Potsdam's Thai Cuisine reopens dining room with modern renovations

·4 min read

Jun. 23—POTSDAM — Like many restaurants, Thai Cuisine closed its dining room at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 29 Maple St. restaurant reopened for in-house dining after more than two years this week, and a modern makeover welcomes patrons into a new era.

"Ever since the beginning of COVID, we shut down all dine-in operations and have been doing takeout ever since until recently," said owner and chef Bank Soikum.

He said support from the community helped Thai Cuisine stay afloat while the dining room went dark.

"When we were open for takeout, we received a lot of support from our regular customers," Mr. Soikum said. "They still came in and ordered as usual, and even though the experience wasn't the same, everyone understood the circumstances that, not just us, but a lot of local businesses were going through, so I'd like to thank the community."

Mr. Soikum, who dropped out of high school at 16 to help with the family business, assumed control in 2019 after the passing of his mother and former owner Banna Samerpitak. Now, at only 22 years old, he runs it in a way he knows would honor her.

"It was a hard decision to drop out at 16, but they were working over 100 hours a week, so I made that decision and don't regret it one bit," he said. "If I didn't do that, I wouldn't be prepared to run the business now."

Mr. Soikum has worked at the restaurant since he was 11. Right before reopening, he took a much-needed vacation.

"That gave me a lot of time to look back and reflect on things," he said. "When it comes down to it, I still consider this my mother's restaurant, and it was her wish to keep it running. That's why I reopened."

"Even if the pandemic was over," he added, "I still would have been unsure about reopening, but I really wanted to honor her legacy, and it's such a beautiful space that I felt it would have been a waste not to do anything with it."

To make the space more beautiful, and his mother more proud, Mr. Soikum gave the dining room a makeover.

"We tore out the carpet, put down new flooring, painted the walls, acquired new tables and benches, and put in new systems," he said. "The whole goal was to give the entire restaurant a more modern look. To me it was a little outdated, so I wanted to freshen it up and keep it up-to-date."

He said he loves seeing the faces of customers who walk in now for the first time since before the pandemic.

"I love seeing how surprised they are," Mr. Soikum said. "I just can't get over how great the renovations look."

He said the menu is still the same.

"I know there were a lot of customers that thought when my mom passed things would be completely different," he said. "But I was working directly under her, so all the food is made exactly the same, nothing has changed in that regard. It's still all my mom's recipes."

Some highlights include fresh spring rolls, panang curry, fried rice, peanut noodle, and of course pad Thai.

"We like to keep things on the lighter, fresher side," Mr. Soikum said.

He said a lot of people confuse Thai food with other Asian cuisines.

"But Thai food is really something of its own," he said. "We don't use a ton of oil as other Asian cuisines tend to. We use more herbs and spices to season our food."

He hopes people won't be put off by the spiciness that stereotypes Thai food.

"People think our food is spicy, but more than half our menu has non-spicy items, so we have something for everyone," he said. "I'd love for people who haven't had Thai food to come give us a try."

Thai Cuisine is open from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for lunch, and from 4 to 8:30 p.m. for dinner Tuesday through Saturday.