There’s been a surge of Thai restaurants on NE Alberta St recently—at least three new ones have sparked to life in the past two years—but since last November, Siam Society has emerged as the neighborhood’s phad thai powerhouse. Of course, it helps that the Society is housed in an old electric station—an imposing industrial box that stood vacant for almost 40 years before Paul Van Slyke bought it in 2002, hoping to transform the energy of the space into a restaurant. After he and his wife, Adrienne Inskeep, spent a few more years helping his mother run Mekala’s, a Thai restaurant in Eugene, the couple decided to crank up the wattage on Portland’s Thai food scene.

"While we were working on the space, other Thai restaurants started opening nearby, and we knew we needed to do something different," says Inskeep, who fires up the Society’s burners as executive chef while her husband conducts the front-of-house currents. In their bid to outshine the surrounding Thai joints, they spliced together a menu featuring standards like thom yum and massaman curry alongside innovative entrées like grilled steak with tamarind sauce and pulled pork spring rolls flavored with cinnamon, vanilla bean and hazelnuts. They’re also jump-starting the weekends with live music, a move that—combined with a menu of South Seas-inspired libations like One Night in Bangkok (rum, Cointreau, orange juice and grenadine) and Thai Me Up (Thai iced tea spiked with vanilla Stoli)—has lent the bar area the atmosphere of an exclusive club.

So how can you tell if this eclectic, electric company is for you? Before entering, put your ear up to the thick concrete walls and listen closely to the buzz.