Large family portraits and pictures of rice paddies line the walls of Beau Thai, located at 1550 Seventh Street, NW. The photos are of founder and chef Aschara Vigsittaboot and of her family and her home in Southern Thailand, where she learned to cook for her family.
Shaw residents Ralph Brabham and his husband Drew Porterfield met Vigsittaboot at a dinner party in 2007, where she had cooked a meal. They all became friends and she asked them to be investors in her business. Since then, Beau Thai has opened two locations in the District. The original Beau Thai, at New Jersey Avenue and R Street NW, opened in 2010. The current, larger Shaw restaurant opened in 2014, followed by a Mount Pleasant outpost. The original Beau Thai became a third restaurant, BKK Cookshop.
Brabham, the co-owner of the Beau Thai Restaurant Group and formerly a practicing lawyer, said Beau Thai was initially just a “side hobby” where he served as a bartender, answered the phone and went to the wholesale market, until he fell in love with the business and decided to take it on full time.
“I realized I was deriving a lot more joy out of Beau Thai than I was in the practice of law,” Brabham recalled. “And we decided that if we opened another location, I could leave law-firm life.”
The casual, family friendly restaurant features a wide variety of authentic Thai cuisine, including made from scratch curries, stir-fry, noodle dishes, salads, soups and deserts, including vegetarian options and a range of proteins, including duck and lamb. The menu is derived from Vigsittaboot’s upbringing in Thailand and features many of her family’s recipes. The restaurant offers a full bar, including cocktails, beer, wine and cider.
Brabham said their food is unique because Vigsittaboot is “a stickler for making everything from scratch.” Despite the painstaking process, this allows all of the food served at the restaurant to be fresh and flavorful. The restaurant also has its own herb garden, where some of the Thai chilis and Thai basil used in their dishes are grown.
According to Brabham, the community response to their Shaw location has been overwhelmingly positive. The restaurants have won Best Thai Restaurant and favorite Thai restaurant honors from the readers of Washington City Paper, Washingtonian and other publications. Giving back to the community they love through philanthropy is a core principle of Beau Thai’s mission. The restaurant hosts fundraisers for LGBTQ+ organizations and other groups, with more than $100,000 in funds donated to various charities.
Beau Thai Shaw is open Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. You can learn more about Beau Thai, view their menu and place a to-go order at www.beauthaidc.com.