As a young girl, Ann Redding always dreamed of opening a diner. At her pretend namesake diner, Redding, along with her sister May, would make small dishes that were often prepared in a microwave. Fast forward to 2020 and the microwave is gone, but the dream of that restaurant has come to life in Thai Diner. “Thai Diner is always something that’s been a part of my identity,” says Redding.
The 65-seat restaurant, at 186 Mott Street, at the corner of Kenmare Street, is the highly-anticipated new venture from Redding, who along with her husband Matt Danzer makes up the hit restaurant team behind Nolita’s Michelin-starred Thai destination Uncle Boons, and its nearby offshoot Uncle Boons Sister, which recently transformed into a delivery-only restaurant, so the couple can focus on their new project.
Thai Diner is somewhat of a progression of the couple’s efforts at the short-lived American diner Mr. Donahue’s, which later became Uncle Boons Sister. This time however the couple is leaning into Redding’s dual Thai and American heritage with a menu that features several American diner classics served with a Thai twist, and other traditional Thai preparations as well.
“This is the food I grew up with,” says Redding. “Very traditional Thai food from my mother, but also classic American fare from my dad’s side of the family. Thai Diner is our way of bringing it all together.”
That can be seen in dishes like the Thai tea babka french toast served with condensed milk butter; steamed oysters that come with a spicy nam prik sauce or a mild vermouth and butter sauce; spicy chopped chicken livers that come with pieces of pineapple and roti; and a steak and eggs combo served up with sticky rice and a spicy dipping sauce. Some traditional preparations from Uncle Boons Sister like the pad Thai and the pad see ew will live on at the new restaurant.
The drinks menu will similarly straddle Thai and American influences with a variety of cocktails including a dry martini with shrimp-infused vodka; tropical smoothies; the house Thai rum that’s served at Uncle Boons; along with coffee and cold brew on tap.
Much like Uncle Boons, the decor here leans eclectic and was designed by Redding in collaboration with her sister May. Classic diner flourishes like the low bar seats with chrome, and the glass finishes go hand in hand with Thai elements like the bamboo and teak wood used throughout the space, portraits of Thai royalty, and some tchotchkes mixed in as well.
Thai Diner, which will open on February 18, marks the fourth restaurant for Redding and Danzer. Following years of experience working in fine dining establishments like Thomas Keller’s Per Se — where the couple met incidentally — the duo opened Uncle Boons to critical acclaim in 2013. The restaurant subsequently earned a Michelin star, and continues to maintain one, along with its reputation as one of the best Thai restaurants in the city. The couple has been at the forefront of making Nolita one of the hippest dining destinations in the city, and their newest venture will likely elevate their popularity even more.
For now, Thai Diner will be open for breakfast and lunch on Tuesdays through Fridays from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., with breakfast — which will have some additional dishes like an egg sandwich with Thai sausage and cheese served on a roti — served until 11 a.m., and lunch thereafter. On Saturdays and Sundays, the entire menu will be available all day from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The diner will eventually become an all-day restaurant serving dinner as well.