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When Thai Chili 89 opened in downtown Breckenridge in December 2022, locals quickly began climbing the stairs to the brick alcove, formerly Jake’s Dive Bar, on the north end of Main Street.
Natakit Bourrod and wife Saranya Chobkan, owners of the eatery of the same name in Ouray and Thai Chili 78 in Crested Butte, saw an opportunity when the high-traffic space became available in bustling Breck. They decided to open their third outpost—Thai Chili 89, named for the infinity sign in the number eight and number nine’s auspicious connotation of progress in Thai culture—and fill a highly desired niche in the ski town’s dining lineup, bringing Bangkok street food staples to 9,600 feet.
On a recent visit, Thai Chili 89 manager John Anawatsiriwong proudly told us about the menu’s legitimacy, noting the owners’ decision to fly in a renowned Bangkok hotel-restaurant chef to prepare dishes how Thai natives like himself would expect them to be.
“It’s in our blood. Our culture. All Thai people, well, 95 percent of them, know how to cook,” Anawatsiriwong says. “We learn from our parents, we watch mom and grandma cooking growing up.”
As I witnessed chef Kannika Chunprakon’s steady flow of steaming noodle soups, curries, and rice bowls emerge from her first-floor Breckenridge kitchen, I could almost feel customers warming from the inside as they twirled and slurped the homeland cuisine. Chunprakon has perfected well-known Thai specialties, but Anawatsiriwong directed me to the chef’s specials section of the laminated menu.
This is where patrons are encouraged to branch out of their drunken noodle and pad thai comfort zones and order lesser-known dishes such as khao soi ($19.89) with egg noodles swimming around a chicken drumstick. The meat melts away from the bone and joins the green onions and fried wontons in a rich golden curry broth.
A favored dish by Thai diners flocking from Salida and beyond, the fried garlic duck noodle soup ($24.89) presents slow-braised, thinly sliced duck atop a pile of egg noodles and bean sprouts in the restaurant’s signature broth containing oyster sauce, soy, salt, and sugar.
Plated with a pile of steamed rice crowned with an over-easy fried egg, the crispy pork with basil ($24.89) is best ordered at a number four spice level (there are five to choose from). The kitchen spends hours prepping the pork belly in a precise steam-rub-bake-rest-fry routine that renders a delicate crunch elevated by generous bits of peppery fried holy basil.
It’s the harder-to-source imported ingredients that Bourrod builds his restaurants around. Dried chiles and fragrant basil come from a friend in Cambodia. Chile oil and specialty soy sauces sometimes require a drive to Utah. If it’s not available, the dish won’t appear on the menu. No exceptions.
“We want to introduce people to real Thai food,” Bourrod says. “You have to have the right ingredients. If you get the wrong noodle, it falls apart in the hot soup. We go and we get it. And we make it good. This is why people are coming from all over to get Thai street food you can’t get anywhere else.”
100 N. Main St., Unit 204, Breckenridge