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Teena Thach is making it her mission to feature local mom and pop eateries on TikTok. She's helping their business reach new customers during these difficult days. (Image: Teena Thach)

'Hey WA Foodies': Local TikTok star has an appetite for helping local eateries

Since the Pandemic hit Washington state last March, times have been tough - especially for local restaurants. Refined has had the privilege of sharing so many stories about people in the community who have been lending a hand to help the eateries (and the people behind them). That includes a Bellevue teen who built a website to connect customers with the latest foodie deals and The Herbfarm who shifted from preparing gourmet meals to feeding essential medical staff.

Teena Thach has created her own unique way to highlight small mom and pop eateries all over the state. She makes short (and very entertaining) videos about a wide variety of restaurants, making it a point to showcase their food and feature the restaurant owners. These days, some of her videos on TikTok alone are getting over 450,000 views! We recently chatted with Thach to get the scoop.

Seattle Refined: Teena Thach, your videos have gone viral on TikTok! You’re featuring mom and pop eateries around western Washington and people seem to love them. How did this start?
Teena Thach: I always loved to eat food, and I randomly wanted to try a new restaurant which I always do. I hit up Mangosteen and he [the owner] was like ‘Hey try my food, but also I’ll give you free boba if you make a TikTok.’ So he brought out this Korean fried chicken and these bobas and different things that I tried and I recorded it. I just cut it together and put my voice on it and was like ‘Hey Washington foodies’ and it just went viral. A whole bunch of people seeing the video, and a lot of food traffic coming in. I was - this can help people. It’s also fun, but it’s also like...I’m really seeing the reactions and the positive change in this for this community.

So what was kind of happening in your life at the time of the pandemic starting?
My dad - for a long time he had smoked cigarettes. But then out of nowhere he caught Meningitis B that went straight to his brain and then he just fell into a coma. He held on long enough so he could go to the hospice home and then I got to see him for three days, and then I got to say my goodbyes. I was really sad, I felt like I lost myself where I lost my purpose. I think I’m a very positive person, and being sad and feeling down - it’s just like not me. I feel like I’m a colorful person but at this time I felt like there was cloud over my head. When I started making videos and also seeing that I’m adding positive vibes on that app - I was like, this is something I want to keep doing.

Can you describe your Tik Tok videos?
What I do is I try to focus on the mom and pop, Black and Brown, immigrant restaurants that don’t have shine. The food that I think deserves so much more recognition that don’t have the social media expertise or don’t have money to put behind these resources to amplify their content. I really do just not only focus on the dishes or the food but the history the traditions.

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How you do it?
I just come in and tell them ‘Hey I want to amplify your business during what I feel like right now is a hard time and I think your food is so delicious. You don’t have to pay for it I just want to do this for you.' The reactions from the owners and the way that their businesses have grown - that that’s more than money can buy like that makes me so happy.

[What are] some of the kinds of general foods you’ve covered so far?
I’ve done Laotian I’ve done Vietnamese coffee, Caribbean, Soul Food, tacos, boba so many different ones and there’s gonna be way more coming up.

Tell me a couple of the stories of the reactions?
Blazing Bowl which is a Laotian Hot Pot Place. The owner was like 'I put all my 401K into this - my retirement money and I’m really scared we’re gonna shut down'. My heart was just like 'Oh my gosh I need to help'. And I was like this place is so good I need to do this. So I just made the video and I think at first they’re like 'OK we’ll see what happens.' And yesterday I saw the lines were like out the door at Crossroads Mall and people are wanting to try the food and looking for Laotian food and they didn’t even know there was a restaurant. They [the owners] sent me a video and they were like - we were so busy today. We never made this much money. Thank you so much super grateful. Even the Won Ton Noodle House place - [the owner] - he’s been there for ten years. He was also like telling his daughter in Chinese - 'Oh it’s just a video I don’t understand.' And then [after Teena made the TikTok] all of the sudden he’s like 'Oh my gosh my workers are tired of wrapping won tons there’s so much crispy wontons they are making it’s crazy.'

Where is the Won Ton Noodle House and give me a 'guesstimate' about how many views that has had so far?
The Won Ton Noodle House is in Edmonds Washington. I think right now on TikTok it’s almost 200k.

Why is it so important to you personally?
I’m a first generation student of color, woman of color in my family and you know - I want to make a difference. Times are hard, racism is at its highest and food brings us together.

Teena I think what you’re doing is food for everyone’s soul so thank you and thanks for chatting with us today.
Thank you for having me.

You can learn more about Teena Thach and her videos on her website, as well as on TikTok and Instagram.