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Secret's out: new Guelph restaurant is all the rage (4 photos)

Lineups? Long waits? No problem, as an inconspicuous Thai restaurant in residential neighbourhood has people raving

It’s 5 p.m. on a Friday and there’s already a line up at the take-out counter at Na-Ha-Thai’s Kitchen on York Road.

Waitress Jessica White serves customers as owner Neil Verspagen takes orders over the phone. He tells customers their orders would be ready in 45 minutes but it can take more than an hour when the restaurant is really busy.

That’s something Lori Richer and Paula Zaludek learned the hard way.

“We came here one time before but it was too busy,” said Zaludek. “We didn’t realize we had to order ahead of time."

“Everyone at work has been raving about this place,” said Richer.  “They tell me it is the best Thai restaurant in the city.”

Located in a converted house in a residential strip of York Road, Na-Ha-Thai’s has become one of the hottest restaurants, if not the hottest, in Guelph. If people are willing to wait over an hour for take-out food, you'd better be good.

“Na Ha Thai's Kitchen in the Ward was lined up out the door tonight with a 75 min wait for take out....and worth every minute!” wrote Dan Gibson on Twitter.

“Seriously...what did we do here in #guelph before Na Ha Thai?” added Kathryn O’Brien.

Comments on social media only support the long line of people waiting for orders and the frequent ringing of the phone.

“This is typical for Friday at this time,” said Verspagen.  “It was exhausting at first but I am getting used to it.”

He said there is a simple explanation.

 “It is my wife’s cooking,” he said. “It is amazing.”

Amazing and authentic were the words used by most customers waiting for their food.

“This is authentic Thai food,” said Naruemon Verspagen.  “I learned to cook back in Thailand and I use all the same recipes here. Everything is made from scratch using as much organic and local ingredients as possible. There are no MSGs and we have several gluten free and vegan recipes on the menu.”

The Verspagens have been married 11 years and in the restaurant business for a year and a half.

They met while Neil was on vacation in Thailand and the restaurant is named after their daughter Nahathai, 7, and son Nathan, 4.

Naruemon earned a masters degree in agriculture back in Thailand, but the tastes and smells of the kitchen are her main focus now.

“My background is in science but I love to eat and bake,” she said.

About two years ago she started making and selling Thai appetizers at the Guelph Farmer’s Market and Aberfoyle Farmer’s Market under the name “Love at First Bite by Naruemon.”

When Portuguese Mario’s closed in 2014 and the location at 471 York Rd. became available she and Neil decided to open the restaurant.

“We are so busy I have no time for the markets anymore,” said Naruemon.

She has help in the kitchen from husband and wife team Somnuk and Kurmas Singsomboon as well as Patumrat Piayok. They all love to cook and enjoy sharing their food and culture with customers such as Bill Anders who developed a love for Thai food when he and his wife lived in Thailand.

“I was complaining to my buddy that there are no authentic Thai restaurants around here and he told me about this place. Now I eat here two or three times a month,” Anders said

He said there is something about authentic Thai food that is addictive.

“I’ve had almost everything on the menu and I have yet to try something that wasn’t delicious,” he said.  “It’s spicy but not too spicy.  It’s umami – just the right combination of flavours and aroma.”

That opinion was echoed by return customer, Fred Ford, who popped in to pick up an order of Pad Thai.

“This is my go to place,” said Ford.  “It’s the only restaurant in the city with this authentic menu.”

The dining area is small with only a few tables but that didn’t bother Steven and Katie Brumley.

“We learned about it through word of mouth,” said Steven. “We were told by everyone that this is the place to go for authentic Thai food.”

Naruemon said that since they opened she rarely cooks at home because they are always at the restaurant at dinnertime.

“I eat here a lot, but sometimes I get tired of it,” said daughter Nahathai. “Sometimes I just want chicken fingers.”