Okay, now this is one of those places that you kind of feel guilty writing about because it is a little treasure, and you don’t want to meddle with all the things that make it so endearing. So, I’ll keep this post short and hope that you don’t even notice it’s here. And further hope that SomChai’s regulars don’t hunt me down and do bad things to me for calling attention to the spot they hold dear to their hearts.

So just a few key words, the obligitory snapshot or two. And then I’m all done. Promise.

I. Key words (in word association form): You say “SomChai”, I say…
“Thai. Colorful. Spicy. Lemongrass. Alleyway. Yum. Down-to-earth. Pumpkin.”

II. And the snapshots:

The rich and tangy soup, “Tom Kha”, a glass of Thai tea, and a side soup.

I’d certainly ask for this pumpkin custard for desert. There’s a caramel, lemongrass kind of sauce you pour over it which is sticky and plate-lickin’ good.

Here’s Richard, the proprietor, cookin’ away. He’s some kind of friendly.

Thanks, Julia, for sending along this pic. of some of SomChai’s scrumptious menu items

The interior.

And the exterior.


SomChai hours

Hours (Updated October 2016):
Open Tuesday – Saturday

LUNCH: 11:30-2pm daily
Tues-Thurs 4:30 – 6:30pm
Fri-Sat 5:30 p.m. – 0:00 pm

Closed Sunday and Monday

Payment: Yen only

Phone: 098-937-2208

Address: 1 Chome-17-14 Chuo, Okinawa

Google Maps Coordinates: 26.3375095, 127.80123630000003

Directions: From Kadena Gate 2, go straight down Gate 2 Street until you reach 330. Hang a left at 330. Hang another left at the building “Hide Away”. You are now on Park Ave. Look for a cafe/bar called Sideways on your left hand side and turn left right after it. (You’ll have to have parked your car somewhere though, cause the left you take here is a pedestrian street. Also, if you’ve reached the Bamboo Cafe — whose jerk chicken, Thai style soup and curries reader, Darby, recommends BTW — on Park Ave, you’ve gone too far.) SomChai is diagonally across from Sideways.


  1. This is by far the best Thai on the Island! We go here almost every week. Richard and Miki are wonderfully nice and call all the regulars by name. Waiting…sure we have had to wait 30minutes to an hour sometimes for a table…but we gladly do it. The food and the charm of Som Chai it totally worth it. My family loves this place. This will be the first thing I miss when I leave Okinawa!

  2. This is the best Thai place I have been to here on Oki, but I won’t be going back. Ever. We just waited thirty minutes for a table, which is not unusual. I had come in and sat down in the little chair by the front door. My family waited outside. When the first table became available I got up and told the gentleman that has come in right before we did that a table had opened. He sat down. Then another table started to open up. All of the sudden a party of eight showed up in the place. I had seen one man from their party waiting, but he had come AFTER us. The gal said that he would get the next two tables. I interrupted and stated that we had been waiting and he had come after us… He had to pass me when he came in! Certainly the other seven people in his party had just gotten there. Nope. She said it had been him. Perhaps I was invisible while I sat in the chair at the front. I will not be back. I will also urge people not to go here.

  3. Every dish I’ve ordered here has been delicious — but there is a lot left on the menu I haven’t tried, so I (happily) have many visits in my future! Some menu items are consistent from visit to visit (the pad thai, for example, is always on the menu) but others rotate. The desserts, for example, have been different every time I’ve been. Once it was a cardamom sweet potato cheesecake, and the last time I was there I gobbled down the fantastically delicious salty-sweet black rice pudding with coconut cream.

    It’s a little difficult to tell people how to get here sometimes (I’ve had to walk out to Gate 2 street to guide them in a few times), but I think the food is worth the extra walk.

    Usually I park by Gate 2 and walk down, but there is also some (paid) parking nearby. As I said, directions are difficult to give, but these should work … after you turn left onto BC Street (Park Ave.) from 330 you will see the bar “Sideways” mentioned in the directions above. Keep driving. At the NEXT intersection, turn left. The parking is an open lot one block down on your right, with a lot attendant in a small booth. The attendant will take your car keys and give you a ticket … when you order your food at SomChai, they will validate your ticket for 1 hour worth of parking (this was valid as of May 2012).

  4. their hours as of 14 feb 2012 were:
    tue-sat 1700-2200 (last order 2130)
    as well as every 1st and 2nd monday

    i had the tom kha gai, and was EXTREMELY happy with it. my hubby asked for very spicy pad thai, and he enjoyed it though it burned my mouth. thai tea was decadent.

