Noe Valley Voice July-August 2004

North Carolinians Crave Noe Valley Thai Food

By Robert F. Oaks

What do you do when you live in a small North Carolina town that doesn't have a single Thai restaurant? If you are Clyde Harris and her husband Jay, who own two gift shops in the town of Beaufort, N.C., you head for Noe Valley's Swatdee. The 17-year-old restaurant, on 24th Street near Diamond, is about as far away from Beaufort as you can get without leaving the country, but for Clyde and Jay, it's well worth the trip.

The North Carolina couple, who usually attend gift trade shows in San Francisco twice a year, discovered Swatdee through a Noe Valley relative and immediately fell in love with the place.

"It's like a family," says Clyde. "Everyone is so friendly."

Swatdee owner James Sawatde ("Jimmy" to Ms. Harris) does employ many of his relatives. But even the non-family employees seem like family. Waiter Justin is "awesome," Clyde claims.

As an indication of the Harrises' commitment, on their last visit to San Francisco the couple ate at Swatdee eight out of the 10 nights they were in town. By the time they flew back to Beaufort, a coastal resort town of 3,800 people (and the former stomping grounds of Blackbeard the Pirate), their taste buds could no longer register the local cuisine. Too bad Swatdee doesn't deliver to North Carolina.

Once home, Clyde, who now styles herself "The Thai Toast Lady" after her favorite dish, decided to place an ad in Beaufort's local paper, The Gam. She urged everyone in town to visit Swatdee ("The Best Thai Cuisine in or out of Thailand") the next time they traveled to San Francisco. Be sure to "Tell Them the Thai Toast Lady Sent You," she added.

Working in her gift shop, Clyde proudly wears a Swatdee jacket, a gift from James. One of her employees confirmed that they do hear a lot about "that Thai restaurant." Clyde does a little Thai cooking at home ("though not as good as Jimmy's"). The lemongrass she uses was also a gift from James, who gave it to her after learning that her previous supply was lost in a hurricane.

The Harrises don't expect to return to San Francisco until early next year, but they already know where they'll spend many of their evenings.