I once dreamed of a Thai restaurant in Elkhart County.
I remember pleading, perhaps even begging, for a restaurant here that served that cuisine.
At this point, the column could turn to an array of quotes about dreams coming true, but this is a food column, not a Walt Disney movie.
I’m pleased. I’m thrilled. I’m pumped. So much so that I may even do a happy dance, though if you saw me do it you’d lose your appetite.
I can say it’s been a topic of conversation at Bangkok Place Thai Cuisine, 26084 C.R. 6, Elkhart, when a customer told owner Keo Phannavong that he made my dream come true.
Elkhart County now has nearly as many restaurants that serve Thai food as it has coffee shops.
I need morning coffee, but I can make my own most days.
I can’t make pad thai as well as Roeum Dim at Lucky’s Donuts (which the sign outside and Google still say is known as Lucky’s Donut).
I wouldn’t wrap a shrimp in a wonton wrapper and fry it as Sinin Um skillfully does at Asia Market. I’ve yet to make an Asian curry that’s as good as anything at Phannavong’s Bangkok Place.
This is why we go out to eat. This is why ethnic places are so important. Skilled cooks give us tastes that we struggle to recreate even with a good recipe and the right ingredients.
Southeast Asian food has followed the path of sushi and Mexican food in this part of the Midwest. At first, people ask a lot of questions. Then they find something they like and that becomes familiar. That’s followed by them becoming regulars at a place.
Phannavong said he gets far fewer questions than when he opened in 2010. “Right now I would say we are accepted in the community,” he said.
On weekends, he sees travelers who make their way into Elkhart to eat from the Indiana Toll Road. They too understand Thai food.
Where to get Thai food in Elkhart County
Bangkok Place Thai Cuisine, 26084 C.R. 6, Elkhart
Asia Market, 3405 S. Main St., Elkhart
Sawadee, 1301 Lincolnway East, Goshen
Lucky’s Donuts, 700 W. Bristol St., Elkhart
They still make donuts at Lucky’s Donuts, 700 W. Bristol St., Elkhart. What most customers seek out is Dim’s Asian food, whether it’s Chinese, Cambodian or Thai.
For years, I automatically ordered pad thai with chicken, medium spice. It would make me sweat and smile. I’m branching out. The panang curry is great. So is the Cambodian fried rice.
At Bangkok Place, the menu is farther reaching. The list of appetizers, entrees and soups is broad. The cooking is good and the service is solid. The setting is also the nicest of any of the options.
The newer entries into the realm are Asia Market and Sawadee.
Asia Market opened in early July alongside the grocery at 3405 S. Main St., Elkhart. Sinin Um is preparing Thai dishes from a small kitchen.
Her husband, Ohm, had me try a variety of food when I popped in last week. He was honest about wanting a good review.
The food is good, though it took a while to get made. That will likely get fixed over time. He said Thursday’s swell of business helped that. “I think they’re getting the hang of it,” he said.
On Thursday, every entree was $5 rather than $6.95 or $7.95. If Asia Market can offer good service and food, it’s in a position to do very well nestled between Goshen and Elkhart and along the U.S. 20 Bypass.
I’ve yet to try Sawadee, 1301 Lincolnway East. I haven’t heard much buzz about it. When I went to try it last week, it was closed and an upside-down sign on the door indicated it would reopen Tuesday. There was also a menu from Wasabi restaurant in Goshen on the door, and when I called an employee said the owner had an emergency and would reopen Tuesday.
I’m told that Memories of China at Linway Plaza in Goshen still serves Thai food, but I haven’t been there for a number of years.
We’ve got a good range of Thai food made by talented cooks in Elkhart and Goshen. We’ve got options and they’re good.
Phannavong said he moved to Elkhart because he saw an opportunity. He’d like to be even busier, but said he got exactly what he hoped. He’s got a restaurant that serves Thai food and makes people happy.
Now that we’ve got Thai covered, we can work on Indian food. Still no word on when Maple Indian Cuisine will open, but potential fans are getting excited.
I’m hungry. Let’s eat.
Marshall V. King is managing editor and food columnist for The Elkhart Truth. You can reach him at 574-296-5805, firstname.lastname@example.org
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