Chef Pittaya Young is bringing Thai food to The Depot Café. photo by Katy Yoder
Chef Pittaya Young is bringing Thai food to The Depot Café. photo by Katy Yoder

In December, The Depot Café owners Pam and Chris Wavrin introduced a new menu for Thursday-night dinners.

"There's a lot of great food in Sisters, but this has been something that's missing in town," said Pam as she prepped for a full dining room last Thursday.

Always open to new menu ideas, the Wavrins jumped at the chance to hire Chef Pittaya Young and bring her masterful dishes for a weekly dose of Thai food. Young moved to the U.S. 28 years ago and began cooking professionally over 20 years ago. Employed during the busy summer months, Young lives in Camp Sherman and was excited to create dishes for Depot's extended winter menu.

"We're all learning from Pittaya," said Pam. "She has a long history in the culinary arts and brings all kinds of new, fresh ingredients for her dishes. Prior to the Thursday-night dinner crowd's arrival, the kitchen was humming with kitchen manager Vince Faludi, general manager Nate Harpham and the rest of The Depot staff preparing for the dinner menu.

Foods like green papayas, green curry, coconut milk, dried shrimp, ginger, lemongrass, Thai eggplant (the size of golf balls), Thai chili peppers, palm sugar and tamarind are all purchased by Young on buying trips to Eugene where she gets fresh, authentic Thai ingredients.

Last week's menu included starters like Laab spicy ground pork with mint leaves and fresh vegetables, and main dishes like baked lemongrass chicken with sticky rice and spicy green papaya salad with Thai dipping sauce. The chicken was moist, not too spicy, and the salad was a delicious accompaniment to the savory flavors. Pad Thai with a wild blue prawn option was a house favorite that night.

"It takes us two days of prep work to be ready for the Thursday-night menu," said Pam. The menu will change weekly with a few favorites remaining by popular demand. Young cooks the way she likes to eat; she lets the ingredients guide her as she creates original dishes.

"This week's menu will include Mandarin-style Chinese duck," said Young. She will include some of her favorite ingredients in the menu including lemongrass, coconut milk and Thai chili peppers, known as arooli.

Nate Harpham, who grew up in Sisters, says it's fun to see the changes and expansion of a restaurant that was known for burgers and sandwiches.

"From that beginning, Depot now has a menu full of new dishes. Lots of people are just realizing that we offer dinner now. I get to see people's response when they walk through the door and see the new menu and their appreciation when we exceed their expectations."

Wavrin mentioned that they will soon be offering small-plate options and a limited-menu happy hour. The Depot Café has a full bar, and will include specialty drinks like their Bendistillery sweet ginger vodka and pomegranate vodka martinis and of course, Nate's margaritas.

According to Pam, one thing will remain the same; she and Chris will use natural meats and organic vegetables whenever possible. "We offer foods that we like to eat at home," said Pam. "Lots of fresh vegetables and tasty gluten-free options."

Pam is starting a blog that focuses on finding allergy friendly foods and buying real foods like those that don't require an ingredients label.

"Our family has food allergies of varying degrees," said Pam. "It forced me to become an expert in that area. We're very sensitive about that and want to make sure our customers have food options that are OK to eat. Some food allergies can be deadly serious," she said.

The Wavrins hope customers will see The Depot Café as a healthy option for restaurant dining and a great way to keep those healthy-eating New Year's resolutions going strong.

"We still have great burgers and sandwiches," said Pam, "but it's just part of who we are now."