A little more than a year after opening their hit restaurant Thaihey Thaifood in Baton Rouge, couple Orawin “Nim” Yimchalam and Nathan Greene and have closed up shop on Lee Drive for a relocation to New Orleans, lured in part by a prime French Quarter address “too good to turn down,” Greene says.
The couple first shared news of their move on Instagram in August, at the same time announcing their last service at the Baton Rouge restaurant. The aftermath has been bittersweet, Greene tells Eater, saying the reception they received upon announcing their closure made them that much more appreciative of their Baton Rouge customers.
Still, the opportunity to move their business to the French Quarter address — 308 Decatur Street, previously home to the second outpost of Cafe Envie — was too good to pass up. “We’d been batting around the idea of New Orleans, either relocating or opening a second restaurant, so we were keeping an eye out,” Greene says. “We saw this ideal spot that was just ready to go, and we decided there’s not going to be any better time than now.”
The pair is now in the space, receiving equipment shipments and painting the interior, gearing up for a mid to late October opening. “Things are moving along,” Greene says. Yimchalam is the chef at Thaihey, building the menu of modern Thai dishes, a concise range of items including deep fried frog leg marinated in red curry; soup hang waw, or spicy and sour Northeastern Thai oxtail soup; tom yum boran noodle soup; massaman ribeye curry; and pumpkin chicken curry. There’s also a separate vegan menu, with starters, noodle, rice, and curry dishes. Yimchalam is from Lopburi, Thailand, where her mother ran her own restaurant, and where Yimchalam got her own start in restaurants.
The pair first opened Thaihey Thaifood, their first restaurant venture after selling food at a farmers market for a time, in Baton Rouge’s White Star Market in January 2020. The food hall was short-lived, closing at the onset of the pandemic in March 2020. Not long after, in May 2020, Greene and Yimchalam opened Thaihey Thaifood on Lee Drive, with help from a loyal customer who was also a commercial realtor.
“Luckily, we’d generated some buzz in that short amount of time at the market,” Greene says. “It really helped us get up and running again quickly.”
While running Thaihey on Lee Drive, Greene says they met a number of New Orleans restaurant proprietors who would come in for a visit, which he and Yimchalam would then reciprocate — folks they’ve since been able to consult. “We’ve been in the business for such a short amount of time, but we’ve built a small network, had some conversations about getting set up here.”
The couple is leasing the space on Decatur Street, which will be called Thaihey Nola, and plan to be there as long as they can make it work. “A big part of the appeal was when we looked around nearby blocks, we realized what we have is going to bring something pretty different to the area,” Greene says. “In talking with other store owners, too, they’ve said the same thing.”
“We’re a mom and pop shop, you know. This is such a good opportunity for our family to have,” says Greene. “We can’t wait to get started.”
Thaihey Nola is expected to open in mid to late October for lunch, happy hour, and dinner.