15 Mar DOWNTOWN DINING: SOI 2 THAI STREET FOOD
By Tracy Jacks
Great care and pride for ingredients sets this labor of love apart.
They say opening your own business can be a labor of love. For Scott Krulik and his wife Pennapa, their business is the living embodiment of love – the love of a couple, the love of tradition, and most definitely, the love of food. Look around the internet and it’s tough to find anything less than a fantastic review of their love’s realization: Soi 2 Thai Street Food.
In the three years since opening, Soi 2 has become the premiere destination in the Quad Cities for folks looking for the authentic taste of Northern Thai street food. “I originally wanted to name the restaurant something modern like ‘Spice’ or ‘Mint,’” explains Scott. “But it wasn’t original enough, and we wanted a name that reflected Pennapa’s street food menu. In Thai, “soi” means sub-street. If you ever go to Thailand and want to find street food stalls and bazaars, you go to a soi. “We’re on 2nd Ave., so Soi 2 makes sense. It just so happened that Pennapa grew up on a Soi 2 in her village, so now we bring the taste from there to here and it became the perfect name: Soi 2 Thai Street Food.”
Scott handles the business end of things, while Pennapa oversees the kitchen. It’s a partnership that works. “Pennapa put the menu together,” explains Scott, “which consists mostly of her hometown favorites. We feature some of her mom’s recipes and her auntie’s noodles, as well as traditional Thai stir fries, noodles, curries, fried rice, spicy soups, and salads.”
The Kruliks take great pride and go to extremes in replicating the authentic flavors of Northern Thai cuisine. “The flavors of our food are different than others because of the way we prepare them and the ingredients we use,” Scott says. “We take great care and pride in sourcing the best herbs and spices. Some things we can buy locally, and others we get from nearby larger cities like Chicago, but what really sets us apart are the ingredients we order and have shipped from Pennapa’s hometown in Thailand.”
“We make all our sauces and appetizers in-house. We don’t buy them frozen or in bulk. Our fresh rolls and crab rangoon are made by hand and people notice. Folks really love our ginger cilantro salad dressing, too. The special thing about us is the love and care we bring to every dish we cook, just like my mom would cook for her daughter or family. If you want the best, you have to go to the source. You won’t find these flavors anywhere else.”
Even though Soi 2 is known for common Thai street food like their fried rice and Pad Thai, Scott encourages patrons to experiment and find new favorites in their wide-ranging menu. “People really love our food and are never disappointed with our recommendations. We really encourage people to step out of their comfort zone and try something new each visit. You can order a variety of dishes and share them family style – that’s the real ‘Thai way.’”
True to form, Scott can barely make it through a conversation without recommending his favorites from the Soi 2 menu. “We have something for everyone on the unique side of the menu,” he says enthusiastically. “There’s Pla Rad Prik, which is a crispy whole fish. Sweet fruit dishes like our Mango Chicken and Tamarind Chicken, and other meat offerings from Basil Duck to Street Steak. A favorite among our vegetarian customers is our Crispy Mock Duck made from wheat that’s braised, deep fried, and served with red curry or Grapow sauce.”
“Of course, some of our best are Pennapa’s mom’s recipes, including Larb Mae Janla or Nam Prik Ong which are ground chicken dishes made with Thai chilies, herbs, and spices. They come with lettuce and cucumber to make your own little wraps to cool the palate. You have to try Gang Hang Lay, which is a slow-roasted pork belly that melts in your mouth with a Northern style curry, ginger, garlic, and tamarind.”
Once Scott catches his breath, he sums up the Soi 2 experience easily. “Pennapa and I both like to try many types of local and foreign cuisine, but Thai food is just the best,” he says with a smile. “We wanted to bring an amazing menu with specialty dishes at affordable prices because we want everyone to try it.”
Soi 2 Thai Street Food
1825 2nd Avenue
Rock Island, Illinois 61201