Restaurateurs share their culture with clientele
By JJ Velasquez
Noi Owens, Nart Kemaleelakul and Mam Hubbard were colleagues at a Thai restaurant in downtown Austin before opening their own restaurant, IM Thai Cuisine, in Sunset Valley in 2010.
Some may think the name of the restaurant represents someone's initials or perhaps the contraction of "I" and "am," but "im" is actually a Thai word meaning full or satisfied, Owens said.
They said what drove them to open their restaurant was a passion for sharing their culture. They hoped to serve authentic Thai fare that satisfied their customers.
"That's what we have here at IM," Owens said. "We like to please our guests like in Thai culture."
So far the co-owners said they are faring well in that department. Owens said they receive many returning customers who compliment the food as being authentic and fresh. The restaurant had a Yelp rating of 4.5 as of late July, as many of the reviews have given IM Thai Cuisine a full five stars.
At lunchtime the restaurant serves unlimited soup and salad, which is free with the purchase of an entree. The co-owners believe this sets them apart from other Thai restaurants in the area.
Among the most popular dishes are the pad kee mao, pad thai, pad prik khing and the restaurant's assortment of curries.
The pad kee mao is a stir-fried rice noodle dish complemented with Thai chili, mushrooms, fresh basil, tomatoes, onions and bell peppers, along with the customer's choice of meat.
The pad prik khing features a choice of meat, stir-fried green beans, lime leaves and bell peppers coated in red chili sauce.
They opened their second restaurant on Buda's Main Street in February.
The 1,235-square-foot Buda restaurant employs six workers, the co-owners said. The entrees at both locations range in price from $8.95 to $14.95.
"We are new in Buda, so we have to get to know [the customers]," Owens said.
The co-owners said that, apart from Buda, most of that location's customers come from Wimberley, Kyle and Austin's Onion Creek area.
The co-owners said they do not expect to expand anytime soon, as they are focusing on their two locations.
If anything, they may add items to the menu, they said, but they are still learning about their new clientele.
One thing that will not change, however, is the flavor of the food, Owens said. She said that although she is open to catering to the customers' dietary needs and preferences, she does not want to water down the cooking.
"We try to keep our style real Thai," Owens said. "We want to keep our concept."
IM Thai Cuisine, 5207 Brodie Lane, Ste. 200, Sunset Valley, 512-892-2744, www.imthaicuisine.com
Hours: Sun.–Thu. 11 a.m.–9:30 p.m.; Fri.–Sat. 11 a.m.–10:00 p.m.