By Madison Lewis and Jessica Isaacs
Armed with recipes handed down through generations, Bounthanh Norvang left her home in Laos nine years ago to begin a new life in the United States. Not long after, she opened what would soon become one of the High Country’s most popular Thai restaurants.
After the move, Norvang found herself in a place that’s different from her home in Laos in many ways.
“The city is bigger here than in my city,” she said. “There is more population, more higher education and technology. The biggest thing is that it snows here, but over there it is warm and there is a lot of sun.”
Despite the challenges that come with moving to a new country, she and her family were ready to bring authentic Thai cuisine to American palates. They opened Cha Da Thai in downtown Boone, after running the first location in Winston-Salem.
“We work together to have a family business so we can show our customers real Thai food,” she said.
The High Country’s favorite Thai food is crafted with love from authentic family recipes that Norvang has mastered over the years.
“The food shows Thai culture, and the culture is beautiful in Thailand,” she said. “Customers like our food and we like to make them happy. I think people in Boone like Thai food a lot; it is fresh and healthy.”
Cha Da Thai fans enjoy classic dishes like Pad Thai, as well as other noodle dishes like Pad See Ew and Pad Nam Prik Pao. Also popular in the restaurant are soups like Tom Yum and Thom Kha and classic curries like Kaeng Daeng, Kaeng Paneng and many more. Great lunch specials offer a budget-friendly way to try something new or keep going back for your favorites.
Norvang said fresh, delicious ingredients are part of the reason that Thai food is so popular in the High Country and in the U.S.
“Thai food is a lot healthier,” she said. “We eat a lot of fresh vegetables and rice.”
Excellent customer service adds to the already great dining experience that many people enjoy when they stop to eat at Cha Da Thai.
“I am always happy to talk to customers and students from ASU. We can learn a lot from each other,” Norvang said. “I take care of customers and make it feel like home when they come eat here. They are free to sit when we are not busy and enjoy a meal here and I love sharing our culture.
“We get a lot of students, local people and tourists, too. We just want to share our culture and make our customers feel welcome like family.”
While the great food is reason enough to check out Cha Da Thai, Bounthanh and her family work to teach their customers and their community about life in Southeast Asia, sharing goods and traditions with their guests each day.
Every morning, she begins the day serving wine and food to representations of both Buddha and “the good king of Thailand,” a celebrated leader in the country’s history. This daily ritual is symbolic of the way that Buddha and the king serve the people of Thailand.
“They take care of us, so we take care of them,” Bounthanh said.
When they walk through the door, guests see a silver fish named “Ngen” who lives in a large tank within the restaurant.
“It is believed that these fish are good luck. Some are gold and some are silver,” Norvang said. “I bought him in Charlotte and brought him here. He has been with us for seven years, bringing us luck.”
A corner of the restaurant is dedicated displaying one-of-a-kind handcrafted items that have been imported from Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Guests can purchase hand-woven tapestries made of 100 percent silk, beautifully detailed handbags and passport bags, intricate paper lanterns and more.
The commitment that Norvang and her family and staff members show to sharing Southeast Asian culture with their friends in North Carolina makes the restaurant an interesting and rewarding dining experience, not just a place to stop for dinner. Cha Da Thai has enjoyed so much success in the High Country that the family plans to expand the business and open new locations in the future.
Cha Da Thai is located at 173 Howard St. in downtown Boone and offers outdoor seating. Call 828-268-0434 for more information.