Husband and wife team Wiley Frank and Poncharee "PK" Kounpungchart are the perfect pairing. Wiley, a chef with experience in some of Seattle's top restaurants and PK, the product of a food-loving family, who grew up watching her grandmother cook in her native Thailand. Together at their restaurant Little Uncle, they turn out some of the best Thai food in the city.
"My motto is if you can't make something that people crave, what's the point," said Kounpungchart. "So they would want to crave it and come back. And that's the only reason why we're doing what we're doing, because people do come back."
The pair's culinary journey began after living abroad in Thailand, first with pop-ups, then a take-out window just down the street from their current location on Capitol Hill. They even had a big restaurant in Pioneer Square.
"But it was beyond what we were looking for, so we moved into this spot, and it's just right," said Kounpungchart.
The menu at Little Uncle is concise, partly because they use high quality ingredients, and partly due to personal taste.
"When I'm starving, I don't like flipping pages. I just want to know, okay I feel like chicken, I feel like noodles. I just want my choices made for me," said Kounpungchart.
Their approach works. In 2016, Bon Appetit magazine named Little Uncle one of the best new restaurants in America. But Frank and Kounpungchart are equally proud the restaurant has become a fixture in the neighborhood.
"We have a middle school near us and some of those students still come in and they're much older, or they've already graduated," said Frank.
"They're in college and you're like 'oh my gosh'! Or people were just dating, and now they're married and have kids. You see them grow. It's very nice," added Kounpungchart.
One of the dishes that keeps people coming back is their signature Pad Thai, inspired by a small shop in Kounpungchart's hometown. It's made the traditional way, no chicken, only tofu, and no star system for spice. Instead, they give you individual packets of spicy chilis, sugar, and peanuts, and allow guests to season to their taste.
"You add it on your own because it's really hard to guess how spicy you like your food," explains Kounpungchart.
The result is some of the most delicious Pad Thai I've ever tasted. It's craveable, just like they want it to be.