One of the first eateries you come across when you exit BU’s West campus is Brown Sugar Cafe, a Thai restaurant with a homey feel and a ridiculously large menu. The original Brown Sugar Cafe opened in Cambridge in 1996 and added a second location on Commonwealth Ave in 1999. It was one of the first places I visited when I started at BU, and since then I’ve been back many, many times. Their pad thai is quite possibly the best I’ve EVER had, and I’ve eaten a lot of pad thai.
Brown Sugar advertises by putting their take-out menus into local people’s mailboxes, but that’s the extent to which they spread the word. Their website is classy and well maintained, but again is not advertised to excess. Obviously, with the minimal advertising and marketing, some other factor keeps the patrons coming. Any time you try to eat there after 4pm, no matter what day of the week it is, there is almost always a 20 minute wait for a table. It’s a hot-spot with a following, and Brown Sugar more than keeps its customers happy.
Obviously, one of their advantages is the food. It really is the best Thai food I’ve had anywhere. People say you know a foreign restaurant is good if you see foreign people eating there, and that is always the case. People are always amazed at how delicious their food is.
Another reason patrons return is for the superb customer service. The waitstaff is always super attentive and the food arrives at your table quickly. But the crown jewel of Brown Sugar’s customer service are their famous (or infamous) birthday celebrations, which can be quite entertaining, depending on the occasion. If you are not expecting the hullabaloo that occurs when a patron has a birthday, you are certainly in for a surprise.
All of the sudden, without warning, the restaurant becomes pitch black and the lazer light show begins. Disco balls are lowered from the ceiling as laser patterns flash across the walls. Over a loudspeaker, someone sings “Happy Birthday” in broken English to loud techno music as the lucky person with the birthday is bombarded with flashlights carried by the wait staff. A dessert is then delivered to their table, and the show is over as soon as it began. The lasers stop, the disco balls disappear, and the lights turn back on. Business as usual is resumed as if nothing ever happened. On busy evenings, this tends to happen every ten minutes or so.
As I said, if you are not expecting this event it can come as quite a shock (especially if you are epileptic!) Brown Sugar should not be recommended to those expecting a romantic evening out, unless they have a good sense of humor. Personally, I enjoy surprising my friends, whether or not it is their “actual” birthday.