Thai Place reopens in south KC
Story and photos by Jill Draper
The manager of a new restaurant near the corner of Wornall Road and 85th Street describes the cuisine as “elevated Thai with a craft cocktail bar program.” Pam Liberda, who calls herself “the lady of the house,” and her husband, Ted Liberda, executive chef and consultant, offer a limited but changing menu at Thai Place.
Pam explains the menu’s three sections of entrees: “All Time Favorites” includes dishes like phad Thai that customers from the family’s previous restaurant locations have come to expect; “Chef Inspired” dishes change according to the season; and “Authentics” are recipes from northern Thailand where she grew up. There also are shareable appetizers, several soups and two Thai salads featuring green papaya and grilled mint beef. Dinner entrees range from $16-$28, while lunch items are $11-$13.
Thai Place is located at 8431 Wornall Rd. across from Price Chopper in the space formerly occupied by Swagger Fine Spirits Food and KC’s Smokehouse Pub. “We took a year to gut both restaurants and ended up rebuilding the whole space,” says Pam.
The dark interior, decorated with Asian art and sculpture, is divided into two sections with a full bar and a glass garage door that can be raised during nice weather. The Liberdas own a third adjacent storefront that was Metro PCS. It’s now being used for storage, but in the future it will become a private dining room for up to 40 people.
Also in the future, perhaps in early 2019, Pam plans to offer Monday night cooking classes—something she did at a previous location in Westport. That restaurant closed in 2015 when her husband became ill, she says.
Bar manager Darrell Loo is working with the Liberdas to develop fixed-price dinners that involve multiple courses paired with tastings of wines, whiskeys and cocktails. He notes that French and German wines go especially well with Thai food, and says some of his craft cocktails are designed with the same ingredients found in the entrees such as fish sauce, shiitake mushrooms and lemongrass. A dinner paired with Riesling wines is tentatively scheduled for November.
“You don’t see a lot of Asian restaurants with a bar program,” Loo says, “but we want to do more than just serve food. We want customers to have a dining experience.”
One of Pam’s favorite dishes is a shareable item called Miang Kham. Customers are served a platter of minced lime, ginger, scallions and Thai peppers along with roasted coconut, dried shrimp and peanuts.
Bits of each are wrapped in a lettuce leaf topped with a special sauce of palm sugar and shrimp paste.“It’s a very complex dish,” she says. “With each bite the different flavors—salty, chewy, sweet, sour—pop in your mouth.”
Two lunch dishes she loved eating as a child are Kow Soi Nua, a beef curry with egg noodles, and Khao Man Gai, steamed chicken with jasmine rice and spicy ginger yellow bean sauce. Dinner favorites include Gai Tod Som Tum, described as Thai-style fried chicken with papaya salad, sticky rice and a spicy sauce, and Hor Mok Ma-Praw, a seafood curry custard with Thai basil served in a young coconut.
The Liberda family has operated multiple restaurants in the metro area, including one in Lenexa where Pam met her husband. That still exists, but was sold to a different owner, and last spring the family sold a restaurant at 135th and Antioch to fund the new Waldo location. The chain of restaurants was started by her mother-in-law, Ann Liberda, who came to the U.S. in 1975.
Pam says the Waldo Thai Place will not change hands. “Our house is a three-minute drive from here. It’s been my dream and my goal to be so close. This is our neighborhood—we are Waldonians and we know the people here. We want to stay.”
For more details see waldothaiplace.com or call 816-605-1188.