A couple of months ago, I started seeing the photos. They’d pop up on my Instagram and Facebook feeds, beckoning with the promise of my Next Great Meal: big bowls of broth bobbing with meatballs, piles of bouncy noodles and bright green leafy vegetables. Where was this place? I wondered. But also: It’s 95 degrees outside. Do I really want soup?
Patti’s Kitchen, which opened quietly in July, sits on the corner of a strip mall on a stretch of Park Boulevard N in Pinellas Park. Curious and unable to satisfy my noodle cravings for a minute longer, I ventured out to the restaurant in August. Driving in a car that had been sitting in my driveway all day long in what felt like 100-degree temps to pick up a steaming bowl of soup was an interesting experience.
It was also completely worth it.
Sithisak “Pooh” Wongasawanuek and his wife, Phonphen “Patti” Kanjanakrairoek, opened their small, casual restaurant as an homage to the street noodles of Bangkok. Kanjanakrairoek, 40, is originally from Thailand’s capital city while Wongasawanuek, 33, is from Chiang Mai, up in the northern highlands of the country. Though the cuisines in both regions are rich and varied, it’s the street food stalls selling spicy bowls of noodle soup that piqued the couple’s interest.
For the past couple of years, the couple ran a small catering operation and tested out recipes, waiting for the perfect opportunity to open their own shop. They settled on the Pinellas Park location, in part, because of the area’s robust Asian population.
The noodle dishes are the highlight, and they deserve every ounce of the spotlight. Despite what might seem like a uniform genre at first glance, each bowl is unique, carrying intricate and complex flavors. It’s a petite menu, and a different rotating specialty is featured each week. In general, the kitchen strays from overly conventional or Americanized takes on the cuisine (although pad Thai is in the mix).
To start, it’s hard to go wrong with the flaky Thai curry puffs paired with a light and refreshing cucumber salad ($6.50). These pack a warming mix of curried ground chicken, potatoes and onion, not unlike an Indian samosa. But instead of getting deep-fried they are wrapped in a flaky, buttery dough that has more in common with puff pastry or French pate chaud.
The restaurant’s signature noodle soup