Health-conscious diners love Thai food, Orchid’s |

Health-conscious diners love Thai food, Orchid’s

Tim Parsons

Jim Primo practically grew up in his family’s Italian restaurant, starting as a dishwasher and working his way up as a waiter and line cook. So many years later when he bought his own eatery, it came as quite a surprise to his folks that it was Thai food.

“At first they thought I was crazy,” said Primo of his family, who owned Primo’s near Boston, where Jim grew up. “But then they all came out here and checked it out, and they were impressed. They are very happy for me.”

Welcome to Orchid’s, Tahoe’s first Thai restaurant, which Primo has owned for four years. It’s now one of three Thai restaurants on the South Shore, a development which is relatively recent.

“I don’t mind the competition at all,” Primo said. “It’s good, actually. A couple of years ago (the number of people) was overwhelming, and now it’s plained out.”

In other words, business is still good at Orchid’s, which has a solid reputation among locals. With the trend running toward healthy dishes, Thai cuisine is becoming increasingly popular. The Orchid’s most popular dishes, spicy eggplant, curry and pad Thai, are testament to that.

“Thai food uses a lot of herbs and spices rather than oils, which is one of the reasons it’s so popular among the health-conscious,” Primo said. “Also, a lot of fresh vegetables, which is good.”

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Primo first came to Tahoe on a ski trip in the 1990s, and soon afterward packed up and moved here for good. He’s been in Tahoe for 11 years, having worked at places such as the Sage Room, Christina Inn and the MS Dixie waiting tables and as a bartender.

“I always knew that I would own a restaurant eventually,” he said. “I always held off because the nature of the seasons scared me. But then I got the chance to own this place – it’s been a Thai restaurant forever – and I jumped on it.”

That’s mainly because of his wife, Jaruwanee, whom he met five years ago.

“Her cooking is so good; all my friends liked it,” he said. “So I decided that as soon as an opportunity to open a Thai place came up, we’d make something happen.”

The Orchid employees 12 people, and is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.

It’s a lot of hours, but it doesn’t seem like it if you enjoy it,” Primo said. “Owning this place is like I retired, and everyone comes to my house to eat.”

Primo, however, can’t entirely escape his heritage.

“Someday, I’ll open a pizza place,” he said. “Someday.”