Story By Shaila Creekmore, Photos By Dero Sanford
As Downtown Jonesboro has experienced revitalization and growth, the flavor of downtown has also evolved. Adding to the Italian, Mexican, Cajun, Chinese and traditional American cuisine is a new Thai restaurant adding a little spice to Main Street.
Sai Thai Cuisine opened on March 13 on the lower end of Main Street in a completely renovated location. Owner Sai Kattaviravong looked to downtown as her location choice from the initial planning stages.
“Downtown has always been my goal from the beginning. I like the historic part of it — it’s romantic being downtown I think,” said Sai. “This was just an old run down building. We had to add everything.”
Working with both the old and the new, Sai created a traditional Asian atmosphere among the worn brick and wood floors. Gold leafing was added to the stucco walls and the exposed brick was painted a neutral beige. A balcony in striking natural wood was added to overlook the main dining room and give additional seating that can also be booked for private parties.
Each table is set with beautiful blue and white embroidered tapestries, china and gold linens. Large black and white photos of the Thailand countryside decorate the room. In addition to the light coming from the traditional store front windows of the downtown building are six large billows of light hanging from the cream painted tin ceiling.
While Sai will admit that she went a little over her initial budget in preparing for the opening of the restaurant, it has turned out to be exactly what she wanted.
“I wanted to create a nice, classy restaurant that people could bring their date to,” said Sai. “I want the guy to bring his date here and for her to feel special.”
But Sai is also quick to point out that Sai Thai Cuisine is not just another expensive “date” place. A mother of two, she wants families to come in with their children for a family meal, or friends to share time together at dinner or come in for a quick meal outside the office.
Currently, Sai’s has a large lunch following with smaller crowds at dinner allowing for a more intimate atmosphere. While the full menu is available during both lunch and dinner, Sai has an affordable lunch menu available with prices ranging from $8 to $14. Items on the menu include: fire fried rice, pad Thai, basil chicken or beef, Thai BBQ pork chops, Sai’s spicy beef salad, pepper steak, ginger chicken, cashew chicken or beef, red curry and green curry.
In addition to these items, the dinner menu features crispy red snapper, Thai spicy seafood, shrimp and salmon kabobs and masaman pineapple. A number of soups and salads are on the menu featuring spicy lemongrass soup, coconut soup, Sai’s spicy beef salad, spicy lettuce wrap, green papaya salad and yum talay, a spicy seafood salad.
A very unique item on the menu is Thai iced tea, a beautiful orange beverage that has a distinctive sweet flavor. Each glass is made to order.
The Thai fresh rolls, a highly recommended appetizer with vermicelli noodles and mint leaves rolled with fresh lettuce and paired with a special dipping sauce, are one of the most popular items on the menu. Other appetizers are Thai egg rolls, crab Rangoon, fried tofu, crispy shrimp and satay.
And to lay your fears to rest, not all Thai food is spicy. Sai said that while she and her family like to eat hot and spicy food, she recognizes that most American families are not accustomed to the spice of foreign foods. The majority of the items on the menu are not spicy, although they might use the word fire or spicy in their title.
“It’s called fire fried rice because we turn up the heat to cook it, not because it’s made spicy,” said Sai. “We make it mild unless it’s requested spicy and all the food is made to order so we can spice up any dish.”
Sai’s will also take special requests for items not on the menu.
“If you’ve had something at another Thai place and we don’t have it, we’ll do our best to recreate it for you,” said Sai.
All of the items on the menu are Sai’s own recipes and the quality of the food coming out of the kitchen is Sai’s top priority.
“Our food is the main thing and customer service is very important to us, too,” said Sai who spends most of her day in the dining room seating guests and visiting with her customers.
“I like to be out on the floor meeting customers. I like getting to know them and see what they like or don’t like. I want to be involved in the business, not just the owner of the restaurant. I want to be the face of the restaurant and the customers to know I’m here and I care,” said Sai.
On Friday and Saturday nights, Sai’s presents traditional Thai dancing for their guests on the stage located in the front of the restaurant. The dancer is also available for private parties if booked in advance.
Sai Thai Cuisine, 211 South Main, is open Tuesday – Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. For more information, call 931-0700 or view the restaurant’s website at www.saithaicuisine.com.