AVONDALE — Nuttawut Waijorhor has spent years in Chicago’s dining scene cooking for multiple Asian restaurants.
Now he’s striking out on his own to offer authentic dishes from his native Thailand in Avondale. Eathai, located at the corner of Kedzie Avenue and George Street, is having a soft opening Friday. The new spot will officially open sometime after Christmas.
It’s the first restaurant for Waijorhor, who has worked at Strings Ramen, Enso Sushi & Bar and Ryuu Asian BBQ over the past decade.
“I’m so excited I cannot sleep. It’s almost too much,” Waijorhor said with a laugh. “I do everything in the restaurant myself, I set up, I created the menu.”
Waijorhor, who goes by Frankie, has long dreamed of opening a restaurant of his own.
His mother taught him to cook traditional Thai food growing up in the small town of Nong Khai in the northeast region of Thailand. When he got older and eventually moved to the United States, he carried those recipes and flavors with him, hoping one day to put them to the test.
To start, the menu at Eathai will be small. That’s by design, as Waijorhor doesn’t want to create anything too “fancy” for it to sit in a takeout box. Until coronavirus restrictions are lifted, the restaurant will only offer delivery and carryout.
The menu will showcase Waijorhor’s take on authentic Thai recipes he’s learned from working in restaurants over the years and from his mother.
Thai chicken wings, pad thai with a choice of protein, and guay teow gai, a noodle dish made with chicken soup, bean sprouts, green onions and garlic oil, are among the current menu offerings.
“I am honest people. I make sure the food is really good, good quality and clean. Good price, too,” he said.
Friday’s opening is years in the making.
For a long time, Waijorhor worked more than one restaurant job at a time and sold point of sale systems to Thai restaurants across Chicago to bring in enough cash to eventually open a restaurant of his own, according to his partner Chris Stangle. The two of them have been living with Stangle’s sister for two years, also to save money to open the restaurant.
Now the restaurant Waijorhor has dreamt about opening for years is about to make its public debut and Waijorhor is filled with excitement.
“I love to cook,” he said. “I think I’m ready to open a restaurant, too.”