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One Year In: Hat Yai’s Earl Ninsom and Alan Akwai on Fried Chicken and Visa Restrictions

And how Hat Yai 2.0 was almost a reality

Hat Yai Menu and Eater Inside
Hat Yai
Dina Avila/EPDX

Last month, Hat Yai quietly celebrated its first year in business on a veritable murder’s row of restaurants on Northeast Killingsworth Street (Podnah's Pit, Handsome Pizza, Tea Bar, etc.). The restaurant seemed prime for finger-licking obsession from the start: Specializing in Thai fried chicken, it was positively received by the press, and chef and co-owner Earl Ninsom’s (Langbaan, PaaDee) ever-growing fandom seemed likely to quickly turn the restaurant into a destination for ravenous eaters.

So how’d it pan out?

Co-owners Ninsom and Alan Akwai tell Eater things have indeed gone smoothly for the most part, but they did face one recent hiccup — one they had no power to control.

Ninsom and Akwai were working to open a second Hat Yai in the new development going up on the old goat blocks, across the street from Cascade Brewing. They were ready to sign a lease, but when the Trump administration increased E-2 visa restrictions, the challenge to bring cooks from Thailand to cook in the restaurant seemed too great (Ninsom’s employment of experience Thai cooks is well documented).

“It’s unfortunate,” Ninsom says. “We had a place picked out, but by the time we were about to sign, we had to put a hold on that.”

Ninsom and Akwai report Hat Yai’s business model has otherwise done well, so don’t expect any significant changes in the coming year. That said, on July 10, Hat Yai will expand its hours from Tuesday through Sunday to seven days a week. And Hat Yai 2.0? That’s still on the table, says Ninsom.

Hat Yai

1605 Northeast Killingsworth Street, , OR 97211 (503) 764-9701 Visit Website