A light in the crisis: Kalaya Thai Kitchen feeds healthcare workers

In addition to takeout and delivery, the acclaimed Bella Vista restaurant is serving up meals for healthcare workers and those in need.

After opening in April 2019, Kalaya Thai Kitchen, a small BYOB in Bella Vista, was immediately embraced by restaurant goers and critics alike. They craved the Thai cuisine that chef/owner Nok Suntaranon served. Their underlying philosophy of being a trendsetter, “not following the trend”, with authentic flavors from Southern Thailand that many people have not tasted before, has won them rave reviews from critics like The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Craig Laban and awards, including Best of Philly 2019 – Thai

Nok moved to Philadelphia in 2010 after a long career as a flight attendant. She decided to start a small catering business and began catering special events. This eventually led to her search for a catering kitchen. When she saw the space at 764 S. 9th St., she was inspired to open a restaurant. Named after her mother, Kalaya was born. Taking advantage of her close proximity to the Italian Market, she sources many of her ingredients from vendors, including Esposito & Sons for meat and Michael Anastasio for produce. 

On March 16, 2020, the restaurant industry was changed for the foreseeable future. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the City of Philadelphia announced new restrictions on business activity. Included in the order was the following: “Food establishments may only accommodate online and phone orders for delivery and pick-up, and cannot allow dine-in service, for the duration of these restrictions.” On the evening of March 16th, Nok and her staff had a meeting and discussed their future. They decided to remain open and Kalaya went from a fine dining restaurant to a takeout/delivery business. 

In addition, in response to the urgent needs of the community, Nok made an announcement on Instagram to tell people that if they were in need they should come to Kalaya between 3-5pm Wednesday to Sunday and they would feed them. Her Instagram posts about their “phamily meals” clearly moved others in the industry to come to her assistance.

Since the post, Nok has received donations of everything from herbs and produce to prepared food from restaurants like Mike’s BBQ, Suraya, and K’Far. Kalaya has also donated lunch and dinner boxes to feed workers at area hospitals. In keeping with the spirit of Kalaya, she feels the need to “do what we believe” and “do it from our heart”.  

The generosity of Nok is evident in the care that she puts into takeout and delivery. Great service and hospitality were trademarks of the dine-in business and that needs to translate to the current situation. She tells her staff “to really fill up the boxes,” we “need to make people smile.” Nok concluded, “There is light in every crisis.” 

Please support Kalaya so they can give back to others!

764 S 9th St. (9th & Catharine)
Serving Thai lunch and dinner. Take-out and delivery.

Wednesday through Sunday, 12pm – 8pm
​Order online or call 215-385-3777 or 215-960-2581