For the duration of the coronavirus crisis, Kin Khao, Pim Techamuanvivit’s Michelin-starred Thai restaurant in Union Square, has been closed, even for takeout and delivery. But there’s good news for fans who have been craving the restaurant’s spicy chicken wings and its northern Thai-style curry-broth khao soi: In the coming weeks, Techamuanvivit will open a new, fast-casual outpost of Kin Khao in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood, as Tablehopper first reported.
The new Kin Khao will take over the former Noon All Day cafe-restaurant space at 690 Indiana Street. And while Techamuanvivit tells Eater SF that she doesn’t have an opening date set yet — there’s still the city’s “Byzantine” permitting process to navigate, after all — she expects Kin Khao Dogpatch to open within the next few weeks. When it does, it will offer a stripped-down version of the original Kin Khao menu, as well as grab-and-go items like salads and perhaps a fried chicken sandwich.
As it turns out, Techamuanvivit lives in Dogpatch, just a few blocks away from the new location — and, as she puts it, “It’s my dream to be able to walk to my restaurant.” So, even prior to the pandemic she’d been in talks with the owners of Piccino, who ran Noon All Day, about the possibility of having Kin Khao take over the space. Those plans were put on hold once the coronavirus crisis began to unfold.
But then, weeks of sheltering in place turned to months, with no end to the pandemic in sight. Meanwhile, Techamuanvivit kept Kin Khao fully closed, in large part because Union Square is, as the chef recently told Eater, “just a neighborhood that doesn’t have people right now.” That meant that the staff at Kin Khao, some of whom had been with Techamuanvivit since the restaurant first opened, were left without work. (Nari, Kin Khao’s sister restaurant in Japantown, has stayed open for takeout.)
And so, Techamuanvivit says, she decided she had to do something. The advantage of the Dogpatch location, she says, is that compared to Union Square it’s much more of a neighborhood where people live and go out to buy food — and there aren’t that many existing restaurants in the neighborhood.
When the landlord of the Dogpatch space was amenable to negotiating a one-year lease, Techamuanvivit decided to take the plunge. “I can’t imagine signing a five- or 10-year lease for a restaurant anywhere right now,” she says. “You can’t make any projections. You don’t know what’s going to happen.”
She’s hopeful, though, that Kin Khao Dogpatch will stick around for the long term. “If someone else opened a restaurant in that space, I would go,” she says. While she’s still sorting out the menu, she says it’ll likely be a selection of Kin Khao’s greatest hits — since she isn’t redoing the kitchen, she’ll have to see what’s realistic. But, with Esprit Park just across the way, she’s planning to offer a number of grab-and-go items — salads, a fried chicken sandwich, and so forth — for customers who want to grab a quick bite to bring on a socially-distanced picnic.
Indeed, one of the main things that attracted Techamuanvivit to the Noon All Day space is how spacious its outdoor area is, with one side of the restaurant opening up completely to the plaza. She plans to put a bunch of tables outside, where customers can sit down to enjoy their meal if they’d like, but there won’t be full table service.
According to Techamuanvivit, her mindset right now is simply, “How do we dog-paddle to keep our head above water?” She says she fully expects to eventually reopen the original Union Square Kin Khao, calling it her “first-born.”
The hope, she explains, is that the new restaurant will provide jobs for at least a few members of her Kin Khao staff — that it’ll help keep enough of the team intact until that reopening seems realistic.