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Rai Lay

Rai Lay. In Thailand, people know it as a beach located on the west coast of Southern Thailand in the Andaman Sea- a place with beautiful clear waters and high cliffs which attract cliff divers from all over the world. Closer to home, however, local foodies know it as the name of Jai Budsri’s second restaurant in Charlotte. After the success of her debut in Eastover/Myers Park called Deejai, Budsri and her husband decided to try a second restaurant. Recently, we learned from our Thai friend, Padej, that Deejai means “good heart.”

Deejai offers a fairly traditional menu of Thai dishes much like other Thai mainstays in Charlotte such as Thai Taste, Thai Orchid, and others. But Rai Lay, focuses on Thai street food along with a small selection of traditional Thai dishes. Our friend Padej says that he loves eating street food when he goes back to visit his family in Thailand. He says that it’s a great way to sample local cuisine when visiting Thailand.

We recently tried the restaurant for the first time in late February with our friends, Kelsey & Nic Brinson, who have been on other dining adventures with us. From reading about the restaurant, we knew it to be small. So, we decided to go a few minutes before 7:00 - generally when Charlotte restaurants start to get really busy. As we approached the building, we could smell the amazing aroma of their flavorful cooking. We couldn’t wait to order. Rai Lay has street food dishes such as Basil Chicken, Thai Fried Rice (way better than what you may have had at a Chinese restaurant), Drunken Noodles, Moo Ping, Thai Fried Beef Jerky, & Gyoza. We would try to explain the dishes, but our descriptions would not do them justice.

We had a great server whose American name is Dixie. She was prompt, attentive, and was not shy about recommending authentic street food dishes, since we told her that’s what we wanted. We started off with two appetizers that Dixie recommended: the Moo Ping and Thai Papaya Salad. The Moo Ping was REALLY good. We thought it was better without the accompanying dipping sauce, since the pork was marinated and really flavorful. It was a good appetizer to share with 2-4 people. The Thai Papaya Salad was ok but nothing to write home about.

Both couples got the same main dishes to share: Nic & Beth each ordered the Spicy Basil while Kelsey & Jim ordered the Kao Soy. The Spicy Basil is Thailand's most popular street dish; stir-fried ground chicken, onion, fresh chili, garlic, & basil served with steamed rice. You can order it with chicken, tofu, shrimp, or vegetables. The Kao Soy is a Northern Thailand favorite according to Dixie. It contains curry noodles, topped with crispy noodles, sliced fresh red onion, pickle green mustard, fried shallots, cilantro and lime wedge served with chili oil on the side. That description truly does not do that dish justice. But I (Jim) guarantee that I will be ordering the Kao Soy again when we return! While each person ate some of both dishes, Kelsey & I liked the Kao Soy best while Beth & Nick the Spicy Basil. They gave us huge portions so each couple had leftovers to take home. You could probably share 1 dish with 2 people, but it was fun to get 2 and share.

Rai Lay is located on 1520 South Blvd not far from Uptown in the 1520 Building - at the corner of E. Park Ave and South Blvd. There is a free parking deck in the back or you can Uber or take the light rail. The light rail’s Bland St station is a short walk away.

Would we go again? Absolutely. We cannot wait. And we hope that you will let us know if you do as well!

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