The spicy chicken sandwich at Crispy Gai in Portland. Photo by Ray Routhier

If you want to try the fried chicken nuggets at Crispy Gai, order early.

That’s the first thing I learned when trying out the Thai fried chicken takeout restaurant in Portland’s Monument Square. All the various renditions of fried chicken on the website looked good to me – buckets, sandwiches, salads – but the nuggets looked especially yummy.

The glazed nuggets ($12 for a pound) are described as crispy chicken thigh pieces tossed in sweet and sour Issan glaze and sprinkled with fried garlic. Thinking in sort of old-fashioned terms, I went online to order at 5 p.m. on a Monday. The place opens at 3 p.m., so it didn’t occur to me something could be sold out.

But with online ordering, people pre-order their nuggets early in the day and assign a pickup time for later, I was told by a very helpful staff member. I love online ordering, the ability to make your choices for dinner at 1 p.m. and then go to the place at 6 p.m. and have everything just handed to you. But it’s only something I’ve really discovered and embraced during the pandemic, so I’m still getting used to it.

The Crispy Waterfall Salad at Crispy Gai in Portland. Photo by Ray Routhier

The other reason they sold out, I’m sure, is that all of Crispy Gai’s chicken is super crispy and has a really tasty and creative mix of Thai spices. Everything my family got was great, satisfying and a lot of food for the money. We spent about $50 for four people and had enough chicken pieces left over for dinner the next night. We used our own mashed potatoes as the side dish.

Our order from Crispy Gai included an eight-piece bucket ($22) of thighs and drumsticks. The chicken was Thai pepper-brined and seasoned with the restaurant’s hat yai spice blend. It’s not a hot spice blend, it just tasted like really good, tender, crispy fried chicken to me. It was so crispy we broke off pieces of coating and ate them like potato chips. It came with a choice of dipping sauces, and we got sweet-and-sour chili.

My wife tried (and shared) the spicy chicken sandwich ($10) which was probably the favorite among the dishes my family tasted. It featured a large, extra-crispy thigh on a fluffy sesame seed potato bun, topped with karaage mayo and turmeric pickles. It was spicy, but not crazy spicy. All the flavors melded really well.

My daughter Sophie got (and shared) a crispy waterfall salad ($15) which had shallot, lemongrass, mint, cilantro, toasted rice powder and crispy fried pieces of chicken. It came with nam jim jaew (dipping sauce) and big ball of sticky rice. My daughter Dinah and I used the rice as a side dish for our chicken from the bucket.

The eight-piece bucket of chicken at Crispy Gai in Portland is a lot of food. Photo by Ray Routhier

Other menu items included several kinds of chicken wings, including Sichuan wings described as “numbing spice Thai-Chinese hot wings” and Gaeng Pet wings with red curry and makrut lime leaf. There are also several other kinds of chicken sandwiches, including one with curry-dusted crispy chicken thigh, peanut sauce, cilantro, ajaad pickled cucumber, shallot and chilis.

Sides include a cabbage salad with fried shallot, peanut, bird eye chili, red onion, mint, cilantro and purple perilla. A side dish called som tum features green papaya, heirloom cherry tomatoes, peanuts, long beans, toasted dried shrimp and tamarind palm sugar dressing.

But look at the menu for yourself, as I’m running out of space to list all the creative ingredients in Crispy Gai’s dishes.

If you do go, make note of where the place is before heading out. I got my food from Crispy Gai in the Public Market House on Monument Square on March 22. But the owners announced in February they’d be moving the business at some point to 90 Exchange St. in Portland, not far from the present location. Crispy Gai’s Instagram page says the move is “coming soon!”

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: