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Urban Thai: Meet Pam Makepigul

By Luke Fichter

In the heart of National Landing, Urban Thai stands as a beacon of culinary excellence, weaving together authentic flavors with a touch of Bangkok's urban charm. As they celebrate their 20th anniversary this year, we sat down with the owner behind this beloved establishment, Pam Makepigul, to uncover her journey, food philosophy, and plans for the future.

Tell us your story. How did you land here, in National Landing?

We founded Urban Thai in 2004. This year marks our 20th anniversary. The National Landing neighborhood has helped our business flourish and grow. The vibrant atmosphere and diverse community here provided the perfect backdrop for our authentic Thai cuisine.

What or who inspired you to enter the restaurant industry?

I was inspired by family. Urban Thai started off as, and still is, a family-run business. My brother and I had experience working in the restaurant industry since we moved from Thailand to the U.S. I also had the chance to manage a small Thai restaurant from 2000 to 2003 before we opened Urban Thai in 2004.

Do you have any role models? How did they inspire you in your professional life?

My role model is my brother, Chef Somkit. He inspired me with his hardworking and honest attitude towards customers. His creative mind also inspired me to be a successful businesswoman.

You mention that “the food you eat affects the life you live.” Can you expand on how this philosophy influences your menu and your business?

In a literal way, our food includes the freshest ingredients to help you gain a healthier lifestyle. As some sort of motto you could say, the food you choose to eat has a huge impact on your daily life and mental status. Eat whatever makes you feel happy and healthy. Thai food can be for everyone since it has a wide variety of flavors. If you have a passion for it and are willing to give it a try, it can end up impacting your way of thinking in ways you wouldn’t expect.

Thai dishes have distinct flavor profiles. Could you shed light on a particular ingredient, spice, or cooking method that might surprise people?

Thai food’s key ingredients can be Jasmine white rice, Thai chili peppers, green papaya, chili paste, coconut milk, lime, and a variety of Thai herbs. All of these particular ingredients can be used together to create some well-known dishes; Tom Yum soup, Panang Curry, Som Tum Thai, etc.

Can you share a personal story or experience from Thailand that has inspired a particular aspect of Urban Thai?

I was born and grew up in Thailand and lived in the capital, Bangkok. When I came to live here in U.S., I used the name Urban Thai since it reflected where I’m from and the food I grew up with. It was also fitting since the restaurant serves Bangkok urban street food.

Do you have any exciting future plans for Urban Thai?

Since Arlington County allows businesses to have permanent outdoor seating, we plan to have a bigger outdoor seating area in the back of the restaurant for people to enjoy during the warmer weather. We also plan to serve a variety of cocktails and introduce a few more appetizers later this year.

As Urban Thai continues to evolve and innovate, their dedication to delivering exceptional cuisine remains unwavering. Join us in celebrating their 20 years of culinary excellence and toast to many more years of bringing the flavors of Thailand to National Landing.