Midtown Thai Basil celebrates 10 years with festival
Thai dancers, boxers and, probably most importantly, street food, will take over the corner of 25th and J streets Saturday as Midtown restaurant Thai Basil celebrates its 10-year anniversary.
Owner Suleka Sun-Lindley said the event will kick off at 9 a.m. as five Buddhist monks make their rounds, collecting food in a time-honored Thai tradition.
“Whenever they have a new business open or an anniversary or something else significant like that, they have the monks come out of the temple – always an odd number – and they take food offerings and give blessings,” Sun-Lindley said.
People visiting the festival will be able to take food from a table and hand it to the monks as they walk around the business.
The same was done a decade ago when Thai Basil opened, and though the monks will finish their blessings at 11 a.m., the festival will continue with a rural-style Thai dance troupe from Berkeley and Thai boxers.
“In Thailand, the boxers must dance before they go into the fight, so you will see that,” Sun-Lindley said.
Traditional Thai jewelry and other items will be on sale at a table alongside the restaurant, and Sun-Lindley said she hopes it will be a good way to showcase Thai culture, which is less-celebrated than some cultures in Sacramento.
“We have Cinco de Mayo and the Greek festival and others, but there aren’t any big Thai events, so people can come and see traditional Thai culture on Saturday,” she said.
A beer garden and Thai barbecue will be held on the restaurant’s back patio, with Thai sausage, spicy pork, grilled chicken and shrimp skewers available for about $5 with rice.
When Thai Basil opened, Midtown was in the beginnings of its ascendance to the popular hive of arts venues, restaurants and bars that make it one of Sacramento’s most popular destinations today.
“Midtown has come a long way,” Sun-Lindley said. “We came in at the right time.”
Other Thai Basil restaurants were opened earlier, with the Roseville location in its 16th year and the Elk Grove location in its 13th year, but Sun-Lindley said she enjoys riding her bicycle to work at the Midtown restaurant and being a part of the community.
“We have seen some kids coming here and really watched them grow up,” she said. “Everybody down here knows each other, and it has a small-town feel.”
One of the restaurant’s longtime customers is 55-year-old Sacramento resident Mike Smith, who said he discovered it after moving from the Bay Area about seven years ago.
“It’s a wonderful place to eat,” he said. “Every time I go in there and try something new, it becomes my favorite dish.”
He said his apartment is a block away, and he eats at the restaurant regularly.
The business has also seen its share of vandalism, with black paint thrown on the door, and a statue stolen from the back patio on two different occasions, but Sun-Lindley said the rapport she has build with customers is one of the joys of the job.
Sacramento Wine and Dine Week is currently under way, and Thai Basil made a special dish for the occasion, which will still be on offer during the 10-year anniversary: spicy eggplant with organic tofu in a green peppercorn and wild ginger sauce served with rice.
“We just want people to come down, have a low-key event and experience Thai culture,” Sun-Lindley said.
Thai Basil is located at 2431 J St.