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Eat at Thai serves up traditional, fresh flavors from Southeast Asia
Family of four runs restaurant off Dawsonville Highway in Gainesville
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Masaman curry is prepared for a customer at Eat at Thai restaurant off Dawsonville Highway in Gainesville. Every morning the Pornsopones family goes to the local Asian market in Suwanee to buy fresh ingredients to prepare for the day’s orders. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Eat at Thai

Hours: 11 a.m. to 2:20 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon to 2:20 p.m. Saturday; 5-8:45 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 5-9:15 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Location: 975 Dawsonville Highway, Gainesville

More info: 770- 287-8811 or www.eatatthaiga.com

Running a restaurant is a tough job, but someone has to do it.

The Pornsopones have been in the food business for decades, doing everything from cooking in restaurants as head chefs for 16 years to owning their own for the past nine.

Currently, Kik Pornsopone and her family of four run Eat at Thai, a Thai-style restaurant in the McEvers Corners Shopping Center on Dawsonville Highway in Gainesville.

Her parents, JB and Na, relocated the restaurant from Buckhead less than a decade ago. Kik said they transferred the base of operation to Gainesville because the family liked the smaller town feel. And Kik’s uncle alerted them to a location for sale.

“There was nothing over here,” Kik said, regarding the restaurant’s location off the intersection of McEver Road and Dawsonville Highway. “No Bed Bath and Beyond, no Michael’s.”

Buckhead also had more Thai restaurants, making the competition fierce.

Now, Eat at Thai has competition but it is of a different cuisine. A new Chipotle restaurant is opening up across the street, and a McDonald’s is located near its parking lot. Several chain restaurants such as Cheddar’s Casual Cafe, Texas Roadhouse, Chili’s and Outback Steakhouse are within a half-mile of the Thai restaurant. But Kik and her family aren’t too worried about the eateries popping up around their place.

“We were slow for a couple months when Olive Garden opened,” Kik said.

And their restaurant is different than other Thai places, she said. They offer more traditional flavors and a specialty item, mango shrimp, that most other places don’t offer.

For first-time customers, Kik recommends the Masaman curry.

“It’s sweet and mild,” Kik said.

Others advise the red curry if customers have never tried the food before and are hesitant.

Kik’s personal favorite is the basil noodle or mango shrimp entree, which is one of the restaurant’s most popular items.

Cooking the traditional Thai food are JB and Na Pornsopone of Suwanee. Their son, Pit, 30, works at the restaurant, but mostly on the weekends. Kik, 24, is the front manager and acts as a server, too.

“I do pretty much everything,” she said.

But she does not run the restaurant alone. She said Kelley Jones, a server who has worked at the restaurant since February, helps her a little by greeting customers as well as seating and serving them.

After 20 years of serving experience, Jones said working at Eat at Thai is a completely different experience. For one, the customers never complain, she said.

“It’s basically unheard of,” Jones said. “It’s almost spooky.”

However, the Gainesville woman said she understands why.

“If you treat them right, they’ll come back,” said Jones, who prefers eating the red curry and the chili paste dish.

The fresh food and its preparation appear to be luring the customers back, time and again. Jones explained Na Pornsopone meticulously runs the Thai kitchen and the owner cuts and prepares everything fresh daily.

Every morning, the Pornsopones head to the local Asian market, or H Mart in Suwanee, to buy fresh ingredients for the day. Then, they head to the restaurant about 9:30 a.m. to prepare for the hungry patrons.

“We want everything to be fresh,” Kik said. “Everything is made fresh to order. We don’t have pre-made sauces or anything like that.”

The Pornsopones open their restaurant doors at 11 a.m. for lunch Monday through Friday and noon Saturday. Then at 2:20 p.m. all six days, the owners close the doors until 5 p.m. for its dinner service. Eat at Thai remains open until 8:45 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9:15 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The restaurant is closed Sundays.

Kik Pornsopone said the restaurant offers more dinner items such as appetizers and seafood, which require more time and preparation. Therefore, her parents, who do all of the cooking, need the break in the day to prepare the food.

The restaurant offers sit-down and carry-out options. But Pornsopone advises customers to call ahead because the restaurant may be too busy to accommodate take-out guests.

Most customers hear about Eat at Thai through word of mouth, so they don’t feel the need to advertise, Kik said. They have about 1,000 customers per week.

For more information about Eat at Thai, call 770- 287-8811 or visit www.eatatthaiga.com.

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