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If your taste buds have grown weary of typical American fares such as cheeseburgers, pizza, and fried chicken perhaps a trip to one of the unique ethnic restaurants in Southern Illinois will wake up your senses and expand your palate. Sampling the dishes of other cultures, from Thailand to India and Mexico, is one of the easiest, and most delicious, ways to familiarize yourself with other cultures and their cuisines.

Thai Taste

Tam Rachatanavin has created a beloved eatery for restaurant goers in the area at Thai Taste in Carbondale. Customer favorites such as Pad Thai and Pineapple Fried Rice keep regular diners coming back while also allowing Rachatanavin to get to know a wide variety of Southern Illinois residents.

“I get to meet a lot of different people with different backgrounds. I like the townspeople, too. Being a small town it’s very community-oriented, so there’s a lot of familiarity,” said Rachatanavin.

After working weekends in his parents’ Thai restaurant in San Antonio during college, Rachatanavin opened Thai Taste in 2004. Many of the dishes served are authentic to what would be found in restaurants in Thailand and with spice levels ranging from one to 10, diners can choose their own adventure with the many tantalizing dishes on the menu.

India Delight

At India Delight in Marion, the growing list of regular patrons is a testament to the decades of experience owner Satish Walia has as an Indian cook and restaurateur. The eatery has rapidly gained popularity since opening in January 2016 with customers traveling from Paducah, St. Louis, and everywhere in between. India Delight offers a lunch buffet every day and an a la carte dinner buffet every evening, which includes a freshly made appetizer brought to each table.

“Because it’s the first Indian cuisine in Marion, we do a menu every month, because we found that majority of people don’t have information on Indian food,” said Walia.

With menu items like fresh naan bread, beef kebab, and lamb korma, patrons of India Delight can explore the different flavors and spice combinations of Indian food and can sample several different dishes until they find just what suits their appetite.

Agave Mexican Restaurant 

Agave Mexican Restaurant in Mount Vernon, owned by Cesar and Amanda Minquiz, brings the flavors of traditional Mexican food to Southern Illinois with fresh ingredients in a friendly atmosphere. Serving fresh-made salsa, guacamole and chips alongside favorites like chimichangas and fajitas, Agave is a beloved establishment for residents and travelers looking to try something different.

“Everything is made in-house. You can definitely tell when you don’t get the fresh ingredients. Also, we only serve cocktails that we have developed and enjoy ourselves,” said Minquiz.

Using recipes handed down from his mother, Minquiz serves satisfying dishes that combine expertly balanced flavor with a variety of textures and colors.

“When we go out to eat, we like to enjoy our food and drinks in a relaxed, clean, but fun atmosphere. We operate our restaurant this way and find ourselves dining here quite often, too,” shared Minquiz.

Although each culture has its own specific cooking methods and spice blends, the enjoyment of food is a unifier for people around the world. Adventurous eaters who visit the unique ethnic restaurants in the region are in for a lively and stimulating dining experience close to home.


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