Thai Mission opened in Maspeth just a week before the governor banned indoor dining in New York. Now, over two years later, the restaurant is scraping by and hoping the neighborhood will appreciate what they have to offer.
Carlos and Joanne Franco, the owners of Thai Mission, met after Carlos served in Iraq for six years. At the time, Carlos owned the Fat Buddha on the Lower East Side, where Joanne would frequent. They eventually got married and started their family in Queens.
Thai Mission was Joanne’s dream — Carlos admitted that his wife has always been a foodie and Thai Mission would be her passion project. The Francos secured their location for Thai Mission — 7011 Grand Ave. — just before COVID-19 hit New York City.
“We have our location and then COVID hits, and it hits hard,” Carlos said. “It was happening but New York wasn’t taking it serious yet. We got the restaurant and it was pretty bad.”
Carlos said that they focused on renovations at first, and marketed the place for takeout. Thai Mission has been primarily doing takeout orders since it opened, but now that COVID restrictions have lessened, they are trying to shift to a dine-in restaurant.
“There was a lot of fighting to get the place to where it is,” Carlos said. “It’s been amazing, but it really is a lot of hard work, especially in Maspeth, [which is] really Irish and Italian. It’s hard to convince people to dine-in in that area.”
Carlos said that there aren’t many Thai restaurants in the area, so most residents aren’t very familiar with the cuisine.
“Most of our orders come from outside of the Maspeth area,” Carlos said.
Despite this, Carlos has made it his mission to try and share his wife’s traditional Thai cooking with Maspeth and introduce the residents to something new.
“I want to share my wife’s kitchen with whoever’s willing to sit down and eat with us,” Carlos said. “That’s what Thai Mission is — all the food that’s being served is what my wife cooks for me and my family every night. I want Maspeth to know that we’re there and there to serve. We need our neighborhood support. We have a lot to offer.”
The Francos opened in Maspeth after falling in love with the neighborhood. With Carlos’ military background, he appreciated the American values he saw throughout the town.
“If you walk down Grand Avenue, it’s still sort of like old New York,” Carlos said. “You got American flags, the Veteran’s Parade — it reminds me of old Brooklyn where everyone is really patriotic.”
Thai Mission offers everything from pad Thai, and curry dishes, to more American-style dishes like their beer chicken, which is marinated for days.
“It’s all her seasoning and all her cooking. It’s a family business, my wife and my first son are the cooks, [and] my other son handles the front with me,” Carlos said. “My aunt comes in to do the vegetable spring rolls and the crab rangoon — we all hand make that.”
The restaurant just got its liquor license and now offers cocktails and drinks to go. Thai Mission is open every day of the week from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. except Mondays.
To learn more about the restaurant, visit their website at thaimissionnyc.com.