Life’s a journey and an adventure, right? On our journey, we get to see new places, experience new surroundings — and savor the foods unique to the place. As the journey unfolds, we learn a little more about the world, and about ourselves. As part of our journey, we travel, and travel is good for the soul (in our opinion).
But travel, in the sense of opening ourselves to new experiences, can be close to home, too.
Fortunately for us on the Central Coast, we don’t have to travel to Thailand to experience the best of the country’s food (although Thailand ranks high on Flavor Team member Kara’s must-visit list).
So if, like us, a trip to Bangkok isn’t scheduled anytime soon, and we don’t have the benefit of being in a wonderful Thai family that cooks authentic meals — brimming not just with amazing flavor and freshness but with love and good wishes — the family at Divine Thai can bridge that gap.
Bringing Thailand to the Central Coast
Now owned and operated by the founders’ granddaughter Polly Lengsricha-em, Divine Thai shares family recipes that Polly’s Grandma Nattha and Grandpa Charlie brought from Thailand.
Situated at the corner of Grand and Fifth in Grover Beach, when you step in to Divine Thai, you’re greeted with a smile and a genuine welcome. For the time you’re there, you’re treated like family.
Divine Thai has been serving up the best (in the Flavor Team’s opinion) Thai food in Grover Beach since 2007. Fun fact: if you walk by in the evening after closing, you can smell the homemade stocks, some made with 20 lbs of Thai chilis, simmering overnight.
Polly’s father oversees the ingredients for every dish at Divine Thai, and everything is made from scratch. In addition to the stocks, he makes their curry pastes and other sauces. Lemongrass and basil come from the family garden each day. Fresh? The food at Divine Thai can’t be fresher.
They also understand gluten-free preparation, and many items on the menu are already gluten free (including the curries). For other items, Polly and the team are happy to make them gluten-free; just ask.
When asked her favorite dish, Polly said it was a tie between Pad Thai and Charlie’s Catfish. More about that later.
If you order brown rice, you’ll be in for a wonderful surprise. Thai brown rice is almost purple, and the taste is as rich as the color. Chewy, flavorful. Try it and you’ll love it.
Where it All Began
Divine Thai was born as Thai Dheva in San Francisco in 2004. “My grandparents Nattha and Charlie started the restaurant, and my whole family was involved.”
Business was great, but rent kept rising. “When the rent tripled, we decided to move Thai Dheva to the Central Coast and found a great location in Grover Beach.”
With the move, Polly’s grandparents sold the business to her parents and another couple. The four partners opened Thai Dheva in 2007. In 2013, the other couple left the business, and Polly’s family took over completely. They renamed the restaurant Divine Thai.
While the name changed, the family recipes and approach thankfully remained. While her parents are now 50% retired, they still make the curries and other staples of the menu.
In addition to Polly, you can meet other family members when you visit.
It’s not just the Flavor Team that believes Divine Thai is divine. The family’s restaurant and recipes have been recognized as top notch in competition.
The Wat Thai Temple in North Hollywood opens its doors to the public on the weekends so the community can enjoy the best Thai food around. To be included, each purveyor must compete to win a space among the coveted food stalls. The annual competition is fierce, and winners are awarded the opportunity to sell their food for one year at the temple.
“My parents first won the competition in 2002, and we served at the Temple from 2002 – 2005. It was a great experience. We set up our mobile kitchen and made our award-winning recipes, including Pad Thai Noodle, Crispy Fried Green Mussels, Rice Flake Noodle Soup (Kuey-Jub), Pink Lady Noodle (Yen-Ta-Pho), and Boat Noodle Soup.”
She added, “Between 2,000 to 3,000 people visited the temple every weekend, so it was a great way to share Thai Dheva with many people.”
And the Food. Did We Mention it’s Divine?
The pumpkin curry is swoon-inducing and earns a Flavorite nomination in the Great Flavors annual competition. (Stay tuned for more about our Flavorite Awards in the coming weeks.)
In addition to that and Polly’s personal favorite Pad Thai, the Charlie’s Catfish is an exceptional signature dish. Lightly breaded fresh catfish laced with a sauce made of a Thai herb similar to ginger, young peppercorns, basil, and coconut milk, it’s a combination of sweet and spicy goodness. It can also be made gluten free.
The Divine Thai family creates fresh specials to reflect the seasons. Winter brings a variety of hearty soups and spring announces the arrival of fresh rice-paper-wrapped Spring Rolls.
While the restaurant does not have a liquor license, it offers free corkage. As Polly said, “You supply the party; we’ll supply the glasses.”
If you’re planning a wedding, consider having your reception at Divine Thai.
What’s Next for Divine Thai?
When Polly’s not at the restaurant, she’s studying for her law degree from UCSB, which will complement her MBA in Accounting.
Future plans include opening another location in SLO county, as well her personal dream to provide nourishing food and helpful advice. “I’d like to create the concept here based on a restaurant I saw in Boston called Legal Seafood. Ours would be called Legally Delicious, and we’d serve wonderful Divine Thai meals with a bit of legal advice. In fact, I just recently answered a customer’s questions about deeds.”
Polly’s combination of business savvy and an unwavering belief in sharing her family’s recipes and the spirit that infuses each dish is a recipe for success.
Pumpkin Curry (or Pad Thai or Charlie’s Catfish) Just Might Just Foster World Peace
Open every day at 11:00, it’s easy to conquer your Divine Thai craving and sate your wonderlust for the time being.
The Flavor Team encourages you to try it soon — and let us know your Flavorite from Divine Thai.
501 W Grand Ave, Grover Beach, CA 93433