Call it serendipity. One evening back in the early 80’s, I wandered into a Thai restaurant by chance. Having Never sampled the cuisine of Thailand before, I was curious to try different dishes. By the end of the evening, I’d fallen in love with the exotic tastes, and flavorful spices of this exciting new food.
I soon became a regular at the restaurant, and continued to explore many others. But as I sat at a table one night, surrounded by walls empty of artwork, with no wine list to peruse and a waiter who didn’t understand me, I realized that as much as I loved Thai food, I was less enchanted with most Thai restaurants. Such wonderful cuisine deserved a better setting. That’s when I began imagining how I could make the Thai dining experience more enjoyable and inviting. A short time later, as I pondered a career change I decided to pursue my dream.
With no experience in the restaurant business other than as a customer, and no qualifications beyond the simple fact that I love to eat, I approached the owner of a small Thai restaurant in Tempe Arizona and asked if she would be interested in creating a more upscale setting for her exceptional food. She agreed. In August of 1987, Malee’s on Main opened. We started small, serving about 20 dinners a night, but after a glowing review from highly regarded restaurant critic Elin Jeffords in October of that year, we surged to 120 dinners a night.
The building that is home to Malee’s on Main has a fascinating story of its own. Built in 1921, it was once Miss Lillian’s Tea Room, and later a French restaurant called Lucky Pierre’s. For a few years it was Hugo’s, an Italian restaurant named for the owner who sang opera as he served the customers.
Since Malee’s on Main opened people have asked me for our recipes. Our Chefs bring extensive experience and infuse it with secret techniques. We are constantly trying new ideas, even doing a little ‘Thai Spy’ wherever we find delicious discoveries, in places as far away as Bangkok.
All our meals are prepared individually in 10′ sauté skillets, so four people at one table can each order the same dish, and have it prepared differently, depending on personal preference or dietary need.
Over the years, we have welcomed everyone from Hollywood celebrities to high school prom dates. My goal was to create a place where everyone feels comfortable. A place that doesn’t look like a typical Thai food restaurant, but instead reflects the unique character of its location-with our patios, fireplaces, and original artwork. Our locations compliment each other. Malee’s on Main is true to the spirit of Scottsdale, and Malee’s Thai Bistro and Sushi Bar at Desert Ridge is inspired by its beautiful North Scottsdale setting.
On behalf of everyone at Malee’s I’d like to thank you for joining us, whether you’ve dined with us many times before, or you’ve wandered in by serendipity.
– Deirdre Pain