San Franciscans hitting Union Square have a new place to order crispy pork belly and fresh mango pudding while shopping in one of the city’s most timeless downtown locales. Owner Naruephon “Billie” Wannajaro says her new restaurant Hed translates from Isaan, a local dialect in Northeastern Thailand, to “make,” a signal of the traditional way she’d like to prepare khao gaeng-style meals for diners. This particular type of dining allows guests to try two or three dishes with a serving of rice in the center; Billie says it will give diners a truer sense of her experience and cuisine as a Thai cook. “We have a very strong direction for our food,” Billie says. “We expect people will learn about our culture, and we aim for recognition.”
Local Isaan dishes such as papaya salad and chicken satay are on the menu, while dishes from Northern Thailand include stewed wagyu curry noodles and seasonal pickled vegetables. The range of the menu is quite wide — expect everything from stir-fried dishes to grilled duck. “We don’t want to serve only Thai food,” Billie says. “But reflect the Thai eating culture.” Beer and wine will show up down the road, thanks to permitting delays. The “must-order” drink in Billie’s mind is the restaurant’s Thai iced tea.
Billie and her investor are both from Thailand where they own three restaurants, one of which is an American brunch spot. “Then COVID hit us and the economy slowed,” Billie says. “We decided to have a new adventure in the United States.” In fact, Billie spent a year researching throughout New York, Texas, and more before deciding that San Francisco was the place to start her empire. “It’s a foodie city,” Billie says. “Where people want to learn the story of the food.”
Hed is open at 88 Hardie Place daily from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. with dinner service beginning in February.