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They’re all Thai’d up in Brooklyn’s Little Bangkok

for The Brooklyn Paper
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What will become of Brooklyn’s Little Bangkok?

Many fans of cheap Thai food — and some of the numerous purveyors of it — have been asking the same question ever since the neighborhood’s groundbreaking Southeast Asian pioneer, Planet Thailand, closed in August.

The restaurant, which opened in 1997, claimed it was chased out by rising rents — but intense competition and a declining number of starving artists were more likely the deciding factors.

After all, there are four Thai and three Asian fusion restaurants in a three-block span around Bedford Avenue and North Sixth Street — all of whom followed Planet Thailand.

“Back then, the area was populated by students, and Planet Thailand was new, small, cheap and good,” said Nancy Ralph, director of the New York Food Museum. “[It was] the first alternative to local Polish food, which was also cheap and good.”

But the closure of Planet Thailand has at least one restaurateur doubtful whether Williamsbu­rgers’ love of reasonably priced, large-portioned curry and pad Thai can go on forever.

“We’re struggling,” said Tom Malipol, a manager at Noodle Studio, which is on North Fifth Street, but a block away from most of its competition. “There are too many Thai restaurants in the area. It’s very hard.”

Indeed, Mudjalin Jones, a waitress at Tai Thai on Bedford Avenue agreed, “We all share customers.”

And customers may have too many options.

In addition to Noodle Studio and Tai Thai, there’s also SEA Thai on North Sixth Street — which is basically next door to Tacu Tacu.

There’s also Wild Ginger, a pan-Asian vegan café that opened in 2006, and Red Bowl — a primarily Chinese restaurant with several Thai options — that opened in 2007. Both are directly next door to Tai Thai.

For now, everyone is holding on, thanks to “tourists and hipsters,” said Jones, but Don Supakorn, a manager at Sea, is bullish on the Planet Thailand-less future. He says he does an “overwhelming” amount of business thanks to his after-hours nightclub.

“On the weekends, Sea gets extremely packed,” agreed Steven Tan, manager at Tacu Tacu, which also transforms into a bar at night. “They help the neighborhood by bringing people in.”

But business can’t be that good, or else Planet Thailand would not have abandoned the neighborhood it helped create.

In a particularly ironic move, the restaurant actually reopened in Manhattan as Planet Thailand 212 — yet still marketing its Brooklyn cred.

“We kept the Williamsburg aesthetic and affordable prices,” said owner Anna Popermhen.

Sea Thai Restaurant and Bistro [114 N. Sixth St. between Bedford Avenue and Berry Street, (718) 384-8850]; Chai Home Kitchen [124 N. Sixth St. between Bedford Avenue and Berry Street, (718) 599-5889]; Tacu Tacu [136 N. Sixth St. between Bedford Avenue and Berry Street, (718) 218-7889]; Tai Thai [206 Bedford Ave. between N. Fifth and N. Sixth streets, (718) 599-5556]; Noodle Studio [116 N. Fifth St. between Bedford Avenue and Berry Street, (718) 218-7260]; Red Bowl [208 Bedford Ave. between N. Fifth and N. Sixth streets, (718) 388-8898].

Updated 5:15 pm, November 11, 2009
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Reasonable discourse

daria from brooklyn says:
Wild Ginger on Bleeker Street is seriously good. I didn't know they had a Brooklyn outpost.
Nov. 10, 2009, 2:03 am
Ann from brooklyn Heights says:
@daria - oh, but they do!
Nov. 10, 2009, 9:07 am
Lynn from Boerum Hill says:
Really? They're in brooklyn too? I had no idea!
Nov. 10, 2009, 9:21 am
dave from carroll Gardens says:
Hey morons who think life doesnt exist outside of Manhattan. There are actually 3 in Brooklyn
Nov. 10, 2009, 10:16 am
Joey from Clinton Hills says:
Sea on N.6th Street in Williamsburg has done an amazing job marketing to african-americans. To me, Planet Thailand/Planeat Thailand (remember?) will always be the first and best of the Williamsburg Thai places.
Nov. 10, 2009, 10:41 am
KeyShawn from Africa Heights says:
Hey Joey--- Soul food is soul food.
Nov. 10, 2009, 12:11 pm
Carrie from Coney Island says:
@KeyShawn - soul food is so yummy! I want to eat it all up.
Nov. 10, 2009, 2:21 pm
Lynn from Boerum Hill says:
I still can't believe that Wild Ginger is in Brookly, wow!
Nov. 11, 2009, 4:50 am
Paul Ramon from Williamsburg says:
Yeah, real shame that Planet Thailand dump closed. When you need that average clump of noodles in a crappy warehouse setting. They should be ashamed of the distance between what they used to be when they were on Bedford and the garbage they ended up being.
Nov. 11, 2009, 12:41 pm
supersloper from park slope says:
lynn... you live in boreum hill and don't know there's a wild ginger IN boreum hill on smith and pacific?

not too observant, are you.
Nov. 11, 2009, 5:58 pm
Lynn from Boerum Hill says:
@supersloper - suck it!
Nov. 12, 2009, 6:58 am
julie from greenpoint says:
planeat thailand was plagued with health code violations. (though not known how serious) it had been closed numerous times since 2008. sorry but we aren't buying the competition sob story as the sole reason for its closure.
Nov. 12, 2009, 11:46 am
Alice from Queens says:
Who cares? For serious.
Nov. 15, 2009, 6:03 pm
Inez from Sunset Park says:
no one is asking any questions about this, the entire article is "make-news". Why don't you start reporting about things that are news instead of publishing articles about the opening and closings of restaurants????
Nov. 17, 2009, 4:27 am

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