Siam Orchid

When we ate at Siam Orchid at one o’clock, One City Center was as dingy as a Social Studies class filmstrip. I expected to see cohorts of ladies named Linda in big-shouldered suit jackets and Reeboks, chortling over chicken teriyaki. Instead we met Dawn from Appetite Portland, already gingerly eating from Styrofoam boxes. We were late, having been standing in line at Trader Joe’s for close to an hour. At 12:50, one earnest customer away from check out, we had to abandon our basket of wine, Chimay cheese, assorted party crackers, beef taquitos, Duvel, and pears, in order to get downtown for our lunch date, a few moments after on time.

Here’s a hint I hope you’ll never have to use: Siam Orchid only accepts greenbacks. So, I had to negotiate the narrow escalator one flight up to the Bank of America vestibule, where I extracted some cash-money. Back in the food court, I asked my Thai moustachio’d counterman for fresh spring rolls, crab rangoon, chicken satay, and an order of basil fried rice with chicken. With two bottles of water, my total was $21.24. All too soon I was confronted with my fate.

I never order sticky-wrapped spring rolls stuffed with lettuce, etc. accompanied with chili-spiked sweet sauce. And now I know why. I am certain other versions must be more…effusive, based on the rest of my order. We took one look at these rolls, at these rollups of iceberg-lettuce-and-shredded-carrot bagged-salad castoff, and summarily shut the box and set it aside. In another container, we found little hard fried crab snacks filled with sweet cream cheese mixture lightly scented with imitation crab, plucked from the freezer no doubt moments before.

I am not good under pressure. I panic. And this is my punishment. All Malcolm wanted was satay; in this case, a sassy hunk of chicken on a stick, that he reported having some nice flavors, in spite of their sad rubbery appearance. And so it was. The peanut “satay sauce,” served in a plastic cup on the side, was rock-solid frozen. So that was too bad. Finally, my rice. Was. Also. Satisfactory. It was savory, with bits of onion, chicken, and green stuff (basil?). I was starving. And so I slowly ate every mediocre morsel. And then I was sad and bloated forever times infinity. The end.

Epilogue! Turns out, eating lunch with workaday drones in an eighties-era subterranean food court is as depressing as it sounds on paper. Good thing Dawn is awesome. We’re glad we convened for this task and hope to meet again under tastier circumstances. In closing, if you have to eat at Siam Orchid at One City Center, try the tacos, two stands over.

Jillian Bedell

Jillian Bedell is a writer and mother living in a farmhouse in Cushing, Maine. She is very good at talking about herself in the third person. She is co-author of Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road. She creates content on the internet, on subjects ranging from summer camps to semi-precious stones to the folklore of food. With Malcolm, Jillian was one of the original "Insiders," for the Visit Maine tourism campaign. She loves telling the stories of her adopted state, finding out-of-the-way places, and people making interesting things. Watching her daughters play in the wild woods and fields of Cushing makes her very happy.


  1. As a workaday drone I take offense. Actually I don’t, because I have only ever walked through this slightly terrifying cafeteria once, and it was on my way to a fancy business meeting that drones like myself frequent. I was in shock when I passed through. This place exists? I had never heard of it. Perhaps this is why.

    Laura the Drone


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  2. I would not recommend the tacos, but the brownies at the Mex place are delicious.

    I prefer the freshly cooked entrees at Siam Orchard to the prefab appetizers. The veggies are fresh, substitions are allowed, and the dishes are spiced and cooked to order. The pad thai is decent, and the spicy basil dish is on par with many places in the city.

    As a workaday drone allowed 30 measly minutes to obtain and consume food, I am glad to have Siam Orchard. It’s fast, friendly, affordable and accommodating. I’m sorry you had a lousy meal.

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