. The tacos came with a fresh coleslaw and pico de gallo. The salmon was accompanied by a mango salsa, asparagus, roasted lemons and rice. The plate looked beautiful but I had to send it back. The asparagus hiding under the fish was mushy (as in the vegetable was actually past its expiration date), the rice was undercooked and the fish was hard as a rock.  In fact, the salmon was so overcooked that I thought it had been hot smoked. I actually sent it back because the dish was not edible nor palatable and at $32.99 the chef should not have let it leave the kitchen. It left me stunned. Thankfully, the fish tacos were enough for two of us along with the appetizer. They did not charge us for the salmon dish. I reached out to the General Manager Claudia Arechiga but I did not get a response.

Kahlo’s Cantina is highlighted in the recent My Edmonds News Best of Edmonds — based on reader voting — in many categories. I won’t be returning because the value, the service and the quality of food did not warrant the price of dinner. But as my father would say…”that’s what makes horse races.” Everyone’s palates are different, and maybe I caught them on a bad night. But in the end — like pizza joints — we have many choices for Mexican food all over Edmonds and readers can decide for themselves who they want to patronize.

Kahlo’s Cantina

102 Main St., Edmonds

Hours: Monday-Thursday (11 a.m.-9 p.m.) Friday (11 a.m.-11 p.m.) Saturday and Sunday (10 a.m.-9 p.m.)

— By Deborah Binder

Deborah Binder lives in Edmonds with her family. She loves to cook from scratch using produce from the gardens she created and maintains with her husband. She attended culinary school on the East Coast and focused on desserts, pastries and bread. She’s worked for restaurants and caterers in the front and back of the house (kitchen) on both coasts. Her current interest in food is learning to eat for health and wellness, while at the same time enjoying the pleasures of the table. Deborah loves experimenting and developing new recipes. As Julia Child once said, “Everything in moderation including butter.” Deborah can be contacted at jaideborah@yahoo.com.

 

  1. I agree with you about Kahlo’s and was definitely surprised about their ranking in the Best of Edmonds. When they first opened it was my go-to place but after the pandemic I had 2 bad food, drink, and service experiences and have not returned. Looking forward to trying Thai Wisdom though.

  2. Also not a fan of Khalos. Went there once. Last winter. Bad food, weird decor/vibe and overpriced for bad food.

  3. We *tried* to go to Kahlo’s once. It was a beautiful afternoon, and the restaurant was nearly empty. After standing by the host station for nearly 15 minutes, watching server after server pass us by without saying a word, we decided that we would go someplace that wanted to take our money.

  4. Equally befuddled by Kahlo’s sweep of best of Edmonds awards… I suspect a get out the vote campaign amongst employees/ family/ regulars? I wanted to love it, since they have made the effort to offer some healthier choices with more vegetables than other Mexican restaurants around town. Unfortunately, everything arrived under seasoned, healthy shouldn’t be tasteless. Also, the one fish dish we ordered was clearly not fresh and after all of tasted and agreed, we sent it back. Word came from the kitchen that it was intentionally marinated longer for more flavor… uh, no. Won’t be back.

  5. Totally agree about Kahlo’s. An amazing patio and location but I’m not sure if it really warns the price tag because I’ve had inconsistent results with their food. Quality and flavor issues. I did like the Parradillada Mixta (mixed grilled mega feast), it’s steep at $85.99 unless you have a large party.

  6. Dag nabbit. I was hoping to keep the Thai Wisdom a secret, it’s so good I don’t want to fight the crowds to get in. But, oh well, I guess they need a booming business to stay solvent. Their food is far-and-away the best Thai around town, and that includes about a dozen other Thai restaurants. It’s jaw-droppingly good.

    1. I absolutely get this want-them-to-succeed, yet want-to-always-get-in tug of war feeling with a great restaurant! Glad to know about them now!

  7. Agree with other reviewers of Kahlo’s. Food is overpriced and bland. Drinks very weak. Our service was fine, but not exceptional. Great location, but not worth returning.

  8. Love your reviews and we are so excited to try the new Thai place. We keep wanting to like Kahlo’s and continue to go back hoping they’ll hook us! We’ve dined for lunch and dinner about 7+times. We absolutely love their patio. The views, the sunshine, (when it’s out!) and we can bring our pups. Sadly, the service and food just isn’t consistently good. Especially for the price! We’ve learned to only dine when we’re not on a timeline and we’ve stopped ordering their entrees when we visit. Nothing horrible but very “meh” for the price. We know we love their camarones al mojo that was mentioned in the article. We too would love more bread to soak up that delicious garlic butter! A must try if you visit. We also really like the grilled jalapeños. Other items we order are the quesadilla and ceviche. Like I said, we continue to go back. Some visits the service is good but I would say more often than not, it’s slow. This has been the case no matter how busy the place is. I hope they can take the review seriously and make a couple changes. We really want to love it!

