Tasty Thai was the little Fresno take-out restaurant that was at the center of a firestorm of controversy in the spring. It shut down amid death threats fueled by an unfounded internet rumor of serving dog meat.
Now, the restaurant is making a comeback.
Its new name is Love & Thai. It will reopen in about two weeks or so at the northeast corner of Butler and Chestnut avenues.
It’s moving into the space once occupied by Pacific Fried Chicken. That restaurant closed a few months back when its lease was up. The owner said the new rent was more than he could afford.
The Asian restaurant moving into the spot is run by David Rasavong and his parents, who are in their 60s and 70s.
“What inspired our name was the amount of love my mom put in her cooking, but (also) the amount of love we received from the community when everything came at us so quickly,” he said. “I’m excited to be able to — not to sound cheesy — but to spread the love.”
Tasty Thai and dog meat
The Thai and Lao restaurant on First Street near Belmont Avenue got tangled up in controversy in May when a woman posted a video of herself confronting a man in the house next door about a dog tied up by its front paws with no water nearby.
Police said the dog was not being abused after visiting the home. But the online conversation exploded, with commenters alleging without proof that the residents and the restaurant were killing and serving dogs.
The eatery was flooded with racist reviews, phone calls and death threats. It shut down temporarily and then permanently.
“It didn’t feel safe,” Rasavong said. “We were getting so (many) calls and threats. You look at the cameras and people were just driving by slowly and some people were sitting there for a long time.”
Rasavong, who has spent a career in the restaurant industry at several big restaurants, launched Tasty Thai as an homage to his parents, especially his mom who loves to cook. The business was only about six months old and doing well.
“Tasty Thai was my thank you to my parents,” he said. “For it to end like that, it just didn’t feel right.”
Love & Thai
While the restaurant received plenty of scary and racist comments, it was also flooded with supporters. In online posts, they vowed to spend big money at the restaurant if it reopened.
“We had some people from across the world reach out to us,” Rasavong said.
One woman, a graphic designer in the Netherlands, Nkundwe P. vW-Kasyanju, offered her services for free. She jumped on Zoom calls from a different time zone when Rasavong started planning to reopen and designed a new logo.
Danny Gonzales, a well-known designer of restaurants in the Los Angeles area, also offered his help for free.
And Long Nguyen, the former owner of Pacific Fried Chicken (a little takeout spot with a big reputation for good food) will also be involved in running the day-to-day business at Love & Thai.
Together they are building a new restaurant that Rasavong said properly honors his parents. An exact opening date hasn’t been set, and depends upon government approvals, but the restaurant should open in September, he said.
“The reason why we went with Love & Thai, it just felt appropriate — all the love.”