Banjong Jongthep has always dreamed of owning her own restaurant. After working at Tuptim Thai and co-owning A-Hann Thai, she has branched out and decided to run her own kitchen.
JongThep, along with co-owners Nimm and Derek Ragsdale, has opened Jong’s Thai Kitchen at 800 S.W. 12th St. Many will recognize the Thai restaurant’s new home as the former location of Cafe Holliday and, for a short time after that, La Casita Cafe.
While small inside, the restaurant offers customers a warm and inviting feel. Large windows at the front of the restaurant are framed by trees and offer a nice view of the park located across the street.
The restaurant, which opened Sept. 21, specializes in Thai dishes that are handcrafted by Jongthep herself.
Jong’s Thai Kitchen is open 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5-8 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon to 8 p.m. Saturday. Reservations are strongly encouraged.
The dishes are packed with flavor and Jongthep will cater to her customers’ needs. If someone comes in and wants an item that isn’t on the menu and she has time, she will cook it.
“A lot of people say, ’Banjong, I don’t know what to eat or what I want.’ I say, ’OK,’ ” Jongthep said. “I want you to come here and get what you want and make you happy.”
Her ultimate goal is to make sure her customers leave happy and serve them unique and fresh food.
The menu items are meals that the three owners like to eat and Jongthep has adapted them.
Melissa’s Chicken is stir-fried chicken breast marinated in a house seasoning with a touch of white rum, bell pepper, mushrooms, onion and basil in a brown sauce.
Ross’ Curry is made with a Thai red curry paste, coconut milk, bell pepper, Thai egg plant, bamboo shoot, peppercorn, krachai and Sriracha.
Linda’s Sweet Chili Noodle, which has been named after Derek Ragsdale’s mother, is pan-fried noodles with egg, mushrooms, onion and bell pepper with a Thai sweet chili sauce and Sriracha.
Derek Ragsdale said that since opening, business has been good.
“The community is really supportive and we’ve got people that kind of follow Jong’s cooking,” Derek Ragsdale said. “Family and friends definitely come in a lot.”
While Jongthep is excited to see her dream become reality, it makes her happier to see others enjoying her food.
Nimm Ragsdale said it also makes them happy when customers return after their first visit.
“I’m happy if you like my food. When the customers clean up their food, that’s when I’m happy,” she said.