Located just south of City Hall, right on the edge of Gayborhood, sits a small establishment that blends into the vibrant city surrounding it. Don’t mistake Grandma’s Philly for just another restaurant—this Thai spot invites you to enjoy delicious homestyle meals, grandma–style.
Founded by husband and wife Jan Brookes and Donrutai 'Chef Locket' Jainon, Grandma’s opened in July 2022, but the restaurant feels like it’s been a part of the city for ages. When I entered, the interior was bustling with people, waiters zipping back and forth carrying delicacies known as “Thai Tapas”: small plates meant to be shared with a group.
I sat down on the comfortable couch near the back of the dining room, decorated with pillows made by a local artist. Jan brought water to my table and welcomed me to the restaurant. This hospitality continued throughout my time there, making me feel immediately at home.
The day I went was particularly busy, and there were only two waiters in the front, including Jan himself. During my time there, however, the small restaurant drew in help from the local Philadelphians when a Good Samaritan decided to help the overwhelmed staff with an influx of orders and customers. It shows how this relatively new restaurant is already totally essential to the surrounding neighborhood.
Jan suggested I start with the Grandma’s meatballs, and it was the perfect choice. The meatballs arrived on a tiny plate, coated with a sweet and savory sauce. Taking a bite into them was like a piece of heaven, and the meatballs were so tender and flavorful that I wanted to order more.
Along with the meatballs, I ordered the creamy Tom Kha soup, the pillowy curry puffs, and the crispy dumplings. The soup is made with tofu and mushrooms, a perfect balance to its peppery and coconut–y broth. The curry puffs are similar to Indian samosas, but with a more delicate puff pastry and potato filling. The dumplings tasted like the meatballs, reinvented with a crispy skin. Paired with oyster sauce, they make for a delicious starter dish.
The restaurant emphasizes using fresh and local food items. “I was really surprised that a lot of [restaurants use] factory–made food,” Jan said. “We feel like people would wait a little longer for freshly–made food.” While there was a longer wait compared to other restaurants, Grandma’s thoroughly rewarded me for my patience.
The main dishes of the night were, without a doubt, the highlights. I ordered the Ratchada Duck, which came with a bowl of steaming hot jasmine rice. The duck had a wonderfully crisp skin and easy–to–chew meat, a surprise given that duck meat is hard to cook perfectly. The creamy sauce gave the duck that extra umami my tongue was looking for. Soon, my plate was cleaned! I also ordered a Thai staple, Chicken Pad Thai. The tamarind sauce was sweet and tangy with decadent noodles and crunchy bean sprouts. One can never go wrong with a tried and true classic, and this dish didn’t disappoint.
But the best plate of the night was easily the daily special. On that Friday, it was pork curry fried rice, which arrived to the table steaming hot. This fried rice was flavored beautifully, with just the right amount of curry paired with the crispy pork belly pieces, and a freshly made hard–boiled egg. The food and atmosphere reminded me of sitting at my own grandmother’s kitchen table, waiting to be spoiled by her delicious cooking.
Donrutai’s grandmother, unfortunately, passed away last year, but her influence is alive and well at Grandma’s. The cheery logo of her face is the symbol of the restaurant, an instantly recognizable and friendly icon that greets all patrons on their way inside. Designed by one of Jan’s best friends, the logo is symbolic of the restaurant’s core ethos: food made with love and patience. All these tiny details made for dining experience like none other, ensuring that Grandma’s Philly has more than earned its name.
TL;DR: great authentic Thai cuisine that tastes like home and is definitely worth the wait
Location: 1304 Walnut St.
Hours: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday: 11:30 am - 10:30 pm; Friday- Sunday: 12:00 pm - 11:00 pm; Closed Wednesday