WEST TOWN — J.J. Thai Street Food, a new storefront eatery in Yuzu Sushi and Robata Grill's first space along Chicago Avenue that has sat empty since last winter, plans to open on Wednesday.
"They said, 'Jina, it's time for you, you need a big kitchen, your own kitchen,' " said Chef Jiranya "Jina" Thosatheppitak, who goes by the name Chef Jina, when explaining the impetus for opening her own restaurant, propelled by encouragement from her friends who own Yuzu Sushi.
Yuzu Sushi relocated to a bigger spot a few doors west and will now be J.J. Thai Street Food's neighbor.
After moving from Bangkok to Chicago in 2004, Thosatheppitak worked in the kitchen at several Thai restaurants. In her free time, she prepared dishes at home and invited friends and family over to eat.
Years of encouragement resulted in her first venture, a 28-seat restaurant at 1715 W. Chicago Ave. that draws its name from Jatujak, sometimes called JJ Market, a weekend market in Bangkok, and from the first initial of Chef Jina and her husband, John.
On Sunday, Thosatheppitak cautioned that Wednesday will be a soft opening as the opening kinks get worked out.
"We want people to not expect perfect on first day," she said, adding that her staff of five has been training with her for about two weeks
Currently BYOB, with plans to apply for a liquor license down the road, J.J. Thai Street Food offers appetizers such as fried chicken wings and grilled squid, along with "sticky rice" entrees designed to be eaten with fingers and bowls of noodles topped with vegetables and meat, according to a menu draft.
Thosatheppitak said her favorite menu items is Look Shin Gai Ping, grilled chicken balls with homemade spicy sauce on skewers usually enjoyed while standing on a street in Bangkok.
Prices start at $2 for banana chips and max out at $13 for a shrimp and squid rice dish topped with fried egg, called khad ta lay ra berd. The names of all of the items on the menu are in Thai cursive script and English.
J.J. Thai Street Food, 1715 W. Chicago Ave. Ph: 312-929-4435. Hours are 11:30 a.m. - 3 p.m.; 5 to 10 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday; 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 11 p.m. Saturday. Closed on Tuesday. Delivery, take-out and catering are also available. For updates, visit the restaurant's Facebook page.
Guay Tiew Moo Thoon, bowl of rice noodles topped with pork and pork meal balls, $10. [Provided]
(l. to r.) Seating and Nam Tok Neua Yang, salad with beef mixed with mint, onions, lime juice, chili and rice powder, $10.
J.J. Thai Street Food Menu by Chef Jina
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: