INDEPENDENCE — After Vichuda Stine came to America from Thailand in 2001, as she worked her way up through the ranks of a restaurant’s kitchen staff, she wanted to one day own her own restaurant.
A funny thing happened on her way to achieving that dream — she didn’t stop at one.
Independence’s Silk Thai Cuisine represents Vichuda’s seventh Thai-themed restaurant she has opened since 2010.
The first three — Tup Tim restaurants in Salem, Albany and California — she sold in 2018.
The fourth was a short-lived one in California she sold when she and her husband Brad moved with their daughter north to Keizer. By 2019, she was back in the ownership business when she opened Bai Bua in Keizer in 2019. She followed that with Bangkok Thai Bistro in Salem in 2020. And finally, having fallen in love with the Independence area, she couldn’t resist taking over the former Royal Thai space at 268 South Main Street in June when it was available.
By August, Silk Thai Cuisine was open, to strong reviews, even during the midst of the pandemic with limited seating.
“We were very popular when we opened,” Vichuda said, adding seating was limited to about five tables, socially distanced six-feet apart. “But even when we went to take out, we still had a lot of customers.”
After Vichuda came to California, she met and married Brad Stine, now a retired music teacher. For a short while, they moved back to Thailand, but Vichuda said her daughter hated it there, so they made the trip back to California.
After they sold her fourth restaurant, they packed all their remaining belongings in a U-Haul and headed up to Oregon, with no destination in mind. They settled in a Salem motel for two weeks before finding a more permanent residence and their next restaurant venture.
During that search for the their next restaurant location, they fell in love with the area in Independence and now call it home.
“It’s quiet. And the support from the community has been really good,” she said.
Her menus since the start were based on meals she would cook at home, but popular recipes that would be enjoyed by the general public. Vichuda learned more and more recipes as her experience in the restaurant industry grew. Her food was regularly voted best Thai in the Willamette Valley every year.
Vichuda said she just needs to set up the menu at each of her restaurants, as she relies upon a good chef at all three locations making good on the recipes.
“So, I don’t have to be here every day,” she said of Silk Thai Cuisine.
With Silk Thai Cuisine, Vichuda said she chose to make the flavors “more authentic, more strong and more tasty.”
Ever since it was announced last week that Polk County was downgraded to a high risk category, Vichuda said she’s inundated with calls and emails from customers wondering when Silk Thai will be opening up for dine-in services. Since the guidelines only allow restaurants to open at 25% capacity, she figures they’ll start with five tables again.
“We cannot do more than that, so you might want to call us and make reservations first,” she added.
Silk Thai Cuisine
Where: 268 South Main Street, Independence
Contact: 503-837-0266; or http://www.silkthaiindependence.com/
Hours: Tuesday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4 to 9 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday: noon to 3 p.m. and 4 to 9 p.m.