Cozy was opened in summer 2003. Cozy is a Thai restaurant that is simply yet uniquely decorated. Blended using a combination of both Thai and American cultures, the restaurant's atmosphere is different from your usual traditional Thai restautant. Tee M., Designer and co-owner of the restaurant, "feels that other than having food that is delicious, the atmosphere is very important and must be consistent with today's modern times."
Beside of having a pleasantly decorated interior, this restaurant provides you with warm and friendly service that makes you feel right at home.
First impressions |
Trucked behind the main drag of Wrigleyville, the tiny brick building almost goes unnoticed, until a peek inside reveals hundreds and hundreds of tin toys – steamboats, cars, animals, trains, trucks – marching across shallow shelves along the bright orange-golden walls. The funkiness continues with tables decorated with mosaics and held up by vintage sewing machine legs, restroom walls covered with more toys and, watching over it all, a life-size Elvis statue (which stands outside to beckon diners in during better weather). Chef-owner Tee Meunpresittiveg decorated this five-month-old spot with toys he started collecting as a child in Thailand.
On the plate |
All the Thai favorites are here in a multi-page menu that’s more like a booklet, complete with retro illustrations and plenty of descriptions for those unfamiliar with the food. Serving are generous and invitingly plated. The noodle and curry dishes we tried would serve two.
At your service |Servers were attentive, prompt and friendly. The kitchen was quick too. The four appetizers we ordered arrived together and piping hot. As the place filled later, the kitchen still kept up. One quibble: We had to ask for dinner plates, only to be given the small appetizer size – even though we were sharing four entrees among three people.
Second helping |The pad woonsen featured delicate stir-fired glass noodles with a mealange of flavors from shrimp, chicken, onion, carrots, bean sprouts, egg and peas. Lard na had perfectly crispy wide noodles and thick, flavorful sauce. The green curry was hot, crunchy creaminess. Among appetizers, the deep-fried shrimp rolls – with their crispy rice paper wrapper and tasty filling – were our favorite. The tom kar coconut soup was warming with its spicy heat.
Take a pass |The spicy shrimp arrived with perfectly stir-fried crustaceans but drowning in a gelatinous sauce that tasted ketchup-like. The shu mai steamed shrimp dumpling—were unremarkable.
Thirst quenchers |Along with the standard – Thai iced coffee and tea and sodas – drinks include “freezes” made with ice and pineapple, melon or litchi. A “kiddies cocktail” combines lemon-lime soda and cherry syrup with a cherry on top. Adults can BYOB.
Extras |Free parking—a premium in this congested neighborhood—is available for six or seven cars.
Price range |Appetizers, $2.95-$4.95; soups, $2.95;salads, $1.50-$5.50; main dishes, $5.50-$7.95;beverages, $1-$2.95.
Reviews are based on anonymous visited by Tribune Co. staff members.
By Laura Levy Shatkin
Reader, Friday, October 10, 2003 | Volume 33, Number 2 | Chicago's Free Weekly
A sign in Wrigleyville's month-old Cozy Noodles and Rice reads: ATTENTION PATRONS- KNIVES, FORKS, SPOONS, AND TOYS ARE NOT MEDICINE SO PLEASE DON'T TAKE THEM AFTER YOUR MEAL. But owner Suppaluk Meunprasittiveg, or Tee (his nickname as the youngest brother or three, or "tee"), admits he's not as concerned for the welfare of the silverware as he is about the thousands of small toys on the walls, tables, and shelves. "I started collecting when I was 12," say the 29-year-old. Now more than 500 Pez dispensers cover the women's bathroom walls, handreds of windup toys line the dining room, and a Plexiglas-covered tabletop at the entrance displays dozens of plastic fast-food trinkets. "They're all either nailed or glued down just in case," Tee says. "The sign is more for fun."
Tee and his 30-year-old brother, Sulak, came to Chicago from Bangkok in the mid-90s-Sulak to study business, Tee film. My aunt is a big film producer and my grandfather a famous actor," Tee says. "I was supposed to go back to work with her." After Sulak got his MBA from Dominican University in 1999, he was uncomfortable leaving his brother alone in the States (their other brother and mother still live in Thailand). So he opened the first Cozy, in Evanston, while Tee continued his studies.
Tee painted the interior of that restaurant canary yellow, hung colorful canvases of the Thai alphabet and shadow boxes filled with small toys on the walls, and made mosaic tabletops from broken tiles.
At first Sulak wasn't sure about Tee's decorating idea. "All the Thai restaurants look the same-plain bathrooms, white walls, Ikea lamps," Tee says. "I had to convince my brother that this isn't the boring 90s anymore. We should have some fun. He's much more conservative than I am."
By the time Tee graduated from Columbia College-with a bachelor's degree in film and video, and a wife, Jureewan, who'd moved from Thailand to be with him-Sulak's restaurant was thriving. The brothers decided they liked the restaurant business too much to return to Thailand just yet. With Jureewan as third partner, they leased the Wrigleyville space.
From the beginning, Tee knew exactly how he wanted it to work. There's a drawing in his leather-bounded sketchbook dated April 29, 2003, precisely detailed the new interior, toys and all. He used to show his brother his drawings. "It took him time to realize that my ideas would work-it would make us different," Tee says. "Now he says, 'Dot show me, just do it."
Since the new Cozy opened, Tee has been working on his collections. While most of his finds come from flea markets, junk stores, and pawnshops, he's recently discovered the utility of the Internet. "I started this license plate collection at the flea markets," says Tee, pointing toward Cozy's entryway, which is paneled in old tags. "But it was taking a long time. I realized I could find the entire set of 50 on eBay. It's nice welcome to customers from any states."
Both Cozy locations have the same menu. Sulak, still the sole proprietor of the Evanston store, trains the Wrigleyville cooks and wait staff. Entrees like red curry, stir-fried chicken or beef with basil leaves, and pad khee mao (spicy wide rice noodles with chicken, shrimp, basil, and vegetables) are as good as the food at most any neighborhood Thai place. The reasonable pries make it even more attractive; there's only one dish on the menu of 30 entrees that's over $5.95 (spicy shrimp, $7.95).
But as Tee predicted, it's the décor that makes the place special. Besides the toys, there's a shelf of vintage radios, a wall of thermoses, and a four-foot-tall illuminated ice cream cone. To pay respects to his family, Tee created a small shrine in the back room with a collection of movie posters, one of which features his grandfather in lead role, and mostly inoperable old movie cameras. He's even covered the host stand with jewel-toned marbles and set a life-size plaster Elvin outside the door. What's he is going to do when he runs out of room? "I'll just keep on collecting." He says. "But I'm starting to give away the toys to customers. That way they'll remember coming and want to come again."
"Thank you for making cozy as a part of your day" -- We Cozy --