Edward Vanegas says he's drawing a line between traditional Thailand and the vital Thailand of today with his Longmont eatery, Urban Thai. "There's an older senior population that is the traditional Thai people that you come in contact with. They are very connected to the traditions," says Vanegas, who officially opened his restaurant on Monday in Longmont's Prospect neighborhood. "And there's a very contemporary urban youth that is multiplying like rabbits. And they are opening up new businesses. They are the startups of everything right now. You see them in the malls, you see them on the street. And that urban youth is what we were trying to capture here."
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Since opening his clothing boutique Suburban Hill there six years ago, Vanegas has been a major force in the shaping of Prospect, a funky oasis in decidedly un-funky Longmont.
Vanegas is also the man behind the weekly Prospect Eats food truck festival that's in its third year. "It became this huge-ass hit," he says. "There's about 1,200 to 1,500 people out there every Monday, live music on stage, fourteen to fifteen food trucks, the menus are really diverse. And it's not just attracting people from Prospect."
To take part in the fun, Vanegas and Chansingthong bought a vintage hot dog cart and turned it into Tuk-Tuk, which serves the kind of Thai street food that Chansingthong grew up eating and cooking. When Vanegas saw the lines forming at Tuk-Tuk every Monday, he got the idea for Urban Thai.
On one of his many trips as owner of the wholesale textile company Suburban SIlk, Vanegas fell in love with the interior of a Blade Runner-esque Thai joint in Bremen, Germany, and asked a designer to help him create a similar space.
With a centerpiece that's a golden Bodhi tree that Vanegas had shipped from Thailand, as well as muted colors and a sure-to-be raucous community table, this space fits well with the diverse architecture of Prospect. "We say in a positive way: This is not the Thai restaurant next to the drycleaners in ABC town," he says. "This in an urban, cool destination for authentic Thai."
But for all the talk of urbanity, Chansingthong and Vanegas know they have the cred to serve authentic cuisine. "Paul is the youngest of ten," Vanegas points out. "That's all the training you need." Nephews, sisters and brothers were drafted from Thailand to help get the restaurant up and running. Many of the dishes, like a spicy drunken noodle, come from old family recipes; there are also Asian-fusion innovations like a green curry pizza.
Considering the history of the country, it makes sense for a fabric seller to start serving Thai food. "SIlk is a huge component of Thailand. We all know Thai silk," Vanegas says. "And the family culture of eating and dining is important to Thai people. It's the family connection."
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Urban Thai opens for dinner at 4:30 p.m. seven days a week, and also offers delivery to customers in the Prospect neighborhood. Keep reading for more photos of the new restaurant.