Local eatery Dr. May’s Thai Kitchen was a pioneer of mask-wearing in Athens, and the restaurant still upholds that strong standard of safety and care. 

Serving authentic Thai cuisine based on local food, the store has been open for about three years and recently updated its delivery system to include a no-contact delivery option.

No-contact delivery provides an even safer option for Dr. May’s loyal Thai food fans, such as Sarah Mitchell, the curriculum, instruction and assessment manager at Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs.

“I’ve been a regular customer of Dr. May for a while now, and was excited when I found out that I could get delicious Thai food delivered to my door,” Mitchell explained in an email. “I appreciate the no-contact delivery that Dr. May offers. I also find her website incredibly user-friendly.”

The store originally opened at ACENet, the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks, and has since expanded to two locations, one in the Athens Mall on East State Street and one in a food truck. The truck is usually parked and open at either Court Street or at the Athens Farmers Markets on Saturdays.

Dr. May Rath, the chef and founder of Dr. May’s Thai Kitchen, easily came up with the idea of a Thai kitchen because she had an undeniable love of cooking.

“I’m from Thailand, so I basically cooked my whole life … I grew up watching my grandma and my dad cook all the time,” Dr. Rath said as she stood outside of her food truck after a long morning of work at the Athens Farmers’ Market. “[My dad] would always go to the farmers’ market every day, every morning, and we were always telling him not to do that and to save your money … but he did it. In Thailand the farmers’ market starts very early, like at five or six in the morning, and he liked to do that, so that’s how I grew up.”

Dr. Rath taught at a university in Thailand for twelve years, cooking for friends and colleagues until she came to the U.S. to earn her Ph.D. Her cooking skills were quickly noticed, neighbors and friends requesting to order her food. Dr. Rath kept cooking and eventually opened her restaurant, especially because there was no other Thai food available in the Athens area. 

“We changed some things, but we were pretty much on the safety side of everything,” Dr. Rath said, addressing the safety precautions she has had to take amid the coronavirus pandemic. “We were the first business that was serious about [wearing masks], or else you can’t get our food and you can’t show up at our truck… When it comes to the mask mandate, I kind of have to compromise because I know that it’s not part of this culture yet and people have to adapt. So if you don’t have a mask, you have to order online because when you’re not wearing masks, by the time you figure out what to order and this and that it becomes like 10 minutes, and it’s not safe for us to do that.” 

Dr. Rath wore masks and required all employees to wear masks prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, as mask-wearing is commonly practiced in Thailand to encourage cleanliness and safety. However, even as mask-wearing has become more custom in the United States, Dr. Rath still runs into issues when businesses that she brings her food truck to don’t enforce the mask mandate.

“They try to say, ‘Hey, can we not do that because our customers are not comfortable with that?’ and I’m like ‘No, we can’t do that.’” Dr. Rath explained. “That is your business, you do what you want, but this is my business. So when your customers walk to my truck, they have to do what I ask them to do. If not, they can’t get the food. I have so many people walk up to me with their mask under their nose, or not wearing it, or in their pocket, all kinds of things. I feel that it somehow pulls me back to being a teacher, like, where is your mask?”

Dr. May’s Thai Kitchen aims to expand their business, especially because a number of customers request that the restaurant be updated to include a dine-in option. However, Dr. Rath explained that the restaurant isn’t at that point yet and that they still need time to grow, especially because all businesses are struggling at the moment because of the pandemic. Dr. Rath won’t even have employees in her food truck or in-store location because it is difficult to genuinely control safety measures if she allows more factors that could risk the virus slipping in.

Long-term, Dr. Rath would like to have permanent workers so that she can keep both the in-store and truck restaurants open at the same time. However, for the foreseeable future, Dr. Rath is just grateful to have her loyal customers that support her business and keep it going. 

“I think Dr. May’s Kitchen is one of the most underrated restaurants in Athens,” Catie Bugos, a senior studying music industry studies explained. “They sell authentic and tasty food while also taking amazing safety precautions, even before COVID. They deserve a lot more recognition.”

For more information, people can visit www.drmaysthaikitchen.com or call 740-274-3903.

@thelilyroby

lr158117@ohio.edu