To Be Thai Restaurant offers a niche where one can experience Thai culture through traditional cuisine.
Located in Huntington Gateway, owner Kanchana Phenghua started the restaurant in 2002. She came to America from Kanchanaburi, Thailand, to study international business and commerce at George Mason University in 1994. “I wanted to introduce the true Thai taste for the American people. I tasted Thai around town. It wasn't real Thai. I grew up cooking,” said Phenghua.
She cooks the food and she runs the restaurant with her husband, Somchai Dulpimol. She chose Alexandria as the location for the restaurant because of the area’s support for local businesses.
Inside the restaurant, Thai music is playing lightly in the background and Asian art work is displayed throughout the entry and dining areas.
Authentic Thai cuisine is featured on the menu. Two of the most popular dishes are the pad thai and thai dumplings. “All of the food I create is from my heart. It is very fresh, clean and original recipes,” said Phenghua.
The most rewarding part of running the business for Kanchana is being able to connect with her customers. “I am very in touch with my customers. Many of them left Thailand during World War II. They know the Thai culture, the Thai food and they have good memories of my country,” said Phenghua.
Running a restaurant also has its challenges. Since the restaurant is somewhat hidden and not easy to see from the street, this has created some difficulties. “The location is somehow considered very good, but somehow very hidden,” said Phenghua.
To Be Thai is located at 5970 Richmond Highway. Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner is served from 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday. To Be Thai is open on Saturday from noon until 10 p.m. and on Sunday from 5 until 10 p.m. For more information, reservations, or take out, call 703-317-1166 or 703-317-0152. Its Web site is www.tobethairestaurant.com.