As the holidays approach, so do the family gatherings and large meals. For those who don’t celebrate or don’t want to cook, Chinese food tends to be the go-to meal. But Aree Proctor wants people to switch it up and get Thai food.
Baan Thai Restaurant just celebrated its one year anniversary of being on Massachusetts Street in Lawrence at the beginning of November. The restaurant has three locations in Leavenworth, Manhattan, and now Lawrence. The Thai Noodle in Manhattan is also affiliated with Baan Thai. Baan Thai itself will be celebrating 10 years of being in Kansas in February.
“When people come in here, they love the food,” Proctor said, the owner of Baan Thai Restaurant.
To celebrate the anniversary, specials have been happening the last two weeks at the Lawrence location, but with the holidays around the corner, new specials will be occurring. Unfortunately these specials will not take place until after Christmas, but will happen in time for the new year. Baan Thai itself will not be open on Christmas Day, but catering is still available, and will be open its normal hours for Christmas Eve and the day after, 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
“We plan to have, do some kind of special food,” Proctor said. “We’re going to do like, five dollar Pad Thai on this day, we going to have four for five dollars, you know, every day for lunch, like that.”
Proctor is originally from Thailand and came to Kansas because of the military, as her husband was sent to Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth 10 years ago. Proctor grew up in her mother’s restaurant in Thailand, and as she is unable to read or write English, she knew she wanted a job in the restaurant business when she moved to Kansas. She was told by a friend who lived in Leavenworth that there was a Thai place in Leavenworth and when Proctor inquired the owner about a job, she ended up with the whole business.
She decided to bring the culture, and food, her mother taught her when she was young. The original location in Leavenworth had four or five tables, and after two years, Proctor was able to move into a bigger location. The restaurant expanded to Manhattan after a new location assignment from the military, allowing Proctor to continue to make the food she knows and loves for new people. The decision for a location in Lawrence though was a little bit different.
“Past four years, I’ve been up and down Lawrence. I think that Lawrence is good city to live, or to retire. You know that’s what I plan to do, to retire here in Lawrence. Past four years I’ve been up and down this street,” said Proctor. “I thought this it. This would be a good location and good time for me to be in. That’s why I opened Baan Thai in Lawrence.”
The menu has a variety of food and flavors, as Proctor wants to represent the tastes of Thailand. These tastes range “from spicy salads to rich noodle dishes,” to “authentic Thai beverages, like Thai ice coffee and Thai ice tea, and special Thai deserts,” such as sweet rice and mangoes.
“My absolute favorite is the yellow curry. The burn of the spiciness never turns me away, but it does give me a runny nose,” said Rick Donnelson, a customer. “I’ve eaten both locations and have to say that this one is my favorite, probably because I like these lights. I also think the openness feel more comfortable with my runny nose.”
As the restaurant expanded, each location was created uniquely. Baan Thai means Thai house, allowing for creativity to follow suit.
“Right now I have a lot of comment, they love the restaurant, how clean. The lights, the tables, it’s all local made. But I want to go back to Thailand and get some decorations from Thailand to put it in,” Proctor said. “I want to do something modern, something different, maybe because it’s a younger town. I want something different.”
Despite the differences in the looks, the food stays strongly the same and the work mentality does as well.
“Everyone carries their load, everyone basically does everything since we don’t have a host or a buster or anything, we all have to do everything basically. Everyone seems to stay on top of everything,” said Alex King, a server of several months and a KU student. “I do enjoy the food quite a bit, uh, my favorite is the Peanut Curry. I like peanut buttery stuff.”
With family meals quickly coming, Baan Thai makes for a substitute to actual cooking.
“All the tastes of the food is how I like it. I’m not try to like change, you know Americanize or anything like that,” Proctor said. “The food that comes out, that’s how I like my food.”
Only restaurant that will be open on Massachusetts Street on Christmas Day is the Eldridge Hotel. It will be serving dinner from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.