September 18, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

In a state covered in cattle and dominated by steakhouses, restaurants that serve quality fish may appear few and far between. But those who have eaten at Pla Too’s Thai know better.

Chinna Pat, the newest owner of the former Tas’s Thai Pepper, is working to change the face of Thai food in Omaha. With a nickname like Pla, (the Thai word for fish) there is no doubt that it’s her specialty, and she is serving it up fresh every day.

Originally from a small town north of Bangkok, Pla was taught how to cook authentic Thai from her mother. One of three children, she decided to come to the states in 2003 as a foreign exchange student in Shenandoah, Iowa.

A few years later she moved to Omaha to attend the University of Nebraska-Omaha, where she worked as a waitress in a Thai restaurant downtown to help pay for her school. With her degree in international business from UNO, she responded to a online post about needing help with visas.

The poster, Tassanai Kaitkaiwansiri and known as Ta, soon became one of Pla’s closest friends in the states. He had taken over the restaurant from its original owner and made it into Tas’s Thai Pepper before offering to sell it to Pla in 2013.

Now, one year later, Pla has made the former Pizza Hut building into a real Thai experience. The staff is small—just Pla and two of her cousins. One helps in the kitchen and the other works the dining floor.

“We are a family,” Pla says with a beaming smile, “and I treat all of my customers like friends and family. That’s what brings people back every day.”

Pla believes in not only great-tasting food, but also keeping things healthy. Any guest with dietary needs is tended to by Pla herself, who then prepares a meal tailored just for them. And for those nervous about trying Thai food, don’t believe all the stereotypes.

“Some people believe Thai food is all about spices,” Pla says. “If you went to Thailand and expected spice in your Pad Thai, they would laugh. We will prepare your food to your preference—spice or no spice.”

Along with fresh fish, the produce served is all from local farmers markets. It’s all about helping each other, Pla explains. Buying locally not only ensures fresh flavors, but it helps other business owners.

“Omaha is my second home,” Pla adds. “I’ve lived here for over ten years and I love it.”

Pla Too’s also does a brisk business in take-out and also offers catering services. A separate, more health-conscious menu is in the works to meet the demands of dining trends. And Pla hopes to one day have a food truck so she can reach other parts of town.

Thailand is known as “The Land of Smiles,” and Pla is determined to send every customer home with a satisfied grin.

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