WRAL Small Business Spotlight: A taste of Thailand in downtown Carrboro
Posted April 7, 2021 8:00 a.m. EDT
Carrboro, N.C. — As WRAL’s Small Business Spotlight continues to tour the Triangle, this week we’re in downtown Carrboro to check out some really tasty Thai food and the really cool family that's cooking it up.
Cham Thai, located on Main Street right where Rosemary Street splits off, opened in September 2019 by Jack and Pim Ungsriwong and their daughter, Angela.
Now, if you’ve never had Thai food, I can’t encourage you enough to give it a shot. I didn’t grow up eating it, and now it’s one of my favorite cuisines. And for my Thai aficionados out there, I’m here to tell you, this place is legit.
“We put a lot of heart into our food and we try to keep the authentic Thai flavor. And sharing our love of food,” Angela Ungsriwong said.
Cham Thai has something for everyone, including spice level!
“It’s definitely very spicy. We have a mild, medium, hot, very hot, and extra hot, which is crazy because I can’t go more than medium,” Ungsriwong said. “We get some people who have been to some other Thai restaurants in the area and they’re like, ‘This is hotter than any of the Thai foods that we’ve tried in this area.’ So, I would like to say we like to keep things authentic.”
The Ungsriwong family has had quite the journey to Carrboro.
Jack grew up in the restaurant business in Thailand, working for his mother at her place. When he met Pim, they moved to California in 1993 and opened their first restaurant in 1999. They moved to Montana, and, finally, Carrboro.
“We were searching for our place, basically, our spot,” Ungsriwong said.
And it appears they’ve finally found it. But that doesn’t mean it’s been easy. Imagine opening your dream restaurant and, just six months later, getting struck by a pandemic. Ungsriwong says her family’s new community helped prevent their dream from becoming a nightmare.
“This community means a lot to us,” she said. “We’re really, really grateful for everyone here, especially ever since the pandemic hit, everyone’s just been so supportive. Everyone’s been kind, understanding.”
Jack and Pim had to say goodbye to coworkers and friends, because with limited business came limited hours.
“We have been financially impacted," Ungsriwong said. "We’ve gotten some help, thankfully from our landlord, as well as from some of the government programs that have been available."
Cham Thai is still operating on a takeout model, but they hope to return to indoor dining soon.
“We’ve been operating on takeout only for almost a year now. A few weeks after it hit us in March, we decided it would be safer for everyone, both the staff and community members,” Ungsriwong said.
She says her father made a decision that regardless of how difficult things got during COVID, they wouldn’t compromise on their integrity.
“We’re also trying to give back in our own way, ever since my dad found out that there are a lot of people who have lost their jobs and are struggling," she explained. "Even though some of the raw material items have gone up in price, he’s been trying to give back to the community by increasing the amounts of food. We’re just doing our best.”
But this family says that’s just the way things are done in the Thai culture.
“Thai people are usually known as really laid back and easy going, and just a welcoming country in general,” Ungsriwong said. “Even if they don’t know you, or they don’t know what you’re trying to say to them, they’ll try to help you out. They’ll smile and give you that welcoming vibe."
A vibe you’ll find right here at Cham Thai.
“It’s kinda like bringing a little piece of Thailand to Carrboro,” Ungsriwong said with a smile.