Thai Fresh spins off with a new location focused on vegan ice cream and gluten-free treats.
By Sabrina LaBoeuf, Photos courtesy of Thai Fresh
Austin’s title as the vegan-ice-cream capital of the world takes on a whole new meaning for Austinite and Thailand native Jam Sanitchat. She’s the owner of Thai Fresh, an eclectic Thai restaurant also serving as a coffee bar, vegan-ice-cream shop and gluten-free bakery. Coming in June, Sanitchat will add a second location to her mouthwatering empire, called Gati, and this time, it’s all about the ice cream.
“People do butcher [the name] up a little bit here and there,” Sanitchat says. “We’ll have a T-shirt that says, ‘This is how you actually say this word,’ and stuff like that. It’s kind of fun.”
Gati (pronounced “gah-ti”) is the Thai word for coconut milk, the base of every flavor of ice cream Sanitchat makes. While most other vegan-ice-cream shops in Austin make their ice creams dairy-free, Sanitchat uses coconut milk, noting in Thailand, coconut milk is added as a source of flavor.
The new Gati shop, located at 1512 Holly St., is set to offer 16 different ice-cream flavors, four more than Thai Fresh’s ice-cream counter. Even though the menu is not yet set in stone, Sanitchat says dessert lovers can expect a combination of permanent and rotating flavors. Currently, the flavors at Thai Fresh range from classics like chocolate to specials like Thai tea.
“Our chocolate is very popular,” Sanitchat says. “Somehow, it sounds like a cliché, but I think that we have the best chocolate ice cream of all the ice creams out there, dairy or not. [Banana and pecan] probably is my personal favorite. We use ripe bananas, but we do always use Texas pecans. Then it’s sweetened with palm sugar, which is a type of sugar that is coming from Thailand, so I feel that it just kind of speaks to Thai and Texan.”
Despite being voted as having the best vegan ice cream by The Austin Chronicle, Thai Fresh, Sanitchat fears, isn’t attracting enough ice-cream customers.
“I just came to the conclusion that it’s because it’s in a Thai restaurant. It’s kind of hiding under something that is so much bigger,” Sanitchat says. “So, it’s almost like [an] identity crisis.”
The newly focused menu will be ice-cream-centric, but it will also feature a full coffee bar and dishes inspired by Sanitchat’s travels. The coffee, like the ingredients for the savory dishes, is sourced locally from Greater Goods Coffee Roasters.
“I picked them, first of all, because they’re local, so there’s not much distance that it has to travel. They have [a] very good practice in sourcing the coffee,” Sanitchat says. “They do go visit the farms, source it, make sure they get paid really well, so there’s no abuse for the coffee grower, because coffee is [one of] the top five most abused [industries] in the world.”
Additionally, Gati will have a more modern style, compared with Thai Fresh’s rustic, earthy atmosphere. It will also be smaller in size and function as a counter-service space instead of a sit-down restaurant, another attempt to distinguish the two.
“I think when you open more than one [location], I think you should open something different. I just feel that it’s really hard to open the same one and have them all be successful,” Sanitchat says. “People have done it, but I feel that it’s better to come up with new ideas, and you’re not bored by it.”