  5. Just went there and food was fantastic. We had the special, the curry, the Ladna (thick noodles), and Thai Fried Rice. I didn’t try the fried rice. Apparently it was not as good as the others, but the kids gobbled it up. The special was a tender calamari in a spicy sauce with some sauteed bok choy to tone it down. Ladna had a nice fried sauce smoky flavor. Service was friendly and food was cooked right in front of us. Kids loved the flames coming out of the frying/wok pans.

  6. We went there last weekend and LOVED it! Just FYI though, for those going off the price list from the menu picture above, they have sinced raised all those prices by 200Y so most menu items are around 850Y and up vs. 650Yish as shown. It is delicious and well worth it though. Enjoy!

  7. One more Thai option: There’s a Thai lady on Kadena named Sarin and she sells homemade Thai food. It is fabulous and rumored to have the best Pad Thai on the island (we agree)! We’ve now had 4 of her dishes and each has been excellent.
    If you email her and ask for a menu she’ll email you a 2 page menu with all of her dishes. Each is $10 or 1000 yen. You can specify mild, med, or hot and whatever day/time you’d like to pick it up (except Sundays) and order a day ahead of time by phone 080-3459-9652 or email. She lives in Washington Heights, the neighborhood near the Family Housing office. We highly recommend it. Enjoy!

    • I just found out that the Thai Lady on Kadena named Sarin in amy’s post isn’t able to cook anymore. Public Health is shutting down all the home businesses that cook food from home for sale. Public Health has threatened them with fines. It’s bad enough that dependant spouses can’t find employment when they move to the island. A majority of the on-base jobs are guaranteed only to Japanese and there aren’t enough left over’s for those dependant spouses who want to work. Now they make it harder for people who are innovative enough to create a solution. Shame on you Public Health! We’ll miss you Sarin!

  8. If you go to the road Chuo Park (also know as BC street) (you can get there from 330 or by turning down one of the side streets on gate 2), then as you’re walking down the street you should see a side street with the Sideways bar and som chai is diagonally across from the bar. It’s a small restaurant.

  9. As a newbie to Okinawa and a Thai food enthusiast, I was very excited to hear about the needle in the haystack known as Som Chai. After reading this post I was prepared for a very authentic Thai feast. I am sad to say that I was disappointed. True, the food was tasty and the staff very welcoming, but authentic Thai this was not. Being Thai myself, my standards for authentic Thai may be a bit steeper than most, but I really was expecting something… more! My husband and I ordered the Kwit Theo Nam (Thai noodle soup), Kapao Kao (Basil Fried Rice, very spicy), Lat Na (Noodles with mixed veggies) and Cha Yen (Thai iced tea). The tea, which is usually very sweet and creamy was a bitter. The fried rice was very spicy, but had little flavor and both the soup and noodles tasted more Japanese than Thai. Yes, I realize we’re in Japan, but when I hear Thai, I expect Thai. Not sure if we’ll go back to try anything else, maybe the curry is better! Definitely looking forward to trying all the rest!

  10. Just got back from Somchai for lunch. I must say, after reading all these reviews, I personally found out that the hype was true! Great food, great customer service, great atmosphere, it was all great! The only problem I had was that they take cash only and it must be Yen. Also, to my suprise, I found out the cook isn’t Thai…but grew up in thailand. Not a problem! He still cooked a mean Phad Thai!!! This place is definitely my new favorite restuarant in Okinawa, can’t wait to try out the rest of the Menu 🙂

  11. My mother-in-law is visiting and I took her there yesterday. The food was GREAT and probably the best Thai I’ve had on the island. However, there were signs posted in the restaurant asking military members to not come in wearing there uniforms out of respect for other customers. I was actually a little offended by these signs and wonder how they think they aren’t disrespecting the military members or spouses of them that come there. I’ve heard nothing but good things about this restaurant and I’m surprised that no one else seems to be offended by the lack of respect for military families.

  12. In a place as foreign as Okinawa, it’s nice to find a place that makes me feels at home. It is literally my favorite restaurant in the world, but it is nice to be greeted by name and asked how my husband and son are. I like that Richard can adjust spice level or add more veggies for a little extra money. the portion sizes are appropriate-which is lovely.

  13. WAY TO GO BRO!!!!!!

    We’re so so so proud of you!

    Glad we got to see for ourselves, and not biased as your Big Sis, but the food is PHENOMENAL!!!! Pad Thai elsewhere will never be the same again. Sorry I missed the crazy Brownie Dessert last week

    Love you

  14. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this place! I don’t mind you sending people there, I like my favorite restaurants to be successful. If you haven’t tried the coconut black rice pudding (that might not be the exact name on the menu), it’s fabulous!

  15. Man, does the menu look good!! This place looks a bit like my favorite place I had dinner while In Singapore last summer. A little tiny place with the most amazing flavors I had on that trip to Singapore and Hong Kong. I think the hubby and I will have to go find this place and try it out! Thanks for the recomendation Kelly!!