Husband and wife team, Nathapon Srimahaprom and Pattra Wijitjamari, are two months into their first foray into restaurant ownership and bring family front and center at Na Siam, 6851 W. North Ave, Oak Park. Their infant daughter, Maple, can be found playing with toys or napping behind the counter when she isn’t being cared for by Wijitjamari’s mother, Jinda, who also doubles as a server in the restaurant.
“This is our first restaurant,” said Wijitjamari. “We wanted to open a restaurant to have the baby near us.”
After the tragic death of their first-born son in 2019, the couple, looking to change their circumstances, headed to Moab, Utah and entered a two-year mentorship at Arches Thai. The establishment, owned by relatives, provided the perfect platform for the couple to learn the basics of cooking and restaurant ownership.
“Pattra is a better cook than me and always wanted a restaurant. I wanted to do everything to make her happy again,” said Srimahaprom of his wife. “She is self-taught and learned from cooking at home. I had to start out by learning to chop vegetables.”
The time in Utah was healing and readied the couple for restaurant ownership. After their daughter’s birth in 2021, the couple invited Wijitjamari’s mother to join them to help care for her and make keeping a close eye on her easier while they searched for a restaurant.
“We were looking everywhere and really liked this place and the area,” said Wijitjamari. “We did our research and also joined Takeout 25.”
The online Facebook group, made up of dedicated restaurant supporters, proved to be the deciding factor for the owners when choosing Oak Park as home for their restaurant. Inspired by the positivity in the group, the duo settled on taking over the pre-existing business in the North Avenue District.
Srimahaprom and Wijitjamari opted to keep the former name and menu but bring their own influences to the menu by making thoughtful recipe adjustments that focus on clean flavors and authentic ingredients.
“We are trying to be true to our own style and want our dishes to be a true reflection of Thai home cooking,” said Srimahaprom.
In addition to offering common Thai dishes like Pad Thai and Pad Si-Ew they also offer five noodle soups including Kao Soy soup featuring a creative mix of egg noodles with yellow curry sauce, onion and cilantro topped with crispy egg rolls. Na Siam also offers a rich interpretation of Pho and will soon offer less known Tom Sab Soup. Though it sounds similar to the more well-known Tom Yum Soup, Tom Sab is entirely different — a comforting hot and sour pork rib soup that is best served over rice and boasts aromatic herbal notes of galangal, kaffir lime and lemongrass.
Currently Srimahaprom, Wijitjamari and Grandma Jinda are the only employees at Na Siam and hope customers understand things can be a little slow at time. They are collectively looking forward to the day they can hire additional help and envision expanding to include a second location highlighting sushi and ramen.
As Maple is becoming more mobile, keeping her happy and entertained is becoming more challenging. Though Wijitjamari and Srimahaprom are considering one of the many nearby daycare centers on North Avenue to care for her down the road they are committed to keep her at the restaurant for the time being.
“After losing our son we know the importance of staying together as much as possible,” said Wijitjamari fighting back tears. “For now, Maple is here with us every day and she eats this food, too.”
As for combining parenting and restaurant ownership, Srimahaprom and Wijitjamari agree it is both “fun and hard,” but they are dedicated to putting their best into everything they do.
“We want people to understand us and know who we are,” said Srimahaprom. “We want to serve the community and thank all the customers for their support and patience.”