Recently North Anthony Corridor gained some delicious and exotic cuisine by way of Baan Thai Restaurant. The restaurant has been a foodie favorite in Fort Wayne for 14 years and had previously been at a smaller location in the Jo-Ann Fabric shopping center on Coldwater Road. While Baan Thai is my favorite Thai restaurant, I am certainly not biased…it has won Fort Wayne Newspapers Reader’s Choice for Best Thai in Fort Wayne for the last seven years in a row!
Owner Pete Rugsaken has cooking in his DNA. His dad was a chef and his mom was a chef, so of course he attended Ball State University to be a ….engineer. Bet you didn’t see that coming. But while Pete was attending college he worked at restaurants to support himself. For three years upon graduation he worked in engineering and absolutely hated it. His true love was in the restaurant industry and, lucky for us, he chose to move to Fort Wayne to start up the beloved Baan Thai.
In a town that has no shortage of restaurant options, the thing that makes Baan Thai stand out is its combination of fresh ingredients, fragrant dishes adorned with carved vegetable art, a flavor profile that dances on your tongue, and the friendliness of the staff. The restaurant is home to 15 employees who are from all parts of the world including Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, and Burma. According to Pete the secret to getting good quality service from your employees is to treat them like family. By caring for them, they in turn care for the restaurant and want to see it succeed. This is showcased in the way they care for their customers. Every time I visit for my dose of garlic tilapia (Thai hot, natch) I am greeted by name with a huge smile..its the little things, but it truly makes you feel like family.
Being of Sri Lankan descent, I am always curious to know if ethnic food that is served in Fort Wayne is authentic or if it is Americanized. I asked Pete and he said that similar to most countries Thailand has distinct regions, which prepare food differently. Southern Thailand serves very spicy coconut-based curries, Northeastern Thailand serves spicy yet simple fare, Northern Thailand serves boiled foods with little coconut but lots of herbs, and Central Thailand serves refined dishes often infused with Chinese ingredients and a mixture of sweetness versus only spiciness. The food of Central Thailand is that which is served most predominately in American Thai restaurants and what Baan Thai serves as well. Pete said Baan Thai’s food is authentic, but oftentimes there are ingredients that you cannot reasonably get in the States and when that is the case they will substitute ingredients. (I am going to Bangkok in November so I will be sure to eat lots of dishes just to make sure…it will be rough, but someone has to do it.)
If you haven’t been to the new location yet, be sure to drop by. Need some dish recommendations? Pete’s favorite is pad Thai and mine is green curry with shrimp. Pro-tip: Thai hot is the hottest that you can go. If you are getting a curry it amplifies it so tread lightly if you have delicate taste buds!
Checkout their website for restaurant location, hours, menu, and information on Thailand.
Until next time – Cheers!