Global Cuisine

La Mai Thai Kitchen Opens in Edgewater, Offering a Taste of Thai Street Food

Owner Orrapan Botthaisong deisgned the space to be relaxed and welcoming.
Owner Orrapan Botthaisong deisgned the space to be relaxed and welcoming. La Mai Thai Kitchen/Instagram
"I want to show Colorado real Thai street food," says Orrapan Botthaisong, the owner of La Mai Thai Kitchen, which opened at 2001 Sheridan Boulevard in Edgewater last week. Botthaisong is a co-owner of Daughter Thai Kitchen & Bar, which debuted in 2019.

When she moved to Denver from Thailand to attend school a decade ago, Botthaisong had never been to another country before. Though she'd taken English classes from a native Thai speaker before coming to the United States, she says that learning to speak the language in Colorado was a whole new experience. "I started from zero," she notes.

Along the way, she became friends with others in Denver's Thai community, including her Daughter Thai partner, Ounjit Hardacre, who had previously opened Citizen Thai Bistro in Golden. Through the experience of opening Daughter Thai, Botthaisong learned about running a restaurant, something she's long dreamed of doing herself. Now that dream is a reality.

"I don't think I would be here without [Hardacre]," Botthaisong adds. "From her, I learned about restaurant culture." She says she's ready to adapt that knowledge for her own concept. 
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Basil fried rice is the owner's favorite dish.
La Mai Thai Kitchen/Instagram
La Mai is Botthaisong's mother's name. "It's a way to feel close to my family and give them a little gift," she says, noting that she had to leave behind everyone she knew when she moved to Denver. Her mother "tells everyone in Thailand that she has a restaurant with her own name in America," Botthaisong adds.

While Daughter Thai leans more toward fine dining, Botthaisong wants to bring a younger, more relaxed energy to La Mai, as well as her own take on the cuisine of her family. One of her parents is from northern Thailand, while the other is from the south, so she was raised with a mix of both. "The south eats more spicy, but the north is more creamy," she explains. "I have to cook in my own style."

She started working in a kitchen when she was young. "I knew how to cook rice at ten years old," she recalls. "I can cook rice with my eyes closed." The food at La Mai reflects the kind of homestyle dishes she grew up eating and helping to make for her younger sibling. 
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Isaan steak is made with soy sauce, roasted rice powder and chili.
La Mai Thai Kitchen/Instagram
Opening the restaurant has taken over a year; for the past three months, Botthaisong concentrated on perfecting the recipes with her kitchen team. She expects to keep adapting the menu as she learns more about what appeals to her guests, but she is particularly proud of the basil fried rice as well as the crispy chicken wings made from "grandma's recipe," which are marinated for 24 hours and tossed in a house sweet sauce. The dish was such a hit during the restaurant's first week of business that it sold out.

"I have so many foods in my mind that I want to show people," Botthaisong says. "If you go to Thailand, there are thousands of street foods, but I cannot cook them all; we have a small kitchen," she admits. Instead, she plans to regularly offer specials so that she can continue to introduce Denver to new dishes.

Mostly, though, she wants her guests to feel at home. "Everyone that comes in is like family," she concludes.

Lai Mai Thai Kitchen is located at 2001 Sheridan Boulevard in Edgewater and is open from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. daily. For more information, visit lamaithaikitchen.com.
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Molly Martin is the Westword Food & Drink editor. She’s been writing about the dining scene in Denver since 2013, and was eating her way around the city long before that. She enjoys long walks to the nearest burrito joint and nights spent sipping cocktails on Colfax.
Contact: Molly Martin