For years, my first choice for Thai food was Chao Praya, located on a remote, nondescript street in Commerce City. Though it was a long drive from my South Denver home, the steaming bowl of tom yum spicy lemongrass soup and the thick, red Panang curry always made the trip worth it. The restaurant closed in 1998, and I have searched for a good replacement ever since.
Recently, when winter blew in unexpectedly, I stopped by Chada Thai  on 17th Avenue, a place I'd never been but had heard good things about. In talking with the server, I was thrilled to learn that Chada Thai is Chao Praya resurrected. The restaurant—which has roots in Denver that go back to 1958—has the same menu, is owned by the same family, and Nita (the family matriarch) is still in the kitchen.
Upon hearing the news, I immediately put in my usual order of tom yum and Panang Curry. The soup, filled with plump shrimp, was spiced exactly as I remember, and the Panang with chicken (pictured) had the ideal blend of red curry, coconut milk, red pepper strips, and aromatic basil.
Discovering Chada was like reconnecting with an old friend. With the distance gone, I'm quite sure we'll be getting together regularly.
2005 E. 17th Ave., 303-320-8582