Teton Thai is back — at village

By Rachel Stevens on January 31, 2011

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The new digs beside the Ranch Lot at Teton Village.

For town dwellers, there was almost unanimous heartbreak when Teton Thai decided last year to move to Teton Village.

We’ve traded our hop, skip and a jump away hole-in-the-wall for an après refuge. After making my first visit to the new location (and a second one just days later) I must admit, it is not a bad trade.

But beware of impostors.

I went to Teton Thai on a Wednesday night assuming that would be the best time to get in and talk to some of the staff without there being much business. Wrong. My friend and I had to wait about five minutes for a seat at the bar.

Sensing our surprise, server Whitney Bell replied, “Oh, this is nothing. You should see us on a Friday or Saturday.”

When I asked co-owner Sam Johnson about how busy he has been, he humbly admitted, “Our numbers have tripled from last year.”

Interior at the new Teton Thai, which seats 28.

The move has been a positive venture for Teton Thai on almost all planes. After being a hidden treasure in downtown Jackson for 10 years, the restaurant founded by Johnson’s wife, Suchada, faced the prospect of redevelopment of its building, which would have resulted in a forced move. Along with that, the aging building was costing more money than it was producing.

“No one knew we were bleeding internally,” Sam recounts.

After looking to relocate to about 15 sites in town, Sam was approached by a Shooting Star developer about moving to the village. The change could not have come at a better time for the crew, and they started making plans.

As I looked around the new restaurant amazed by the cool building and how convenient everything is, Sam clued me in. “I’d love to say that this all just happened to turn out this way, but it didn’t: We planned it. We spent a lot of time planning every little thing. Like, now you don’t have to go through the kitchen to get to the bathroom.”

Sam in action behind the newly licensed full bar.

It has paid off. The still-petite dining room (seating 28 instead of nine) has the same feel of classy ski-bum family as the previous in-town Teton Thai, complete with a flat-screen TV stocked with continuous ski porn. The food is just as delicious and maybe even better thanks to the new kitchen and fully equipped grill. Everything is almost perfect for Teton Thai.

Almost.

The small but annoying hiccup is the new restaurant in Teton Thai’s old location, called “Teton Thai Plate.” This has caused obvious confusion. On Facebook, at least two friends have posted status updates such as, “Thank the lord. Teton Thai behind the bookstore has reopened as ‘Teton Thai Plate.’” Although it seems absurd that someone not affiliated with Teton Thai would open a Thai restaurant in the old location and call it almost the same name, that’s what happened, and Sam has been trying to clear up a few things.

“I don’t care that they opened up a restaurant in our old location. I don’t even care that it’s a Thai restaurant. What bothers me is that they used our name,” he says. “We are Teton Thai, my wife and I. It took a lot of time, energy and care to make that name what it means to people in this valley.”

Confusion between the two has caused people with reservations for the real Teton Thai to show up at Teton Thai Plate, and radio advertising for Thai Plate has regular customers coming in to ask questions of Sam.

“We’re not them. They’re not us. That’s really what I want our customers to know,” says Sam. “There is so much positivity in this time now, I don’t want it to be affected by this annoyance. We have this amazing place, business is good, my wife and I have a new daughter. Everything is really good.”

The menu features more appetizers and all the old favorites.

I couldn’t help but agree with Sam. The new Teton Thai is complete with a full bar, a gorgeous design, friendly smiles, a welcoming deck, familiar faces and that authentic, delicious food we’ve all come to crave. And it’s even located conveniently at the Ranch parking lot, so that after a long day of ripping at the resort, Teton Thai is on the way back to your car.

After talking to Sam about the success of the Driggs location — operated by Suchada’s sister Sununta and her husband, Ryan Haworth — and the recent mention in the New York Times, I asked him if he was planning on opening up any more Teton Thais in the valley.

“Besides the ones that are happening without our help? No, I think we’re doing all right for a while.”

(Photos by Shane Lindsay; click to enlarge)

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Posted under Business, Food, Ski Resorts

4 Comments so far

  1. js January 31, 2011 4:12 pm

    Best of luck to Sam and Suchada.

    The building that used to house Teton Thai, off North Cache across from Teton Theater (Stage Stop Mall?), is owned by former Teton County Commissioner Jim Darwiche. Jim got the Town Council to approve an ambitious redevelopment, with lodging, on the site. But I guess those plans have been put on hold.

    The owner of the new “Teton Thai Plate” has a Thai-sounding name.

    I seem to recall the same thing happening when Gordo’s deli closed. The replacement was “Gordito’s,” no?

  2. Mike January 31, 2011 9:03 pm

    Love the idea of guest bloggers – keep it up! This ‘Rachel’ have any other hidden creative talents? Say, maybe design, writing, or playlists…

    Miss the easy lunch and take-out dinner in town, but trading for a better ‘date night’ locale and apres seems worth it.

    Sam and Suchada have done great building a loyal clientele; no doubt that will serve them well in the long run. Hope to see them out at TV soon.

  3. js February 3, 2011 2:24 pm

    To clarify, the owner of Teton Thai Plate is Sam Comchomnon, who is married to Suchada’s mother.

    It’s not that big a deal, but the owners of the original Teton Thai just wish Mr. Comchomnon had chosen a different name for his restaurant, and they formally have asked him to change it.

    I hear the food at Thai Plate is pretty good, with a menu similar to its predecessor.

  4. Harry May 16, 2011 7:19 pm

    It does seem ridiculous that the name “Teton Thai Plate” is being used. If locals are confused, imagine what the tourists will think. We all know how intelligent they are!

    It makes perfect sense that the real Teton Thai would kill it at the village in the wintertime. I just hope the real Teton Thai can continue to prosper at Teton Village in the summertime.

    As a Wilson resident, it’s actually closer to me now, but everyone I know who lives downtown won’t be making the trip out to the village for dinner because no one wants to drive drunk back to town. In the winter, we are all out there already, so it’s convenient

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