The prices are enticingly low but the quality of homestyle cooking is fairly high at Westgate Thai. Another reason to eat there: It's a tiny and idiosyncratic place with a gotta-root-for-it backstory.
Along scenically challenged terrain only a few football fields away from the notorious Fine Line tattoo parlor (yes, that ill-advised one-time Buckeye hangout) sits Westgate Thai in building that formerly housed another unlikely business: Lindo, a (and this has to have been a first) combination Mexican and Cambodian restaurant.
Currently this still-eccentric place is an imported-goods market overflowing with Asian groceries, appliances and all kinds of intriguing stuff. In the rear of this piled-up shop is where you'll find the minuscule Westgate Thai.
Nestled into a spartan three-table space abutting boxes packed with cheap flip flops, coconut milk and preserved radishes, Westgate is a two-person operation, a true mom-and-popper. If you plan to dine in here, plan to engage with the amiable couple who run it, because they'll basically treat you like friends visiting their home. In other words, prepare for conversation.
Thus before my first course arrived, I heard a lot about the restaurateurs. In a nutshell, it went like this: husband (a garrulous guy) is a Vietnam-era vet who met his wife while stationed in Thailand; said wife - who does all the cooking - is a real sweetheart who toiled away at a Hilliard Bob Evans before getting to make her own food here.
Speaking of her own food, the best thing I tried at Westgate Thai was a dynamite Lap Kai ($7). In essence what many other restaurants call laab, it's a fragrant warm ground meat salad (I got it made with chicken). In Westgate's version, it was assertively flavored with fresh lime juice and spearmint and had expert flourishes of chili heat, cilantro, scallion and fish sauce. A pleasant crunch came from ground toasted rice and, if you like, you can roll up the aromatic meat filling a la taco style with the provided leaves of romaine lettuce.
Westgate's refreshing green papaya salad (Som Tom, $6) was also minty, if a tad homely. Here, chewy threads of the unripe tropical fruit were drenched in a light brown limey dressing that was intensely sweet and spicy and received extra interest from nuts and tomatoes.
If some other dishes I tried were less potent or nuanced - a huge and peanut-y Pad Thai ($6) that benefited from a squeeze of citrus; a soupy Red Curry ($7) with a decent presence of ginger and red pepper - they were nonetheless perfectly competent, generously sized and seriously cheap (and even cheaper at lunch, when everything's an extra dollar off).
Oh yeah, and they come with free sides of conversation and quirkiness.