    1. Let’s see, so far they aren’t very good on most dishes, their prices are high for everything, the service is not very good most or much of the time but you have gone back over seven times. And they just won Best of Edmond’s for Mexican. One question; knowing all that exactly why would the ownership have any incentive to get better or change anything? I think I would have said, “no more,” after the third visit . . . . . Three Strikes and . . . .

      1. The best Mexican food in Edmonds is at 5 corners, Casa Oaxaca. This family owned restaurant has excellent service, food, and custom made margaritas. Go there, you won’t be disappointed. It’s not fancy, but it delivers.

  9. I’ve not been to Kahlo’s but I hope they take this review as a positive and up their game. Two things the reviewer said seemed to divert into assumption stated as facts. First the margaritas had been made “obviously skimping” on the tequila. What was obvious? Did you watch the bartender or are you going by the taste of the tequila? There are a proliferation of very mild tasting tequilas which are lost in margarita mix. Next was “the asparagus was mushy” as in “past its expiration date” That’s the authors assumption and a stretch in my opinion. Mushy asparagus is probably simply over cooking. I appreciate both of the reviews but I think the author needs be clear on what statements are her assumptions.

    1. I will also agree that the margaritas can be a little skimpy…we’ve sat at the bar and watched ours and others drinks being made. The ratio can be very heavy on the mix. I will say however, we’ve had a couple visits with different bartenders that made them better. Secondly, the author isn’t just a writer. Take a peek at the bottom of the article stating her brief bio. I trust her opinion on asparagus being overcooked vs. past its prime. I’m not even a chef and could immediately tell the time I was served bad mushrooms. (This was not at Kahlos)

  10. I agree with your sentiments about Kahlos. Beautiful location but terrible with everything else. Maybe it’s time for Kahlos to give that space to a place that will provide better food, service and overall experience. We went there once and will never go back.

  11. Went to Kahlo’s after it first opened and had a very good taco salad. Went back with some friends from out of town and had a terrible experience. They were out of basic stuff including a salad dressing, Diet Coke and even salsa – salsa!!! Was hoping it was all due to working out the kinks, but sounds like not much improvement since then, sadly.

  12. I love good Thai food so I tried this new restaurant less than a week ago based on a friends recommendation of her delicious pad Thai With a very generous topping of huge prawns. I tried they heavenly beef after finding coriander as an interesting ingredient, not usually found in Thai food. It was exceptional, and I will be back often. I too recommend eating inside rather than takeout to get the freshest lunch or dinner imaginable. Their dessert offerings also looked amazing but we have to wait for another visit.

  13. We had the Pad Thai at Thai Wisdom. It had way too much sugar in it. There is supposed to be a little sweetness in it, but it was overpowering. Thai Cottage’s Pad Thai is much better.

  14. Sadly I agree with your assessment on Kahlo’s. I had one of the worst experiences in a restaurant about a month ago there. Terrible service, tacos that took a very long time to come and were cold when served. They had obviously been sitting under the kit hen warmer for way too long. When we finally were able to track down the waitress to complain, she basically shrugged and then offered to microwave them to heat them up – we passed. I worked my way through college as a waitress, and it has to be very bad service for me not to tip, but no way was the waitress deserving of anything extra. This restaurant used to be much better. No idea what happened but I will never go back.

  15. This is interesting. I went to Kahlo’s once pre-pandemic. Notice I said “once”. Great location, nice patio & it ends there. I ordered tacos & they came without a fork or any utensil. One is supposed to grab them out of the serving thing somehow with hands only while pieces of the filling fall out and no way to spear them except with fingers. Ewww. Also, I didn’t like the wooden tray that the taco server rested on – it smelled weird & no way did I wish to set my taco down after each bite or two or eat any portion that might fall onto that tray. Apparently supposed to wrangle the taco out of the nice little taco holder & eat the whole thing without ever resting it. Food wasn’t special and that was pre-pandemic when high prices were more normal. Now with prices doubled or tripled, I probably would never go again. I guess Kahlos doesn’t care because they don’t have to. I am looking forward to trying the Thai restaurant at lunch time (a bit more budget friendly for me). Thank you!

  16. I sadly agree with all the comments regarding the quality of the food at Kahlo. My son took me there is week for a birthday lunch. I ordered the appetizer which is a Mexican style fondue.
    It was so stringy and thick that it was inedible! My son apologized for “queso-gate” as he called it!
    We won’t return.

  17. Loved Thai Wisdom for lunch and was happy with the food and the service both. The price was very reasonable. I agree with everything about Kahlo’s. As someone in the food business for many years, it was terrible. Nothing was good about our experience and will never go back! Best of? Based on what? Better than Taco Bell?

  18. We also went to Kahlo’s & had a bad experience. Service, food & wait tine were all bad. They actually announced ‘ the kitchen is closed until they can catch up’!! I’ve NEVER heard that before or since.

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