Rise of Thai

The popularity of Thai food seems to be growing and places are popping up to serve hungry customers.

Downtown Phoenix is an excellent study in this. For example, there’s a Thai Basil, a Thai’d Up and a My Mom’s Thai Kitchen on the same block and all of them do well enough in business to stay open.

Sign in front of the Thai'd Up restaurant.

Thai’d Up in downtown Phoenix (photo by forkyum).

Jirat Hempimarnman, employee at the Thai Basil on Adams Street and First Avenue for the past year, said there’s a lot of competition for Thai food in the downtown area (clearly). The Thai Basil he works at has been open for the past two years or so, he added.

A wooden carving in front of the Thai Basil restaurant.

A wooden carving in front of the Thai Basil restaurant in downtown Phoenix (photo by forkyum).

The restaurant is busiest during lunchtime hours because business folk leave their offices to grab lunch, he said. Dinnertime is slower because there’s no one working then, he added.

Hempimarnman credits part of Thai food’s popularity to its spiciness, a sign of the food’s authenticity. He noted the food is healthy as well.

“They put (in) a lot of seasoning and a lot of herbs that help your body,” he said.

Caleb Thal, employee at the Thai’d Up at 110 North Central Ave for about the past year and a half, agreed with Hempimarnman’s statement that a lot of Thai food’s appeal comes from its healthiness. There are many vegetarian and vegan options available, and overall the food is just good, he said.

“Within 30 seconds of walking, you could hit two other Thai restaurants,” he said, in reference to the number of Thai restaurants in the area.

Though Thai restaurants are not as heavily concentrated in the Tempe area, there’s still plenty to be found, like the Thai Basil on Rural Road and Lemon Street, near the main ASU campus.

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A larger Thai Basil location in Tempe (photo by forkyum).

Manager Jay Anuvat said the restaurant has been open for almost four years, and he’s worked there for the same amount of time. The location was chosen for its parking space availability and the fact that they could sell alcohol there, he said.

Their peak hours do vary from downtown Phoenix’s, with lunch and dinner being about equally popular, he said. The crowds they draw are also different, being a mix of not just people who work in the area but students and teachers as well, he added.

Anuvat agrees that Thai’s popularity is because of its flavor, variety, and health benefits, He stopped short of saying it was healthier than any given food, noting he does not want to insult any nations.

“We cook it when you order… we do it fresh,” he said, noting that’s why people prefer it to processed food.

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