Ayutthaya, one of the first Thai restaurants ever on Capitol Hill, is preparing to celebrate a milestone 30th birthday this year.
Pai Boon, the current owner of Ayutthaya and Bangkok native, attributes the restaurant’s popularity to its location and its early start on Thai cuisine in Seattle in the 1980s.
“When we opened, there were not that many Thai restaurants and the people at that time didn’t know about Thai food,” said Boon. “From then on to now, a lot of people know about Thai food.”
Named after an ancient Siamese kingdom, the E Pike at Harvard restaurant has been around long enough to see a robust dining district grow up around it.
Boon arrived in Seattle as a student and later worked at a hotel before taking over ownership of the restaurant 18 years ago from his friend, the original proprietor. He has since worked to keep the restaurant’s menu and decor current for the modern-day crowd and the increasing competition from the rising number of Thai food establishments around the city.
“We’ve remodeled this restaurant two times now,” said Boon. “We just put a new bar in — before they didn’t have a bar here. We refurbished all the tables.”
With the huge popularity of Thai cuisine in Seattle, the number of restaurants have exploded over the recent years. Yelp counts more than 200 Thai restaurants around Seattle and Thai food has become more popular than pizza.
“Back then [business] was really good, but now it’s OK,” Boon said . Regardless of competition, however, Ayutthaya has continued to be a favorite for locals and a place to return to for a good meal.
“It’s one of my favorite date spots… Intimate is a word to describe it,” said Cherry Sur Bête, the retail manager at Atomic Cosmetics, a block from Ayutthaya. Sur Bête attributes the restaurant’s longevity to the mood created by Ayutthaya’s not-too-big size and attention to quality and presentation.
The staff at the restaurant also credits Ayutthaya’s success to how well they work with each other. “It’s not a family business, but I’m close with my boss,” said waitress AJ.
The restaurant hasn’t yet organized anything to celebrate its milestone.
“We don’t have any big plans, but we might… We’re still thinking about it,” Boon said .
He hopes that Ayutthaya can continue to be a cornerstone in Capitol Hill for years to come.
“We’ve been open for a long time so I hope it just stays. I hope the restaurant stays stable.”
Ayutthaya can be found at 727 E Pike. You can learn more at ayutthayathai.com.