Bakers like to talk to each other. We’re slightly odd creatures, after all, and it’s good to know we’re not alone in thinking about different hydration levels in artisan breads or the effect of baking soda on muffins that have been refrigerated overnight. Baking is a solace for so many of us. But baking is also an interesting mix of mad scientist geekery and June Cleaver lifting warm cookies from a baking sheet as the kids hit the kitchen after school. We deal in butter and sugar. Or coconut oil and honey. Or shortening and maple syrup.
A few years ago, rumors of something big about to happen swirled around our small town. There’s a Thai restaurant opening on the island! People whispered and shouted, wondering if it could be true. A Thai place? On Vashon?
You have to understand — the dining-out options here are a little slim. There are a couple of good places for burgers, a mediocre Chinese place, two terribly mediocre Mexican restaurants, a great taco stand (thank goodness for Zamorana; thank you Jorge and Effie), a sports bar, a bar across the street that has turned half of the space into a restaurant (inexplicably, they have pretty good sushi), a family-style place right in the heart of town, two pizza joints, a wonderfully homey vegetarian cafe, a sweet little vegan-gluten-free-raw-food place that is super tiny and pretty expensive, and.…we’re out. (Oh, a couple of underground supper clubs, but I can’t tell you about those.) There is a huge restaurant at the center of town where three Indian restaurants in a row tried to make a go (three! you’d think after #2 failed, the third guy might pick another cuisine) and now it has sat empty for years.
So, the rumors swirled, everyone growing more excited as the weeks, then months went by. A Thai restaurant on Vashon? Fact is, even if it had been just okay, the idea of being able to go out on a Saturday night and buy Pad Thai was pretty darned exciting. We were ready.
But the rumors stayed there. Nothing happened. No Thai restaurant. No signs of anything. Discussion boards on Facebook raced with possible signs, then the talk died down. I guess it was just a rumor after all. Want to go out for tacos again?
And then, there was a mystery. Brown paper went up over the big windows of the little breakfast place in town that had shut down a couple of years before that. Paper! On the window! This must be something. And then there was a piece in the local paper, announcing that the rumors were true. May, who had once run a tremendous Thai restaurant in Seattle, had moved to Vashon. She was opening a Thai restaurant on Vashon. Coming soon.
Huzzahs went up over the island. And then we waited. And waited.
Rumors went around again. She changed her mind. She went on a trip to Thailand for inspiration. Maybe it was never true. Some folks took to stopping in front of the purported future restaurant to peer in a tiny hole in that brown paper, hoping they might see signs of life in there. (We might have been some of those people.) It seemed it would never happen.
And then, one day? A Thai restaurant. We were asked to go to a private, quiet soft launch. Danny and I had a date and walked into a space transformed. The funky old breakfast place had become a Thai escape. May had brought back wood and furniture and walls from a house being torn down in her hometown in Thailand by slow boat. We were somewhere very different than we expected. The meal was magnificent. Nothing mediocre about it. The Thai restaurant was real. And it was tremendous.
May Kitchen has been open for more than a couple of years now. It continues to be one of the best Thai restaurants I have ever eaten in. Everyone on the staff understands gluten-free and celiac, and I always eat well and safely. We don’t eat there often because we can only get a reservation every so often. Not only do islanders eat there, but people come over from Seattle for a meal. This summer, Travel and Leisure magazine named it one of the best Thai restaurants in the country. Good luck getting in now.
They’ve done marvelous things at May since they opened. It took forever to get the place going because May wanted to get everything right. It was worth the wait, of course.
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The last few months have been the steepest learning curve of my life.