Bringing real Thai food to Cleveland drove Kiwi Wongpeng to open Thai Thai in Lakewood six years ago — meals that "my mom would actually make for me at home,” she says. Her dishes, some of which are still made by her mother, who helps in the kitchen, are unapologetically authentic. The fiery flavor of true Bangkok-style street food right here in The Land.
But when she’s not helming Thai Thai’s kitchen, these are a few of Wongpeng’s favorite local haunts.
Longtime favorite. “Lately, I've been going to India Garden in Lakewood. I like it there because it’s local and family owned. I've been going there since I was young. I grew up here [in Lakewood], and you know, it's just a lot of memories. India Garden is the only one that I went when I was young and is still open in business.”
Easy drinking. “I’ve been going to Iggy’s Bar in Lakewood, because it’s literally next to Thai Thai. I get their special drinks that they make. It changes every week. And you know, it's affordable. It's cheap, but it's cool. It's not too crazy in there. It's not one of those bars that, it's like, you wait forever to get one drink, you know?”
For the kids. “My kids, my boyfriend and I like to go to Korea House in Cleveland. That site is also family owned. My kids love Korean barbecue because it's a fun activity that we can do as a family. I always work and then I really don't have a lot of time to sit down and eat dinner. So, every once in a while, we find a time and we go sit down and eat barbecue as a family.”
Tamales and tequila. “I like El Carnicero in Lakewood's tamale tots! Their food is really good, and of course, margaritas. I do the flight so I can try three of them.”
New experience. “One place that I just discovered is called the Gathering Kitchen in Lakewood. They are not a restaurant, but they do premade frozen dinners. And then they have cooking classes there. I really want to go do that. You know, take time off and do new things.”
Inspiring women cooking in Cleveland. “Jill Vedaa of Salt. Jill is really talented, and I love the way her and her business partner Jessica do business; they do a lot for the community. We don’t have as many woman chefs in Cleveland here. That’s why I wanted to become one of them. Men… they're wonderful. They're awesome people. But it's just like, hey! We can do it, too. And we're doing a really good job.”
Wonder what a burger chef eats on his days off? Eugene's Michael Schoen fills us in (hint: it's more burgers).