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Meet Sam Rattanopas of NaKorn

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sam Rattanopas.

Sam, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
My co-founder, Mina Sudsaard, and I both hail from Bangkok, and, in addition to being business partners, have been best friends since third grade. We immigrated to the United States together in 1996. I have a professional background in restaurant management with success at many top-named restaurants in Chicago, and I manage front and back of house operations, as well as personnel.

Mina specializes in design and marketing and will oversee concept, and branding efforts for the restaurant. NaKorn is our first restaurant – indeed, our first business – together, and we look at it as our shot at the American Dream.

Has it been a smooth road?
Hahahahahah, NO!! Not at all! Small business is a challenge at every step of the way. Our space here at 1622 Orrington Avenue in Evanston was a financial business before we moved in, and we built the entire restaurant from scratch, much of it by ourselves with our own four hands. Our hand-made décor is meant to be a nostalgic glimpse of the past, reminiscent of the 1970’s Thai shophouses – birdcage light fixtures, hand-assembled abacuses lining the bar, banquettes of custom fabrics imported from London, and a mural of Thailand’s beloved King Rama IX, all contain our blood and sweat (probably literally).

We built our bar and every table top in the dining room with our own two hands. Our build-out took longer, and cost more than we expected, and that was our first big challenge. And the list grows from there – personnel changes, customer eccentricities, unexpected mechanical breakdowns, changes in the local laws – all of it has been a challenge!! That said, we wouldn’t have it any other way. We love NaKorn, our friends, family and outstanding staff, and each day when customers tell us how much they enjoy our food and love our decor!

So, as you know, we’re impressed with NaKorn Inc – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
NaKorn (pronounced: Nah-‘Korn) is an authentic and high-quality Thai restaurant in Evanston, Illinois. We opened in late 2016, and feature Thai cuisine with many fresh and authentic seafood dishes. Our dining room seats 55, and we are open for dinner 7 days a week and lunch 6 (closed Sundays for lunch).

The NaKorn menu provides a perfect blend of bold flavors with traditional, old-world recipes in a modern presentation. Using only the finest and freshest ingredients, our chefs have created unique dishes layered with flavors. We chose to go against the grain serving our guests Thai home cooking that we grew up eating, rather than the typical Thai street foods that most Americans are accustomed to. We also make our own sauces and curry paste from scratch with fresh ingredients.

We also feature a full-service bar, with specialty drinks such as its Kissing Ginger (on the island) – which combines Genever, Hum botanical spirit, House-made chili-ginger tincture, ginger syrup, and lemon. Since beer is often the alcoholic beverage traditionally paired with Thai cuisine, NaKorn also features Thai favorites Chang and Singha as well as local and craft beers, including Evanston’s own Sketchbook and Temperance brews.

Our name, NaKorn, means “metropolitan” in Thai and is significant for three reasons: first, we are from Bangkok, Thailand’s largest and most metropolitan city; second, the mix of traditional ingredients with a contemporary presentation provides an urban approach to Thai cuisine; and third, my father, Khun Sompit Rattanopas, hailed from the southern, coastal Thailand town of NaKorn Srithummaraj, and the restaurant’s name is, in part, a gesture of love and respect for him.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
Evanston is such a quaint little town, and it has a beautiful and diverse community. I love having the ability to experience the city and suburban life mixed together like one can here. Finally, Evanston has a very welcoming demeanor and inviting atmosphere, and they have made us feel right at home, since Day One.

Pricing:

  • Lunch bites (appetizers) from $8-12; greens (vegetarian/vegan/salad) from $10-13; and entrees from $12-18
  • Dinner bites (appetizers) from $8-12; greens (vegetarian/vegan/salad) from $10-13; and entrees from $15-32
  • Desserts from $8-9
  • Wednesday prix fixe menu, three-course meal for $30

Contact Info:

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

2 Comments

  1. Sam Rattanopas

    January 26, 2018 at 5:49 pm

    Thanks, VoyageChicago!! We hope to see you and your readers soon! Sam

  2. Jason

    April 21, 2018 at 2:04 pm

    We dined at NaKorn last night and it was delicious. The coconut broth (with shrimp, mussels, squid and mushrooms) was fantastic. The best Thai food I’ve ever had was Lotus of Siam until I went to NaKorn! So happy to have it in Evanston.

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