It was nothing more than a coincidence.
As he prepared to leave his family’s restaurant in October in Port Orchard and return to his native Thailand, Chai “Charlie” Lam came across a small, vacant restaurant on Bay Street.
The building at 920 Bay St. previously housed MJ’s Teriyaki and Korean Cuisine until that business shuttered earlier in 2013 and a series of sushi restaurants. Lam said the prospect of running his own restaurant with his wife, Pranee, and the prospect of remaining in the area were the reasons behind their decision to stay.
“There are special people here,” he said. “Very kind. Me and my wife are happy to be here and serve Port Orchard people.”
Lam, 51, opened Thai Charlie’s on Dec. 13 in the 936-square-foot restaurant. There are more than 50 items on the menu, which includes a variety of curry, fried rice and stir fried noodle dishes and entrées. He said the Pad Thai plate, which is $8.95 for chicken, beef, pork or tofu, has been popular among guests, so far.
“Now we have a lot of people order Pad See Ew,” Lam said. “It’s a big wine noodle and it has special sauce in there.”
Not including appetizers, most dishes on the menu start at $8.95. But Lam also has 10 specials on the menu that range from the $12.95 avocado green curry shrimp, asparagus shrimp and Seafood Pad Ka Pao Fried Rice to the Pad Ka Pao Crispy Duck ($19.95). The latter item is a deep-fried duck that is stir-fried with basil, bell pepper and an “in-house special sauce.”
Thai Charlie’s, which opens daily at 11 a.m., also offers a half-dozen lunch combos for $8.95 until 2 p.m. during weekdays. The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
“When you want to do something, you have to do it hard and put everything in you can,” said Lam, who expects the restaurant to be open every day for at least its first six months of operation.
Lam said he is used to keeping busy. Among his variety of careers since he first arrived in the United States in 1978 to attend high school in San Antonio, Texas, Lam once helped manage his family’s chain of Chinese restaurants in South Dakota. From that experience and serving as a cook in other restaurants, Lam has learned one steadfast rule.
“Do the best for today,” he said. “Tomorrow good things will come to you.”
Lam said that means no compromises when it comes to food quality.
“When the guests order, we cook it at that time,” he said. “It’s better because it’s fresh.”