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Posted: March 18, 2009 12:30 a.m.

Buy local...Bangkok Grill

Thai fusion restaurant opens in Covington

Photos by Gabe Khouli/

Patrons enjoy their meals in the cool green dining room during lunch Tuesday.

Bangkok Grill is bringing Thai cuisine to Covington and owner Jee Poonpoke is trying to bring hope to those suffering from the economy.

Poonpoke opened Bangkok Grill two weeks ago on U.S. Highway 278 next to Advance Auto Parts, but not long before that she had nothing. She previously owned the "Red Tomato" in Conyers, but the economic meltdown cost her everything.

"People kept telling us to buy property, because it was a good decision that would make money, but it was a bad decision in 2007," Poonpoke said. "I lost everything, my house, my car. I lost $1 million in total."

Struggling to find work, Poonpoke saw a sign to rent restaurant space. She called the landlord and explained her situation. She had no money and poor credit, but that didn't matter to the Fowler family.

"He helped me so much," she said. "He bought the kitchen (equipment). He paid for the plumbing and electric. The only thing we bought was a small kitchen (item)."

Poonpoke said the Fowlers invested tens of thousand of dollars to get the business up and running.

"I just want to say thank you," she said. "They are like an angel to us."

Jee also has the support of her family, many of whom work in the store. Jee is the hostess, her husband, Sam, and son Jack are the cooks, her other son Jim and Jack's wife, Caroline, are the servers and Jim's 5-year-old son Evan occasionally seats and sometimes even sits with the customers.

The family is hoping to make Thai cuisine and Thai fusion a mainstay in Covington. Jee and Sam have been in the food business for more than 20 years and over that time Sam has learned to cook many different styles of food. He likes to cook traditional Thai and American dishes, as well as mix and match cultures to create his own fusion dishes, Jee said.

Right now the menu is mainly Thai with a handful of American dishes to bring in the more timid eaters.
"We kept some of the American items (to make people feel comfortable)," Jee said. "Then we like to get people to try Thai food."

Some of Sam's specialties include crab cakes, grouper with basil, spicy shellfish, Panang curried duck, honey soy glazed salmon, chicken cashew, Pad Khing, She-Crab Soup, Tom Yum shrimp soup, Pad Thai and Pad Kee-Mao. The Bangkok Grill also sells beer and wine, including Thai beers. The restaurant is open everyday except Mondays.
Vianne and Frank Peay said they have already been to Bangkok Grill five times in the two weeks that it has been open.

"We'd never tried Thai food," Vianne said. "We liked it a lot. I posted on Facebook telling everyone to check it out. We're just working our way through the menu."

Jee said she hopes people enjoy the food and she also hopes they keep their heads up during these tough times.

"Whoever feels down in this economy, things can work out," she said. "I'm not American, I don't know how to move around, but people pushed and guided me. Don't be afraid to ask for help and be honest.

"I have this place because I told the truth. I told them at my first meeting, I don't have anything to offer except for my hands and body."

That's all she has needed to keep her dream alive.


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