We’re grateful for the increasing selection of global eateries across Northern Michigan—restaurants where you can discover everything from the joys of a bowl of aromatic pho, to an array of flavorful, spicy curries.
Featured in the November 2020 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine. Subscribe.
We caught up with the folks at The Good Bowl in Traverse City and Thai Orchid Cuisine in Petoskey to find out how they create their authentic Vietnamese and Thai dishes. They shared with us their must-try menu items and also their commitment to giving back to their communities, through donations and supporting those who are feeding the food insecure. Gratitude abounds in their kitchens and at their tables.
The Good Bowl // Traverse City
Co-owners Soon Hagerty and Tony Vu, who also serves as executive chef, launched The Good Bowl in July 2018—they say it was their way of thanking the U.S. for taking in their families as refugees after the Vietnam War and giving them the opportunity to live and build a life in America.
Soon says their focus is on cuisine, community and culture: introducing Northern Michigan to new cuisine that’s flavorful but accessible, supporting their community as a local business and offering events and experiences that introduce a new culture to the area.
“Finally, and maybe the most important thing we hope to create, is a great culture for our employees,” Soon says.
To create their Vietnamese dishes, they travel to Vietnam to stay current on traditional cooking techniques, as well as upcoming trends in Southeast Asian cuisine. Soon says their aim is to offer food that’s authentic, but balanced with a modern approach, especially in a region where Asian ingredients can be hard to find.
Pho—a soup consisting of broth, rice noodles, herbs and meat—is the iconic dish of Vietnam, generally eaten for breakfast or lunch as an easy on-the-go meal. It’s a popular menu item at The Good Bowl year-round (just add an ice-cold beer in the summer months!) and even has some health benefits (bone broth promotes joint health, and ginger can reduce inflammation).
“You always feel good when you eat Vietnamese food, because generally it is not slathered in heavy sauces,” Soon says. “We use fresh herbs to flavor our food.”
The Good Bowl was built on a mission-driven concept to support nonprofits, which Soon says they achieve by donating $1 per bowl to charity. Each quarter, guests chose one of three charities where their money will go (local, national and global options rotate).
Thai Orchid Cuisine // Petoskey
Owner Thomas Vangyi opened Thai Orchid Cuisine in Petoskey 13 years ago after he and his wife fell in love with the town. They had been visiting friends in Traverse City who introduced them to Petoskey, and in October 2007, the Vangyis started their business from scratch.
That included making their Thai food from scratch, too. Thomas says two of their most popular dishes among local patrons also enjoy popularity in Thailand: pad thai and curry fish. Pad thai—stir-fry rice noodles with egg, green onions and bean sprouts topped with lemon and crushed peanuts—is quite common in Thailand. “It’s very simple to make and cheap, too,” Thomas says. “You can eat it quickly and move on. That’s why it’s so popular.”
When it comes to curry, Thai Orchid makes four varieties: masman curry (the least spicy, served with potatoes), panang curry (a mild spice with more herbs, served with bell peppers), red curry (medium spice, their most popular curry) and green curry (the spiciest, using green chilis to make the paste).
Thomas says social responsibility is also a part of their philosophy as business owners, and they’re always looking for opportunities to give back and make an impact, especially in the area of relief for the food insecure. Local organizations seeking support can contact Sandy Vangyi at [email protected]
“We came from the Third World to the First World: When you come here, you have more opportunities—you see things differently,” Thomas says. “Everything we do here, we have to take care. We always like to support our community.”