Omnivore - Sawadee Restaurant

Thai cooking from the wife (and namesake) of Panita

There are two types of diners: Those who don’t mind brash service, long waits or odd locales as long as the food is good, and those who prefer a more polished dining experience to feel at ease. If you find yourself in the former group and also happen to love Thai cuisine, you’ve most likely braved the odd yet delicious Panita Thai Kitchen in Virginia-Highland. However, Panita isn’t as odd as you may think.

It’s not uncommon to find yourself standing in the doorway at Sawadee Restaurant (4920 Roswell Road, 404-303-1668) waiting for someone — anyone — to emerge from the dark end of the dining room. But the wait is a nice chance to gawk at the faded opulence of this quirky spot tucked away in the corner of the Fountain Oaks Shopping Center. Cindy, the owner/cook/server will inevitably burst out of the kitchen with a remarkably large presence for such a tiny lady. Cindy likes to chat and has the pleasant habit of lingering near your table as you eat. It was during one of these solo meals with my inadvertent dining companion that I discovered her surprising back-story. Cindy’s Thai name is Panita — the actual Panita after which her husband named his restaurant.

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(Photo by Jennifer Zyman)