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    There was a time when a good number of my lunchtime repasts were enjoyed at this very address, back when Schlotzsky’s Deli occupied the space. So as I glided across the black-and-white checkered floor (the sole vestige from those heady deli days) to my comfortable banquette, I couldn’t help reminiscing about those deeply satisfying oven-toasted sandwiches and hoping SEA Thai’s strikingly diverse menu would leave me just as satisfied.

    Thankfully, the six siblings running SEA (an acronym for “Southeast Asia,” but also an allusion to their modest seafood offerings) make customer contentment a priority. All have served as either waiters or cooks at other Siamese establishments around town, and if a culinary conundrum is encountered, parental consultation is just a phone call away.

    The scene is simple and serene with a trace of lounge cool: A colorful wall of geometry evokes Mondrian, while colorful dishes evoke Shavitranuruk, the chef responsible for melding the four “S”s of Thai cookery – sweet, sour, spicy and salty. The mound of slivered green papaya ($5.95) specked with fresh garlic and soaked in vinegar and lemon elicits a proper pucker before the piercing stab of Thai green chilies numbs the tongue. The flavors are similar to Indian kachumber but with a far greater crunch, thanks to the papaya.

    The perfumed broth of Thai lemongrass soup ($3.25) further demonstrates the kitchen’s consistency, and while the tempered use of fish sauce suggests a less-is-more approach, a cluster of baby corn, snow peas, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, scallions and cabbage refutes the notion. Even unadventurous fried spring rolls ($2.95) stuffed with glass noodles and assorted minced veggies show a fastidious commitment.

    A complex confluence of flavors comprises the more than 50 available entrees, but none more so than chili red snapper ($26.95). The enormous, impeccably crisp fish is served whole atop a slather of chili-laced hot and sour sauce jeweled with diced red and green peppers. It’s the sort of dish that gets you lost in the moment and makes raising your head a challenging endeavor.

    Lime juice and chili sauce provoke the palate in the tiger tear steak ($12.95), a marinated strip loin served sizzling on a hot plate. The hiss of the fat dripping from the meat gives the dish its weepy name, and you’ll cry for more once you’re done. Two sauces – a lip-smacking dip of garlic, rice powder and crushed chilies, and a sweet “American-style teriyaki sauce,” as my waitress put it – enhance the succulence of the beef.

    Refreshing coconut and slightly bitter mango ice cream ($4.95) set atop gelatinous sticky rice brings the meal to a tropical finish and provides some much-needed oral relief. I couldn’t get enough of buttery Thai donuts ($3.95) tinseled with a glimmering honey drizzle. If you’re like me and melt at the thought of any butter-filled confection, this is the capper for you.

    The glut of Thai restaurants in town has given rise to an ever-growing legion of devotees, many of whom have cultivated a discriminating palate for all things Siamese. SEA Thai certainly belongs in the category of restaurants worthy of a visit, its loyal following being a testament to the kitchen’s proficiency and the jolly disposition of its staff. My waitress seemed to be perpetually beaming which, as I learned when I made my way back to the car, ultimately proved infectious.

    The Smiling Bison
    On certain nights, there's live music, and nothing's better at the Bison than being adventurous and trying new beers on draft while soaking in the sounds on Jazz Tuesdays. They retained the marvelous bar many of us perched around when Redlight Redlight occupied the space, which means the Bison bar top similarly serves as communal grounds for random small talk with other barflies.

    From the specialty styles of South Carolina and Alabama to Kansas City and beyond, you can have barbecue every which way in this town. With the arrival of Smokey Bones BBQ across from Fashion Square, there's another option: Rocky Mountain-style.

    The restaurant's origins go back to the late '60s, when the founder built a smoker out of an old section of the Rocky Mountain pipeline. As legend has it, the makeshift cooker produced the best barbecue anyone had ever tasted.

    The restaurant's origins go back to the late '60s, when the founder built a smoker out of an old section of the Rocky Mountain pipeline. As legend has it, the makeshift cooker produced the best barbecue anyone had ever tasted.

    But we found that the menu is less inspired by the Rockies than is the atmosphere: Smokey's looks like a cross between a sports bar and a mountain lodge, with rugged wood furniture and stacked slate walls. Televisions are positioned around the bar, always tuned into a game. In general, the barbecue is the same as what you could find at Sonny's or Fat Boy's. But in some cases, it's better. One thing is certain, this is a great place to get a lot of food for not much money. Barbecue sandwiches start at $4.59, and that includes a mess of fries.

    But we found that the menu is less inspired by the Rockies than is the atmosphere: Smokey's looks like a cross between a sports bar and a mountain lodge, with rugged wood furniture and stacked slate walls. Televisions are positioned around the bar, always tuned into a game. In general, the barbecue is the same as what you could find at Sonny's or Fat Boy's. But in some cases, it's better. One thing is certain, this is a great place to get a lot of food for not much money. Barbecue sandwiches start at $4.59, and that includes a mess of fries.

    The trick is careful selection. Some items range from generic ("crunchy chicken fingers") to scary ("BBQ chicken pizza toast"). Our cup of beef and bean chili ($1.99) was a good choice. Loaded with tender cubes of beef, it had a rich, aromatic, spicy broth that wasn't the least bit greasy. Try spooning it over a plate full of spicy cheese fries ($2.99) that are already smothered with melted cheddar cheese dotted with pieces of jalapeño peppers.

    The trick is careful selection. Some items range from generic ("crunchy chicken fingers") to scary ("BBQ chicken pizza toast"). Our cup of beef and bean chili ($1.99) was a good choice. Loaded with tender cubes of beef, it had a rich, aromatic, spicy broth that wasn't the least bit greasy. Try spooning it over a plate full of spicy cheese fries ($2.99) that are already smothered with melted cheddar cheese dotted with pieces of jalapeño peppers.

    Even in the higher price ranges, there are good deals. The "50/50" combo ($13.99) made our mouths water: A half rack of baby back ribs were smoked until the meat could barely hang onto the bone. They were teamed up with a slab of meaty spare ribs which were delicately charred on the outside.

    Even in the higher price ranges, there are good deals. The "50/50" combo ($13.99) made our mouths water: A half rack of baby back ribs were smoked until the meat could barely hang onto the bone. They were teamed up with a slab of meaty spare ribs which were delicately charred on the outside.

    Another good choice would be the combo platter which comes with lean cuts of sliced pork and beef that are plenty tender, and a link of flavorful smoked sausage ($9.99).

    Another good choice would be the combo platter which comes with lean cuts of sliced pork and beef that are plenty tender, and a link of flavorful smoked sausage ($9.99).

    The only thing that disappointed us was the garlic toast. It was dry and withered, having spent too much time under the broiler. Everything else was up to par, including a creamy slaw and beans that were so thick we ate them with a fork.

    The only thing that disappointed us was the garlic toast. It was dry and withered, having spent too much time under the broiler. Everything else was up to par, including a creamy slaw and beans that were so thick we ate them with a fork.

    The fresh-baked apple cobbler a la mode was an impressive hunk of dessert, so hot and bubbly we had to let it sit for a few minutes. But it tasted like something reclaimed from a deep freeze ($2.79).

    The fresh-baked apple cobbler a la mode was an impressive hunk of dessert, so hot and bubbly we had to let it sit for a few minutes. But it tasted like something reclaimed from a deep freeze ($2.79).

    Smokey's appeared to be overstaffed, which was a good thing. Open for only a couple of weeks, Smokey Bones is up to a 90-minute wait for tables on Saturday nights. But with plenty of friendly, efficient staff to look after us, we were in and out in less than an hour.

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