Jay Aparoj, the chef of the new restaurant, Thai @ Main Street, already has gotten three parking tickets in the process of opening his new restaurant — at $20 bucks a pop.
Welcome to downtown Durham.
Aparoj opened Bangkok 54 in Chapel Hill eight years ago and is opening his second restaurant in the Main Street spot previously occupied by Dame's Chicken and Waffles, which is moving to Liberty Apartments in Central Park.
Thai @ Main Street will serve the dishes of central Thailand, focusing on the flavors of Bangkok, where Aparoj grew up. He said he'll be putting his own spin on family dishes, curries, noodles, grilled meats and fiery, herbaceous Thai salads. The menu is still being finalized, he said, ahead of an early April opening.
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"It will be full service, authentic Thai food, nothing but Thai," Aparoj said. "Lots of noodles, curries, lots of heat, but nothing overblown."
Aparoj is opening Thai @ Main Street with business partner Pete Prasertdham, who owns some local Subway franchises, and two other partners.
Aparoj moved to North Carolina as a 14-year-old 24 years ago, first living in Asheboro, where his aunt and uncle ran a Chinese restaurant. It was Chinese, he said, because Thai was unheard of at the time.
Tastes have changed somewhat in those 24 years, he said, and now he wants to do something authentic.
"In 24 years, I've been to a lot of Thai restaurants in North Carolina, some good — some bad," Aparoj said. "I have the confidence to say mine is one of the best."
Thai @ Main Street will serve lunch and dinner. It may open without alcohol, but plans to add beer and wine.
The new owners moved into the space just after the new year and announced themselves to the neighborhood Saturday with a banner in the window. Aparoj said the entire restaurant has been renovated, "from the back door to the front." He said he added new stoves, a charcoal grill and new seating for more than 50 diners.
Aparoj waited eight years between opening restaurants, but said he's already working on a third, bringing a chef friend from Thailand to North Carolina next month.