The former Smokehouse Butcher Block on Ninth Street reopened Friday as Curry & CoCo, the fourth restaurant by Thai immigrant and entrepreneur Nalinrat “Lily” Sahunalu.
Sahunalu, originally from the Surin province in northeastern Thailand, runs Curry & CoCo with her boyfriend, Brian Fernandez, who is originally from Cuba.
The restaurant’s name references the coconut they use in many dishes and the Cocotaxis popular in Fernandez’s hometown of Havana. The interior marries the couple’s interests and heritage, with bright painted street scenes from Havana on one side and vinyl records and other tchotchkes collected by Sahunalu on the other.
The restaurant offers all the Thai staples, from curry and seafood to noodles and stir fries. In a nod to Fernandez’s past, the restaurant will offer Havana nights on Thursdays, serving up Cuban food.
“We try to cook classic Cuban food like my mom cooked at my house when I was a kid,” Fernandez said. “We’ll probably have rice, beans, fried banana, croquettes, empanadas.”
Sahunalu relocated in her 20s to the Portland metro area, where she worked as a housekeeper and later in Thai restaurants. Eight years ago, she and her family opened Red Curry, her first restaurant, in Beaverton, and her second, Green Curry, three years ago.
“I live in the state almost 10 years, I never come to Seaside,” Sahunalu said. “All my friends tell me, ‘Go to Seaside. Go to Seaside!’”
Sahunalu said she and Fernandez were on a trip to Cannon Beach several years ago when they took a wrong turn north and instead ended up in Seaside. Lost and looking for the beach, they parked on Holladay Drive in front of the vacant storefront of the late burger joint Wise Guys. Two weeks later, they leased the storefront for Yellow Curry Cozy Thai.
Smokehouse Butcher Block, formerly the Mexican restaurant Rio Cafe, recently closed after owners Nan and Jeremy Schoenwald were unable to find a buyer for the business. The two closed the butcher shop to focus on their other company, Port Town Property Management.
Curry & CoCo is Astoria’s the second Thai restaurant after Mai Tong Thai Cuisine food cart opened outside Reach Break Brewing on 13th Street. It opens Thursday through Tuesday, with senior discounts on Tuesdays.