SEASIDE SPOTLIGHT: Our latest profile in a series focused on the behind-the-scenes movers who make Seaside the unique destination it is today. Next. Previously.
Pattaraporn “Patta” Lorwatcharasophon never dreamed she’d own a restaurant. In fact, the Northern Thailand native pursued other entrepreneurial ventures before finding her way to the culinary world. “It’s important to find what you love to do,” she says. Over the years, Patta found joy through food, which led her to where she is today.
Her foray into food began while working at a farmers market in Los Angeles. She eventually moved to Portland and teamed up with her husband, Dacha “Kim” Pathumratanathan, to launch Thai Me Up, which started as a food-cart business that celebrated their heritage and the excitement of Thai street food. “We wanted to share Thai food that was like what we ate back home,” says Patta.
Using traditional Thai recipes and the freshest ingredients, they cooked up comfort favorites including a sweet-and-sour pad Thai and spicy-savory pad kee mao. Their standout chicken wings — marinated with a combination of lemongrass, garlic and Thai fish sauce — became a big hit with guests. With this dish, they flexed their ingenuity and expanded from five popular dipping sauces to 18, ranging from chili garlic and spicy ginger to tamarind.
The food cart flourished and inspired Patta to dream bigger. Looking to put down more permanent roots, and to expand their business options, the family moved to the Northern Oregon Coast. After living in larger cities, Patta was surprised to find so many great food options in the beach resort town of Seaside.
“I have met a lot of local restaurant owners who are super passionate about their food and putting their heart and soul into their dishes,” she says. In 2018 she and her husband opened Thai Me Up as a brick-and-mortar establishment in Seaside and then The SEA Crab House shortly after in 2019. “My passion is making others happy and ensuring they have an incredible dining experience,” says Patta. That desire led the couple to get creative with their concept for The SEA Crab House.
“We serve fresh seafood boils, a similar dish to the one we had on our first date in Los Angeles,” she says. After living a few years on the Coast, Patta realized there wasn’t a restaurant that offered this immersive dining experience, where a colossal pot of freshly cooked seafood and vegetables gets spread directly across a paper-covered table.
Guests are encouraged to eat with their hands and use seafood crackers (and napkins) with abandon. With this convivial hands-on feast, each table seems like a mini party. In addition to choosing from 11 different seafood options from mussels and clams to shrimp and Oregon Dungeness crab, diners can specify the sauce for their seafood boil right down to the heat level, which ranges from one to four.
The acronym “SEA” stands for “South East Asian” and pays homage to their roots, while the crab-house component speaks to the coastal community they call home. During the height of the pandemic, the husband-and-wife team were buoyed by the local community. As a result, their business is thriving with recently launched meal kits that deliver all the way to Tillamook and the Portland area.
In a heartfelt gesture, Patta vowed to give away 9,999 eggs once the restaurateurs secured a lease to expand in Astoria. While the number nine has always signified luck in Thai culture, the eggs harken back to the folk legend of Ai Khai — a benevolent spirit and statue whose name means something like “rascal” but literally translates as Egg Boy. Found at Wat Chedi Luang, a temple in Southern Thailand, Egg Boy has served during the pandemic as a symbol of prosperity and a spiritual guide for many, including the couple.
It took many weeks to give away the thousands and thousands of eggs, but it forged a meaningful bond with the Seaside community. “Everywhere I went people were thanking me for their eggs,” says Patta. Whether she’s sourcing from local fishing boats or cheering on her employees, her ultimate goal is to uplift those around her.
“I work every day to support the community I live in,” she says. With four restaurants and four young children, Patta fuels her endless energy with her desire to spread positivity. She’s even started a podcast and written a book that focuses on this mindset, with the tagline “A mother on a mission to change the world with great food.”
“Our main ingredient is love,” she says. Since good food is the standard for a restaurant, Patta realized early on that the way she wanted to set their business apart was through forging a positive and emotional connection with guests.
Each month she tries to devote a portion of restaurant sales to fundraising efforts for the community, supporting local nonprofits, schools and even a family in need. She sees every dish as an opportunity. “With food you can turn someone’s bad day into a good day.”