The Skokie Fashion Square Mall isn’t exactly a hub of commercial activity around dinnertime, but its location across the street from the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts makes it a good bet for pre- or post-theater dining. At Ruby, soft music plays overhead, colorful Thai artwork graces the walls and servers are traditionally dressed, all encouraging signs, fortified by seeing a few Thais heartily enjoying their meals.
On the plate
Traditional, labor-intensive Thai fare at reasonable prices; of the 120 or so dishes on the menu, only six exceed the Cheap Eats guidelines by $3. Usual suspects like pad Thai and satay are executed flawlessly, but the real attraction here is the range of authentic, regional Thai dishes.
At your service
Servers are fluent in English, a big plus when you have to navigate a dozen salads and just as many curries. Substitutions are made seamlessly, and diners are asked to confirm their spice tolerance.
Fish cakes, tod mun, are hand-formed, quarter-sized nuggets of soft, steamed fish, flecked with aromatic lime leaves. “One-bite noodles” offer do-it-yourself snacking: You place minced curry chicken in a square, homemade rice flour noodle set on a lettuce leaf; drizzle it with a sweet-hot sauce before popping into your mouth. Som tom–papaya salad–contains crisp green papaya, crunchy peanut, green beans and wedges of tomato for a perfect balance of sweet, sour, salt and spice. Khao soy, a northern Thai soup (listed under noodle dishes) combines chicken coconut curry soup with boiled and fried egg noodles, topped with raw slivers of red onion and bits of green onion. A roasted duck curry combines tender strips of skin- on duck with sweet pineapple in an addictive red curry, though we were disappointed by finding broccoli rather than Thai eggplants or sweet basil.
Take a pass The three giant chive dumplings come in a too-thick rice-flour package. Sauteed catfish spent too much time in the fryer, and the accompanying red curry was thin and weak.
It’s strictly BYOB at the Skokie location. There are soft drinks, iced tea or Thai iced coffee or tea.
Desserts are limited to Thai custard and ice cream, but the owners say they’ll make traditional sweet sticky rice with fresh mango or pumpkin custard in season.
Appetizers, $2.95-$7.95; soups and salads, $3.25-$11.95; noodle and rice dishes, $6.95-$10.95; lunch buffet, $7.75-$8.95; entrees and curries, $7.95-$15.95.
9420 Skokie Blvd.
Skokie Fashion Square Mall, Skokie
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Thurs.; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.; noon- 11 p.m. Sat.; noon-10 p.m. Sun.
Credit Cards: A, M, D, DC, V
Noise factor: Conversation friendly