In 1998, Jay Dedrick opened his first Swing Thai in a converted gas station near Wash Park. In the 22 years that followed, he’s opened up two additional Swings, married his wife and business partner Siriporn “Duke” Tayaputch and bought farmland in Thailand where he and Tayaputch have been returning annually to check on their rubber, mango and durian crops. Last month, he and his team transformed the founding location into Hey Bangkok, a simplified concept serving a few favorites from Swing and a compact selection of quintessential dishes from the famed culinary metropolis. With a mere 12 items and a small selection of tea, beer, wine and sides, Hey Bangkok is a streamlined approach, integrating the various tricks and conveniences Dedrick gleaned from two decades of restaurant ownership.
While many restaurants have had to simplify their menus as a result of COVID, Dedrick insists that Hey Bangkok is not a pivot. The impressive remodel — complete with blown-up images of Bangkok’s Chinatown, custom tables and chairs and a collection of colorful posters depicting happy scooter rides, classic cinema and an elephant in a VW Bus — began in November 2019. As with the other Swing Thai locations, Hey Bangkok is already doing over half its business in to-go orders, though the cozy interior has been attracting guests. “The Thai population in Denver is around 2,000 and I think they’ve all been here already,” laughed Dedrick.
While everything from food to aesthetics favors simplicity, it would be a mistake to characterize the cuisine strictly as street food. The plates run closer to the prized items that can be seen littering popular single-dish restaurants and stalls across Bangkok’s urban sprawl. Even with the subtle distinction, the presence of only three items that could be characterized as finger food nicely illustrates the offerings’ understated complexity. The large portions are also surprisingly affordable. A full-fledged feast can easily be achieved for under $50.
The Thai boneless fried chicken ($8) comes with a choice of either light or dark meat, the perfectly-crisped bird being joined by a red curry mayo, which makes divine use of the omnipresent house-made curry paste. The Pad Thai ($11) — one of four items that were recycled from the original menu — is a heaping portion of stir-fried rice noodles topped with chopped peanuts, green onions, sprouts and a choice of protein. The Thai Chicken Noodle Soup ($12) sees the same noodles covered in cabbage, thick-cut radish and sprouts, then doused in one of the more comforting broths made anywhere outside of grandma’s kitchen. The Kaw Mun Kai ($12) is a neatly-organized plate of steamed chicken, a pile of aromatic ginger rice, a house-made spicy garlic ginger sauce, cucumbers and a small bowl of chicken broth. While the dish is inevitably delicious, Dedrick suggests that eating it in the traditional sequence is where it is most superb. Using both a fork and a knife, place the chicken on a pillow of rice and cover the bite in the sauce to taste. Using the spoon, devour the bite, then take a sip of broth, perhaps follow with a nibble of cucumber and repeat. Simply mixing all the ingredients together, while it may be convenient, would be considered a faux pas at many Thai tables.
With both the Colorado Boulevard and Tennyson Street locations of Swing Thai still providing the classic and substantially more robust menu for dine-in and delivery, Hey Bangkok is a lovely inclusion to a model — which if over 1,000,000 Pad Thai’s sold is a sign of success — sure has something to it.
Hey Bangkok is located at 301 South Pennsylvania St., Denver. It is open every day from 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
All photography by Alden Bonecutter.