Chai's Thai won't reopen as planned

Photo courtesy Chai's Thai
Chai's Thai has served its last dish
What he had hoped to be an interim closing has sadly proven permanent for Chai's Thai owner George Zheng. He spoke with the Hot Dish about his decision not to reopen the once-beloved West Bank restaurant.

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Two years after first taking over Chai's Thai, Zheng has decided to take a break from the restaurant business. "My two years spent on the West Bank were some of the best moments of my life, and it gave me an opportunity to meet many wonderful and interesting people,"  he said. "Despite all the risks and challenges that come with being a restaurateur, I'm now more passionate than ever about the business." He hopes to stay in touch with fans and to one day return to the industry.

After taking over the restaurant location from the original owner, Zheng ran the restaurant under the Chai's Thai moniker before introducing a new concept he called, "Southeast Asian Kitchen." "That was always meant to be just a pop-up," he explained. That restaurant closed and became home to Malabari Kitchen. Still, the Chai's Thai website was maintained and promised that it would return in the second half of 2013.

Zheng said he was disheartened by the recent closings of both True Thai and Heidi's. "Two of my favorite restaurants in Minneapolis, definitely made me wary about trying to make a financially secure career in the restaurant business." With that, he decided to lay to rest the idea of a Chai's Thai return.

It reminds us of an old adage that no one gets into this business for the money. Long hours, hard work, and razor-thin margins get the better of most restaurants. Zheng's ambitious plan is to now turn to a career in the financial industry. However, there is something about this business that gets in the blood. We won't give up on the possibility that he might be back one day.

We asked him if he had anything further to share with his friends and fans, and he said, "I want to thank them for all their love and support over the years, and for choosing to make Chai's Thai Restaurant their home away from home."

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post did not accurately convey that Chai's Thai had already closed, but with the promise of reopening in 2013. The post has been updated to reflect that fact.

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Location Info

Chai's Thai - CLOSED

414 S. Cedar Ave., Minneapolis, MN

Category: Restaurant

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Jason Koffman
Jason Koffman

Wow, this article is completely untrue and outdated. Research much, City Pages?


This is a misleading article. This restaurant hasn't been called Chai's Thai since George Zheng took it over almost 2 years ago. So Chai's actually closed in 2012. When George reopened the restaurant he named it Southeast Asia Kitchen and had a new menu.
Then, in late 2012, the restaurant was under new management again, this time changing the name to Malabari Kitchen and serving a menu of Indian cuisine.

The owner of Chai's was a chef named Chai, who also own's Mango in St. Paul.  So is anything in this article actually true?  And what is the point of George pretending that Chai's is closing now?  I know the West Bank is a strange place, but boy, this one is a head-scratcher.  

PS - City Pages, maybe in 2014 you could write a story about the 400 Bar closing.

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