Logan Square icon Longman & Eagle (2657 N. Kedzie Ave.) has teamed up with the creator of Thai pop-up Pink Salt, Palita Sriratana, to bring beautiful Thai cuisine to the neighborhood for one night only, on Wednesday, Sept. 22.
Sriratana’s culinary career began just recently, in 2019. That year, she left her stable position in the health care industry to pursue her true passion: reconnecting with her Thai heritage, especially her grandmother, through Thai cuisine.
It All Starts With Family
“I always knew I one day wanted to do something with food,” Sriratana said. “My grandmother was really the inspiration behind that. I was 6 when she unfortunately passed away, and my family really took me under their wing, with different family members teaching me how to make one or two of her recipes at a time.”
Every summer, Sriratana would travel back to Thailand from her hometown of Bloomington, Illinois, and spend about three months exploring. These experiences gave her the inspiring opportunity to not only learn the language, but also experience true Thai cuisine and immerse herself in the culture. Pink Salt is ultimately the culmination of Sriratana’s unique upbringing, core values and reverence for Thai food.
“The name is designed to be unapologetically feminine and beautiful and also carry a lot of strength,” Sriratana said. “I didn’t feel it was appropriate to name my concept something forwardly Thai given that I am Thai American. I felt I was too American to be in Thailand, but I was too Thai to feel comfortable in Bloomington. For me, it was a lot of self-reflection when I started, trying to figure out exactly who I was and who I am.”
Pink Salt’s food is an amalgam of that identity. The food itself will always be inherently Thai, but being based in the U.S., Sriratana doesn’t have access to certain Thai produce items and other ingredients. The result, then, is something heavily Thai that takes bits and pieces of Sriratana’s American upbringing to produce something that perfectly encapsulates her.
Pink Salt Comes To Logan
This past year has been unique for many small businesses and pop-ups, and Pink Salt is no exception. Throughout quarantine, Sriratana ran a pickup dinner series called Room Service that was immensely popular. With restrictions beginning to lift and a metaphorical light at the end of the tunnel, Pink Salt hosted its first pop-up in far too long at Logan Square wine bar Easy Does It (2354 N. Milwaukee Ave.) in June.
“We had been looking for a place that would offer their own beverages and also had an outdoor space, since we wanted the pop-up to feel like a beautiful picnic reunion,” Sriratana said. “I reached out to Zach [Easy Does It’s owner], and he said hell yes. It rained all day, but we decided to go through with the event, and then people still showed up in the rain ready to eat. We had 120 pounds of chicken wings to go through in 2 short hours and said, ‘All right, let’s do this.’ They do such a great job coordinating and curating events there. Zach is amazing.”
After such a heartwarming success, Sriratana was primed for one more pop-up event before cooler months signal the return of Pink Salt’s Room Service offerings. Through mutual connections at restaurant group Land and Sea Dept., the Longman & Eagle team reached out, and Sriratana, being a fan of the restaurant herself, jumped at the opportunity.
Longman & Eagle Pop-Up Takes Shape
Sriratana found inspiration for this upcoming pop-up’s menu from the noodle carts found throughout Thailand’s metropolitan areas. These carts are popular with locals, often serving crowds of 20 to 30 customers at a time with whatever the cooks decided to make that day. It’s commonplace to find college students stacking as many bite-sized bowls of noodles as they can eat and for the regular crowd to take a break in their day to enjoy a bowl.
“A noodle shop was definitely something I contemplated opening as,” Sriratana said. “I’m essentially mimicking one of these noodle carts, and Longman & Eagle had the perfect space and vibe for it. We’re keeping it super casual and true to the nature of the noodle carts in Thailand, so everything will be first come, first served.”
Pink Salt’s menu will consist of two noodle dishes: a boat noodle bowl with braised beef, as well as yen ta fo, also known as pink noodles, which will be served vegetarian. Service begins at 6 p.m. and lasts until 9 p.m. or when offerings sell out, and seating will be walk-in only on Longman & Eagle’s patio and micro-bar Off Site Bar.
Follow Pink Salt on Instagram and keep an eye out for the return of Room Service and additional pop-ups.
Featured Photo: Pink Salt