This is the start of the new section on the website.  I will be highlighting businesses, both within and outside the food arena that are owner-operated and on the smaller side.  Some you may know about and others I hope will be new to you.  This is not a review in the traditional sense but you can be sure that if I choose to write about them, I am a fan. The plan is to make the postings about the people as much as the place and the products.  I hope you will  enjoy my perspective and visit the places to create your own.

* Photos by Laura Quattrociocchi

This is Esan, 696 Park Avenue, Rochester NY. A small family run restaurant specailizing in the cuisine of Thailand.  Below are Bounkong Douangratdy and his wife, Kinalone, who have owned and run the place for 21 years.  Before that, Bounkong was chef and one of the owners of the Bangkok Restaurant, on State Street. They were there for 9 years. That makes 30 years of cooking Thai food for the local community, if you are math impaired.

I met Bounkong when I started the construction on my State Street store in 1990 and have been a regular customer ever since.  He and his wife are from Laos, a neighboring country of Thailand, but they both visit Thailand often, to perfect the preparation process of their food. Both greet me by name every time I visit, and Kinalone recognizes my voice (and my order) when I call for take out. I am certain that this is more the norm than the exception.

      Esan takes up two storefronts on Park avenue, one dedicated to the dining area, and one has the kitchen and an upstairs dining room.  A beautiful outdoor area abuts the other Park Avenue restaurants near Berkley.  The food is enough to bring me here on weekly basis, but every time I see the two of them working, I feel even better about my spending choice.  This is part of what I call "My Mother's economics". I know who is making my food, that the money is going to a family run place that in turn uses local purveyors and spends their income in this community.  This is an overall macro-economic windfall.  And frankly, I just like them. Local place, local people, local spending, and terrific food.  And yeah, that makes a difference.

This is a delicious summer drink we just had to order. It is a Thai Iced Tea. Made with Thai tea and sweetened condensed milk and spices.  A refreshing drink with  a pinkish red color.

As an appetizer, we had two orders of veggie spring rolls, one fried and one fresh.  I can't order a meal, in house or take out, without adding this to my order. Speaking of that, this is not only a great place for al-fresco dining in the nice weather, but one of my go to places for take out during those rough winter evenings.  Quick and reasonable. Don't bother asking for delivery, it's not that kind of place.

      For lunch we ordered two dishes. The main courses came in separate bowls and we each had a plate of rice. Very convenient for sharing.  The first photo is Veggie Coconut Green Curry, and the second is Panang Chicken- a red curry coconut sauce. I am not going to hyper-evalutate every ingredient and mouthful, but rather tell you that everything I have had here, I would order again. This visit, and over the last 20 years.  Our lunch came to $24.80 without tip, and that included the hot tea we ordered. 

       Other dishes that Buonkong recommends are their authentic dishes of Thailand, including "Hell Beef" and "Drunken Master Noodle".  I recommend a visit to get the full info.

      Pictured above is the outdoor verandah and "Thom", the long time waiter and absolute personality of the dining area. He has been serving and entertaining the customers for over 20 years and is much a part of the place as Buonkong and his wife.  He tells me he is semi-retired now, between his gentile ribbing and teasing of his customers (including me), most of which he knows by name. If you are lucky enough to be there on the days he is working, the show is worth as much as the meal.

      Look for the green and white awning if you are driving down Park Avenue, as it can hide the signage. But this also adds to the allure of the place for me.  It may be "On the Beaten Path", but I think it is overlooked too often, by too many. After all, there are only two other places on the block that have been there that long, so you know they are doing at least a few things right.

Esan Thai Restaurant   
696 Park Avenue                   Mon - Thurs: 11:15 am - 9:30 pm
Rochester, NY 14607            Fri - Sat: 11:15 am - 10:30 pm, Sunday: 3:00 pm -9:30 pm    

Beer and wine available.    Tell them you saw it here, if you're a first timer.

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