RICHLAND, Wash. - The Tri-Cities’ very first Thai restaurant turns 35 this month.
The Emerald of Siam opened in Richland’s Uptown Shopping Center in mid-October 1983. Since then, it has evolved into a hybrid venue for dining, live music and showcasing art.
Dara Quinn and her brother William took over the family business eight years ago. Their mother and aunt, both from Thailand, founded the place when they took over an old “soda jerk” café in the middle of a Thrifty drug store.
“My mom wanted to bring her culture and food to the Tri-Cities. She found a lack of good food around in the ‘80s and wanted to help,” says Quinn.
While it’s gone through several design changes -- at one point, it expanded to the Uptown Theater and had a banquet hall and gift shop -- Quinn says much of the menu has stayed consistent.
“The staples like pad Thai, chicken satay and our lemongrass soup have remained since day one,” says Quinn.
By day, it's a casual family restaurant known for its lunch and dinner buffet and traditional Thai dishes. On many evenings and nights, it's better known as an intimate concert venue.
For about a decade, Quinn was a touring musician living in Seattle who played keyboard and percussion with several different artists. Once her mom retired, she moved back to the Tri-Cites to take over the Emerald and bring along her brother to include her passion for music by putting in a stage and hosting shows.
The Emerald has since become one of the few places in town to see live music on a regular basis. From local bands to up-and-comers from out of state, there are dozens of musicians playing gigs there every month – often for free.
Every Monday is open mic night and Wednesdays are jazz nights. Local talent comes out every week to play on stage. The venue hosts everything from jazz to punk to heavy metal and all ages can stay until 10:45 p.m.
Local artists also contribute to the atmosphere of the place by putting on displays or hanging up their work. The walls are covered in artwork and many of the tables are hand-painted.
Quinn said she’s gotten a lot of praise for her work in the local music scene – often from people who have relocated from a bigger city – because of the Emerald’s urban feel.
“People have been very thankful for the venue,” says Quinn. “I’ve had someone tell me, ‘Now I don’t have to move.”
The Emerald is celebrating the anniversary with special events all month including a larger buffet on Oct. 19 and 20, new dishes on the menu, a dinner performance from famous banjo player Danny Barnes on Oct. 15 and more.
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