Kannika “Gon” Carley and her husband, Scott, opened Thai By Thai in 2013, in a storefront space on Wilkins-Wise Road in Columbus, Mississippi. The Carleys decided to name their restaurant “Thai By Thai” because they wanted to convey to the community that they would be offering authentic Thai cuisine, prepared by a Thai chef.
Almost immediately, the restaurant became a smashing success and developed a loyal following among those stationed at nearby Columbus Air Force Base, local businesspeople, and families, among others.
Gon and Scott soon realized that they had outgrown the quaint but small space. After a careful search for a new location, they settled on a spacious (4,500 sq. ft.) location at 509 Main Street in Columbus’ historic downtown district. After a top-to-bottom renovation and some major equipment upgrades, they moved into their new location in xxxxxxxxx of 2015.
The move to the restaurant’s new home has proven to be a fortuitous one, as it has given them easy access to the many shoppers that patronize the district’s boutiques and shops, as well as tourists, locals from both the mixed commercial-residential downtown area and the wider community, and from visitors from neighboring cities and towns within a 50-mile radius.
The restaurant features comfortable seating for 75 patrons in the main dining room, with additional seating for 25 people in The Vault, the restaurant’s private dining space. The Vault takes its name from the fact that it was actually used as a vault in one of the building’s former incarnations as a bank; the mammoth door to this area is still in place to this day. The restaurant’s décor has a decidedly understated Thai influence. This Thai influence can even be observed in the eclectic mix of dining tables and chairs, emblematic of the Thai philosophy of not wasting anything. The restaurant also offers sidewalk dining during warm-weather months and ample on-street parking year-round.
Finally, the restaurant’s friendly, knowledgeable staff welcomes all of their guests to enjoy a little “Thai By Thai” – an experience that they will not soon forget!
Kannika “Gon” Carley is originally from a small town (pop. 19,900) in northwestern Thailand, named Tak.
Gon embraced a love of food at a very early age. By the age of nine, she was cooking at her mother’s side, preparing classic Thai dishes. Family is of the utmost importance in Thai culture, so Gon spent countless hours with her mother, familiarizing herself with the unique blend of ingredients – from produce to herbs – that make Thai cuisine the unique experience that it is.
A little over a decade ago, Gon was introduced to her future husband, Scott, by mutual friends. Scott, an accomplished drummer, was touring the country with a variety of bands. Gon and Scott soon married. In 2002, they opened a restaurant and bar in Bangkok, naming it Tokyo Joe’s Blues Bar. Together, they turned the business into such a resounding success that it was named ‘Best Restaurant in Thailand” each year that it was under their ownership.
In late 2004, Gon and Scott moved to Mississippi. Soon thereafter, they had a son, Legend, and settled into the next chapter of their lives.
Fast forward to 2013, when Gon decided that she wanted to share her love of her native cuisine with more than just friends and family. Later that year, Gon realized her dream of owning a restaurant, as she and Scott opened Thai By Thai in the northern end of Columbus. In 2015, having outgrown their original location, they decided to move to their current location at 509 Main Street, in Columbus’ historic downtown district.
Although her cooking bears the influence of all four regions of Thailand – each possessing its own unique characteristics – the dishes that she offers at Thai By Thai come mainly from the country’s central region, with its reliance on the use of milk, cream and mild spices.
Gon cites preparing Bittermelon soup with her mother as her favorite food memory. Her favorite ingredients are chili peppers, Thai basil, and lemongrass, and her favorite dish to prepare at the restaurant is Jungle Curry. At home, Gon does all of the cooking, serving a mixture of Thai and American dishes, especially steak.
In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family in the spacious backyard of their home in Columbus’ Southside neighborhood.