Tucked among the businesses in a secluded part of McDowell Plaza in Harker Heights sits a lemongrass-scented restaurant that serves authentic Thai cuisine.
Thai Orchid took over the Harker Heights restaurant space at 600 Indian Trail in 2011. Since then, word of mouth and Facebook have drawn customers from as far away as Round Rock and Austin and the business has grown, said manager Sumittra Somsong. Her mother, Tuanta Rose, is chef and owner of the restaurant.
“My mom wanted to own a business because she loves cooking,” Somsong said. “She has experience as a chef (for) 20 years.”
A passion for cooking took Rose from Los Angeles to Florida, Houston, Austin then Harker Heights.
The owner of the restaurant that was formerly in the McDowell Plaza space sold Rose the business when he and his mother returned to Thailand. Rose had worked at the restaurant, so the change of ownership was an easy choice for her, she said.
Somsong is the oldest sibling in the family. Her brother and sister drive from Austin to run the “What’s Up Thai Foods?” cart in San Marcos, where he prepares the same recipes that his mom does in Heights.
All of their recipes are the “real deal” with traditional Thai ingredients, and the fried food is cooked in vegetable oil, Somsong said.
Eric Benson of Round Rock is a Thai Orchid fan.
“I love the place,” he said. “It’s great for vegetarians, because there are lots of options.”
The personal touch that Thai Orchid gives customers adds to the good food and natural ingredients of the menu. Somsong remembers that Liz Elliott and her husband, Jon, of Florence always order chicken pad Thai, dumplings, stir-fried vegetables and coconut soup.
“We’ve tried lots of different Thai restaurants, but this one is really good,” Elliott said. “Each plate has its own individual taste and is not greasy.”
Entrees at Thai Orchid are listed by their Thai names, so diners are encouraged to consult the servers about the menu.
“Drunken noodle is called pad kee moa in Thai, so that’s the name we use,” Somsong said.
The restaurant plans to develop weekend specials and to promote a lunch buffet with soup, appetizers and entrée choices with regular menu items.
Seasonal desserts will arrive in a few weeks, but patrons waiting for the summertime favorite Sticky Rice with Mango will have to wait a tad longer.
“Mangos are not quite fully ripened yet,” Somsong said.