NaKorn, The Long Version of the Story

Restaurant + Hospitality

To eat NaKorn food is an education.

In his show “Somebody Feed Phil,” Phil Rosenthal drops little bits of advice and wisdom as he somehow eats without weight gain. He mentions that traveling is the best way to become a well-rounded person. You meet people as you eat. A bond happens when you share meals together. Food makes people happy and those memories forge friendships.

We are blessed to have that bond of food and friendship with NaKorn

Food and Friendship

Mina + Sam are the two best friends behind this women-owned and operated business. To share a meal with them is a doubly happy experience. First, you get the happiness that comes with watching Mina and Sam interact. They have been inseparable friends since the 7th grade. They moved to the States together in 1996. It is impossible to not smile as they smile at each other while telling stories. The second is the food.

We could go on and on about the food. It’s incredible. Highly crave-able. Authentic. Modern.

Not Your Typical Thai

The vision is to take the foods they ate growing up in Thailand and give it a modern twist. Most likely you have never had Thai food like this. Most of us have had American versions or street food versions of Thai. 

Sam and Mina immigrated to the United States together in 1996, both filled with excitement and sadness. Excitement for the unknown opportunities ahead yet sadness to leave their mother country. They smile together as they tell the story of crying on the plane from Thailand to the States. One would uncontrollably cry while the other would offer words of hope and comfort, only to switch roles as the other was consoled. They would be a day’s flight away from their home and family, yet there was this joyful anticipation. They were passionate about new experiences. They were excited about Cleveland. Yes, Cleveland. 

They had many options in front of them of where to study abroad. Sydney, Australia was too expensive, as was anywhere in England. So when friends of theirs emphatically invited them to Cleveland, they left Bangkok for Cleveland and stayed there for 3 months before seeking a new home. They can now say, over 20 years later, that they like to visit Cleveland and can enjoy its beauty. But at that time it just wasn’t what they pictured living in America to be. 

From Cleveland, the two found not only a home in Chicago but a new path. Two important things happened during this time: both ladies started working at a Thai restaurant in Chicago and most importantly they started craving the food they grew up eating in Bangkok. 

Memories Were About Food

Neither Sam nor Mina had much experience in the kitchen. Neither one would say they were passionate about food at that time. What they were passionate about was family and home. Yet for both Mina and Sam, family and Thailand memories were about food. 

Their cooking started first for just the two of them. They now laugh at the huge pots of food they made just the two of them. Excess food led to house parties which were a precursor for NaKorn. These monthly food gatherings put into place two main features of NaKorn: hospitality and the sharing of their childhood dishes.

Food Without Compromise

Both Mina and Sam talk about their childhood food being made from scratch. As children, street food was unrefined. It was a short cut to the quality of the product and time put into dishes at home. Both have memories of passionate preparations, though long and tedious, put into family meals. 

As a child, Sam would be curious about food, and as a little girl was allowed to slice the vegetables with the direct instruction to make them “uniform and thin.” This memory still carries weight. Sam’s grandmother saw the lack of uniformity to what Sam had chopped, threw the vegetables out, and had Sam try again. The attention to detail, the quality of products, the calculated preparation are a thread through Sam’s story of managing restaurants in Chicago as well as running NaKorn. Sam will not compromise. Though it’s not an angry or stoic action for Sam, she smiles as she leads. She has both principles and passion.

With a Deep Sense of Thai Hospitality

While Sam managed restaurants, Mina worked very successfully as a graphic designer freelancing as well as being on staff with major companies. The combination of co-owners with one as manager, the other as designer, and both as the best of friends is powerful. 

The two did everything but the electric in their invitingly decorated restaurant. Wooden bird cages from Thailand hang around the suspended lights. The former king of Thailand Bhumibol Adulyadej, has a regal portrait painted on the main wall as you enter the restaurant. There is a visual education and inculturation the moment you step into NaKorn, yet also a deep sense of hospitality, it feels as though you have been invited into their home as they share with you the food that shaped them. 

An Education You Want

The knowledgeable and dedicated staff will educate you on the Thai influence on their handcrafted and unique cocktails while explaining the significance of Thai’s three textures and three flavors to each dish. While enjoying the beautiful plating of the food, Sam herself gracefully visits each table of patrons to welcome them and extend to them signature Thai hospitality. 

To eat NaKorn is an education, an education that you want!

Nakorn Thai Kitchen // 1622 Orrington Ave., Evanston, IL 60201

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