Hanover eateries close, rebrand

by Zachary Benjamin | 7/6/17 8:45pm

For a year and a half, Dartmouth students and Hanover residents have had a choice of three Thai restaurants in town — a high number given Hanover’s size. But one of these restaurants has shut down and plans to relocate, while another will be changing its name in the coming months and expanding its menu to serve Vietnamese food.

Thai Orchid, previously the oldest restaurant in town, has shut down its Hanover location and plans to reopen in Lebanon. Kata Thai, which opened last January, was Hanover’s newest Thai addition. However, it will rebrand itself as Pho Q in mid-August, serving both Vietnamese and Thai food.

Kata Thai manager Leanna Wong said that “Pho Q” is short for “Pho Queen.” The name refers to a kind of Vietnamese soup noodle that includes meat, rice noodles and herbs in broth. Janet Wong, Kata Thai’s owner and Leanna Wong’s sister, came up with the name.

In addition to Vietnamese foods like pho and bánh mì — a kind of Vietnamese sandwich — Pho Q will continue serving the most popular Thai dishes from Kata Thai, like pad thai, fried rice and curries, Leanna Wong said. The restaurant is also considering serving samosas. It will stop serving the less popular items on Kata Thai’s menu, such as soup noodles.

Leanna Wong noted that Pho Q will be the only Vietnamese restaurant in Hanover, giving it a competitive edge.

“I think Vietnamese food is healthier — less oil,” she said. “People like healthy now.”

Originally, the plan was to switch the restaurant’s cuisine to serve Vietnamese food exclusively, Leanna Wong said, as both she and Janet Wong are Vietnamese. However, at the advice of Kata Thai’s previous owner, they chose to continue serving its most popular Thai foods in order to keep the restaurant’s usual customers happy.

The switch from Kata Thai to Pho Q is scheduled for mid-August, she said. The restaurant is currently preparing to make the switch to a new cuisine and is purchasing new equipment.

While Kata Thai is merely revamping and rebranding itself, Thai Orchid has chosen to leave Hanover entirely. Its website says that it plans to reopen in a new location that is more accessible — the Hanover location was on the second floor of a plaza — and has more parking options. The restaurant’s voicemail says that it plans to reopen in Lebanon in the near future.

The restaurant, which has not provided any updated contact information, could not be reached for comment.

Hanover town manager Julia Griffin said that the town faces a high demand for parking due to the busy retail and restaurant presence in the town. In comparison, both downtown Lebanon and other locations in the area, such as Highway 12A or Mechanic Street, have much more open parking than Hanover, she said.

Ken Pace, manager of Hanover’s third Thai restaurant, Tuk Tuk Thai Cuisine, called Thai Orchid’s closure “shocking.” Pace said he and his wife Pannipa Pace, who owns Tuk Tuk, had no ill will towards Thai Orchid.

Pannipa Pace had previously worked as a cook at Thai Orchid before eventually leaving to open her own restaurant. Ken Pace said that when Pannipa Pace left, Thai Orchid’s owner had delivered some heated comments to her, spurring her on to succeed at Tuk Tuk. In 2015, the Valley News reported about a possible personal rivalry between the management at Thai Orchid and at Tuk Tuk.

It would be difficult for two Thai restaurants operating at similar price points, such as Thai Orchid and Tuk Tuk, to coexist in a town the size of Hanover, Griffin said.

The closure of Thai Orchid marks another unexpected Hanover restaurant shutdown. This past May, pizza restaurant Everything But Anchovies closed without warning after the opening of a Domino’s Pizza franchise in West Lebanon, which offered later pizza deliveries than EBAs. A Facebook page called “Ebas Hanover” later posted a status announcing plans to bring in a new management team and reopen the restaurant; however, the status appears to have since been deleted.

Griffin said she believes Dominos’ aggressive attempts to promote its late-night delivery was a major factor in EBAs’ closure. The Dartmouth previously reported that EBAs saw a 20 percent decline in late night deliveries following Dominos’ opening.