A restaurant connected to a piece of Austin cultural history has closed.
The new owners of Thai Spice knew they had a good marketing opportunity on their hands when they purchased the restaurant on the Drag in 2013. David Roberts and his wife, Noi Sukkij, changed the name to "Thai, How Are You?" as a nod to the famous Daniel Johnston mural on its southern-facing exterior wall.
The owners announced on the "Thai, How Are You?" website that they have decided to close after seven-plus years of business. The note from Roberts and Sukkji on the restaurant’s website reads:
After careful consideration during the break we have decided to close the restaurant.
We know this decision will disappoint so many of you who made us your regular spot and it breaks Noi’s heart to walk away.
Thank you for honoring us with your patronage and for allowing us to serve you!
We will miss most of you a lot, some of you a little and a couple of you not so much at all.
To all of you, we hope you enjoy the best of luck in 2020 and beyond!"
After researching the history of Johnston, whose mural is constantly being photographed by passers-by, Roberts decided after purchasing the restaurant to capitalize on the musician's fame in an attempt to drive traffic to the restaurant. The restaurant's name change from Thai Spice, where Roberts had been an employee, included updates to signage and the menu, and Sukkij introduced more traditional recipes from her native northeast Thailand.
Roberts reached a financial agreement with the Johnston family to appropriate the famous slogan as part of the restaurant's new name.
The famous mural, which went up on the side of Sound Exchange in 1993 and probably received its greatest fame when Kurt Cobain wore a t-shirt on MTV bearing its likeness, has attracted its fair share of attention over the years. In 2004, previous tenant Baja Fresh Mexican Grill stepped back from plans to eliminate the mural.
Public Travis County records show that the property was sold in the summer of 2018. There’s no word yet on the future of the space or the mural, but the Statesman has reached out to the listed land owner.