Sticky Rice is a family-owned Thai/Lao restaurant offering comfort Asian food in Downtown Champaign. Their menu features salads, soups, noodles and stir-fry dishes. CCP spoke with owner, Mickie Phetchareune.
When did Sticky Rice open and what motivated you to locate in Downtown Champaign?
July 2018. We decided to open here because we noticed a lack of homey, Asian cuisine downtown. I feel like we fill that gap. When you walk into Sticky Rice it’s like walking into a Laotian home. You’ll leave here full and content!
How did you get into the restaurant industry?
I was born into it! Just kidding. My aunt and uncle own two restaurants in the area and taught my mother how to tailor her cooking to restaurants. She took over their restaurant in Charleston, IL in 2009. Ever since then I have been helping her out. I started serving at age 16 and have worked at several other restaurants in town. Sticky Rice is my first restaurant. I’m happy to be open!
What makes your restaurant unique to the area?
We’re the only restaurant serving Lao food (as well as Thai cuisine) in town. We also grow our own produce at our 9-acre family-owned farm, Green G Farm, in Villa Grove, IL and feature produce from the farm on our menu, when it’s in season. This includes Thai eggplant, bell peppers, chili peppers, and basil. A majority of our menu is made to order, made in-house and cut by hand.
For someone new to Thai/Lao cuisine, what item on your menu would you recommend they try?
#48 – Khao Poon. It’s a Laotian-style red curry that has a light, thin broth with shredded chicken and vermicelli noodles. It’s a nice comfort dish that’s well seasoned but not too spicy. This is the kind of dish you’d find simmering on the stovetop at family gatherings and parties in Laos.
What does a typical day look like for you?
(Mickie laughs). Oh my gosh! Mom and I get up and go grocery shopping first thing in the morning. We try to finish by 9am and arrive at the restaurant, then start prep work. We serve lunch and dinner 7 days a week and close at 9pm.
What are your business goals over the next few months?
I hope to be able to serve Laotian and Thai beer in the next few months – we’re working on license for that now. We would like to add patio furniture to the lounge area outside in the warmer summer months. Right now, we’re excited to participate in the Champaign County Area Restaurant Week, running now through February 2. We’re featuring two items that are not listed on our menu: seen savanh – which translates to “heavenly beef.” This is thin, crispy Laotian beef jerky that you eat with sticky rice. And we have khao piek sen – a lao chicken noodle soup. Our menu accommodates many diets: vegans, vegetarians and gluten-free. I hope lots of people come out to give our food a try! There’s a dish for everyone at Sticky Rice.