In a classic tale of Old Austin Meets New Austin, Thai Spice on The Drag will soon change its name to Thai, How Are You? The new moniker is a play on the restaurant’s south-facing wall’s famous mural by Austin musician Daniel Johnston.
David Roberts and his wife Noi Sukkij purchased Thai Spice at 2100 Guadalupe St. in June. The married couple has managed the restaurant since January, but with the completion of their purchase, they needed a new name to differentiate themselves from the Thai Spice restaurants in Lakeway and Westlake.
Longtime Dell employee Roberts said that economics and marketing played a role in the name change. He and his wife wanted to initially open a "quiet little Thai café," but soon realized that high rent at the restaurant that suffers a dip in business during summer called for a new strategy.
After researching the history of Johnston, whose mural is constantly being photographed by passersby, Roberts decided to capitalize on the musician’s fame in an attempt to drive traffic to the restaurant. Roberts reached a financial agreement with the Johnston family to appropriate the famous slogan as part of the restaurant’s new name.
The restaurant’s name change, including updates to signage and the menu, should take place within the next four weeks, Roberts said. The menu will also see some small changes, with Sukkij slowly introducing more traditional recipes from her native northeast Thailand.
"We don’t have any intention of commercializing the food or being a Thai McDonald’s," Robert said.
This is not the first time the mural that went up on the exterior wall of the Sound Exchange in 1993 has made news. In 2004, previous tenant Baja Fresh Mexican Grill stepped back from plans to eliminate the mural.