EDGEWATER — Like many restaurant workers during the pandemic, Jessie Chanthanadit suddenly found herself out of a job last year when the Edgewater restaurant where she worked closed.
But the restaurant closure afforded Chanthanadit the opportunity to achieve a dream: owning her own restaurant.
Chanthanadit opened Similan Thai and Sushi in late December at 1123 W. Granville Ave. The restaurant takes over the space formerly occupied by Summer Noodles and Rice, which closed in December after a 13-year run.
As a waiter and assistant manager at Summer Noodles, Chanthanadit decided to take over the business, bring on her brother as a partner and make pandemic-friendly changes.
“I worked here for all 13 years,” she said. “When they closed, we felt like, ‘Why not build our own?’ We want to do it our style.”
Chanthanadit bought the business from the Summer Noodles owners and even employs many of the old restaurant’s staff. Similan’s menu is very similar to Summer Noodles’, offering classic Thai-inspired Asian dishes like pad Thai, steamed shumai dumplings and curry.
But there is one key addition to Similan that was not at Summer Noodles: sushi.
Chanthanadit brought on her brother, Joe Chanthanadit, who is a sushi chef with 10 years experience in the restaurant industry. Joe Chanthanadit helped craft a sushi menu, giving Similan a business that works well during the pandemic.
“I know people who own sushi places, and during COVID, they made their revenue,” Chanthanadit said. “It still works during the pandemic.”
Though Chanthanadit bought the business from her former bosses, she was not allowed to use the Summer Noodles name. The previous owners also transferred Summer Noodles’ number to their sister restaurant, causing confusion about the status of Summer Noodles, she said.
Those issues, coupled with the pandemic, have made the opening a challenge, Chanthanadit said. Being located next door to the Granville Red Line station, the restaurant will also have to contend with the massive modernization project on the transit line, which is kicking into high gear this spring.
Despite those obstacles, Chanthanadit said she is happy to be open in Edgewater.
Being close to Loyola, Chanthanadit wants to make Similan a hangout spot for college students. Interior renovations are moving slowly while indoor dining is restricted, but Chanthanadit plans to install a photo wall as a fun feature for regular customers.
“I love Edgewater so much,” she said. “It’s a great location. We want this to be a place where people can come to talk.”
Chanthanadit came to the United States from Thailand 15 years ago. She lived in New Jersey, where she discovered her joy in introducing homemade Thai food to the family she nannied for.
She moved to Chicago a few years later and began working in the restaurant businesses.
She named her new restaurant Similan for Thailand’s Similan Islands, which are a set of pristine and picturesque islands in the Andaman Sea. The name reminds Chanthanadit of home while giving Chicagoans a taste of a faraway paradise, she said.
“We’re building our own brand,” she said. “It takes time.”
Similan is open 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-9:30 p.m. Sundays. For more information, click here.
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