Detroit’s Orchid Thai is closing after nearly 20 years

Owner Ally Lee says she’s ready for a much-needed vacation

Feb 28, 2023 at 10:04 am
click to enlarge Orchid Thai in Downtown Detroit. - Courtesy of Ally Lee
Courtesy of Ally Lee
Orchid Thai in Downtown Detroit.

Time’s up for downtown Detroit’s Orchid Thai.

The award-winning restaurant’s last day at 115 Monroe St. is Tuesday, Feb. 28. It will be open all day until the food runs out.

Orchid Thai owner Ally Lee tells Metro Times she’s ready for some much-needed rest after 18 years in business.

“We’ve had a good 18 years and all good things come to an end. It’s just time to close the doors,” she tells us over the phone. “I’ve worked 11 hours a day, six days a week, for 18 years. It’s a hard business and very taxing on the body. I just think it’s time to close this chapter.”

Lee isn’t sure what the next chapter for her will hold other than a “vacation to regroup.”

“I’m satisfied with everything I’ve done but it’s definitely a bittersweet experience,” she says. “We have customers who have been with us since day one and they’re like family so in that aspect, it’s a bit emotional.”

Orchid Thai has received the Mary Turner Community Centers Small Business Award and Detroit City Council Testimonial Resolution for its philanthropic efforts. Lee was also inducted into the Asian Hall of Fame.

click to enlarge Orchid Thai owner Ally Lee. - Bedrock/Courtesy photo
Bedrock/Courtesy photo
Orchid Thai owner Ally Lee.

“We’ve always donated to the community,” Lee says. “Orchid Thai has been a regular donor to Forgotten Harvest and during the pandemic, we provided close to 3,000 meals to Henry Ford Hospital, Beaumont Hospital, the Detroit Police Department and fire department, and the VA Hospital.”

Lee’s philanthropy continues to the end with plans to donate the restaurant’s furniture to Detroit Public Schools and gently used dishes to the Ukrainian Community Center.

“I want to thank all of my customers for giving me the honor and privilege of serving them for the last 18 years,” Lee says. “I’m very grateful I was able to be part of the revitalization and growth.”

Orchid Thai is located in the One Campus Martius Building owned by Bedrock. Lee leaves us with a message for Bedrock owner Dan Gilbert, challenging him to bring more Asian American businesses to downtown Detroit.

“I think the amount of growth and development he’s bringing downtown is great, but I feel there are not enough Asian American businesses in downtown Detroit,” she says.

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