Hidden gems are often neighborhood favorites tucked away somewhere one might least expect them, but well loved and patronized by those who live nearby. That’s certainly the case with 1001 Thai, whose straightforward name takes its cues from its location at the intersection of 10th and Northampton Streets and the types of cuisines it serves.
Located in a brick Victorian home, 1001 Thai may initially look familiar to those who might drive past it and expect to see signs for something else—Cherubina Ristorante, which closed in 2016 when owners Fran and Harry Cregar retired. Dean Curtis and his chef partner Pheraphat Phromsom (he goes by Peter) took over the space in May 2016, making extensive renovations and upgrades in preparation for their November opening.
That location has served them well—but in a way that might surprise readers.
“We have a lot of customers who used to be Cherubina customers,” says Curtis.
On the surface, it might not make much sense— it’s not as though one well-regarded Italian place replaced another. But when you consider the fact that both restaurants feature scratch-made food from family recipes that have been tweaked over time, the cuisine type that’s offered almost doesn’t matter. It’s about the approach. Consider, too, that the space, whose plaster walls have been “refloated” and repainted in a bright, warm yellow, still affords the same level of intimacy: Guests are dining in what amounts to someone’s home. And they experience the same level of welcoming hospitality for which Harry and Fran Cregar were known—20 years in one location certainly can attest to that.
The space suits the owners well. Phromsom, a 48-year-old native of Bangkok Thailand, says, “I thought I’d like to have a restaurant just like this, in a home.” The pull of America was strong, ever since he was a child. He arrived in Los Angeles with two suitcases and $400. He credits his mom for teaching him to cook; he started helping prep vegetables around the age of seven. When he came to America, his first job in the city involved making Thai desserts in a restaurant. “I knew my dream was America; I came prepared,” he says.
Curtis has something of an itinerant background—his day job involves industrial design— but he’s worked in various jobs over the years: on yachts in the Atlantic and ferrying small planes in the Pacific, as a well driller, a bush pilot in Alaska and working for the Chicago Board of Trade. “I’m a regular Renaissance man,” says Curtis. He met Phromsom, who, prior to running the kitchen at 1001 Thai, worked at Kow Thai Take Out in Allentown. They decided they wanted to open something less casual and a bit bigger, and began looking for suitable locations—they had even dined at Cherubina, which is partly how they came to know and like the space. A few days after it became available, they jumped at the opportunity, but not without upgrading the facility considerably—the building, of course, dates to about 1897 and needed all kinds of improvements, including a new roof, upgraded plumbing and renovation (and new equipment) for the kitchen