School of Humanities and Sciences to replace Thai Cafe

Oct. 9, 2017, 12:14 a.m.

After campus institution Thai Cafe closed its doors on 30 years of business at Stanford in June, the School of Humanities and Sciences (H&S) is seeking a new food vendor for the vacated space at the courtyard outside Jordan Hall.

According to H&S Director of Public Relations Joy Leighton, H&S maintains the space where Thai Cafe used to operate and has issued a request for proposal from food vendors. Leighton said that H&S hopes to have a new vendor up and running in spring quarter 2018 based upon student, faculty and staff feedback.

School of Humanities and Sciences to replace Thai Cafe
Thai Cafe (SAM GIRVIN/The Stanford Daily).

“H&S will be soliciting feedback later in October from the Stanford community in order to help inform the selection of a new food vendor,” Leighton wrote in an email to The Daily. “A survey will be sent to faculty, student and staff listservs asking for feedback on a number of issues.”

The survey will ask the Stanford community what they expect from a new vendor, and potential vendors will hold a taste test for selected survey respondents once the results have been analyzed. Interested individuals can choose to enter the lottery for spots in the taste test after they complete the survey.  

Leighton said the new vendor will need to offer reasonable prices and a short wait time for patrons — qualities that Thai Cafe was praised for. CJ Paige ’19, who had several classes near the eatery last year, said that Thai Cafe was unique among food vendors at Stanford.

“One of the things I appreciated most about Thai Cafe was that the prices were reasonable and it was quick service, which is not something you find easily on-campus or in Palo Alto,” Paige said. “The food was different — it was something that we can’t get anywhere else on campus.”

Former owner Mykhanh Bahlman informed H&S last May of her plans to retire at the end of spring quarter. According to Leighton, Bahlman needed to close the cafe sooner than expected due to a family emergency.

“Ms. Bahlman was an important part of the Stanford community,” Leighton wrote in an email to The Daily. “Many faculty, staff, students and alumni knew her and enjoyed eating at the Thai Cafe, and we wish her only the best.”

Before its closure, Thai Cafe had an enthusiastic following at Stanford that resulted in long lines outside Building 420 every weekday at lunchtime. Its name was a misnomer coined by customers over the decades — Bahlman told The Daily in 2014 that her heritage and her food were actually Vietnamese, and the eatery never had a dedicated seating area.

For some students, the loss of Thai Cafe felt personal. Ben Schwartz ’18, who described himself as a frequent customer, said he was particularly sad to see it go in his senior year.

“Waiting in line for Thai Cafe is one of the quintessential memories of a Stanford student,” Schwartz said. “It can be really unifying actually. It will be hard to replace.”


Contact Gillian Brassil at gbrassil ‘at’

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