Uncle Boons Sister, the latest restaurant from husband-wife chef duo Ann Redding and Matt Danzer, might be a spin-off, but in some ways, the Thai takeout spot is more of a family operation than their flagship Nolita restaurant Uncle Boons.
When they decided to convert Mr. Donahue’s into their long-ruminating idea for Thai takeout, they’d just had their first child, a boy named Leo, now around five months old. Redding’s mother came to town for three weeks after he was born, which meant she helped with the baby — but also doled out her opinion during their testing of dishes for the restaurant, whether Redding or Danzer wanted it or not. (“It was a great help, but a little stressful,” Redding says.)
Having a baby around the same time they were opening a restaurant wasn’t planned, but the generational influence at 203 Mott Street is appropriate. All the dishes at Uncle Boons Sister, a counter-service style place that is Redding and Danzer’s version of a fast food restaurant, are inspired by Redding’s mom and five aunts, who were always cooking when she was growing up. It’s “simple, homestyle recipes,” Redding says, many of which are versions of what her family frequently ate at home.
With that, Redding’s mom was not shy about her familiarity with the food, happy to lend advice during menu development. During testing, Redding and Danzer would have her taste dishes — and then the couple would go home for dinner to find that she’d purchased all the ingredients and decided to create her own version of it, complete with a just little bit of motherly shade. She doesn’t use recipes — “Trying to wrangle a recipe out of my mom is comical,” Redding says — but she does have knowledge that’s snuck its way into dishes at Uncle Boons Sister.
“We have taken at least one or two things from hers to make our things better, little things,” Danzer says. “But we’ll never let her know,” adds Redding. “It only encourages her.”
The dishes here are ultimately the couple’s take, including ones like tom yum soup, pad thai, and basil stir fry that appear at neighborhood Thai restaurants across the city. In Redding and Danzer’s version, tom yum soup has oxtail, and giant prawns top the pad Thai. Phat bai horapha, a street food usually made with ground meat, instead comes with bigger cubes of beef short rib for an extra bite. Most of the options come with rice, intended to be a full meal to-go, though the restaurant seats 12 people inside and will eventually seat 10 outside. It’s also a bit of a bodega, with grab-and-go Thai snacks and salads that will rotate with the seasons.
In the last few years, the culinary world has been more disdainful of dishes like these as more chefs try to serve less ubiquitous Thai fare, Redding says, but these are not Americanized meals. “It’s the most traditional Thai food,” she says. “It’s like comfort food.”
Uncle Boons Sister is open for dinner from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., with lunch starting soon. See the full menu here, and take a look around the space below.