Khun Kay Thai Cafe’s Second-Gen Owner Now Tracing Out 20-Story Highrise in Its Place

The outline of a 20-story apartment building called Montrose Gardens made its first public appearance late Friday in the city’s planning commission agenda, where its footprint covers over that of the Khun Kay Thai Cafe on the corner of Montrose Blvd. and W. Clay St. Only 9 of those stories will be for living, so what’s going into the rest? According to the building’s engineer: “A variety of retail stores, restaurants, and coffee shops” — all 24,000 sq.-ft. of which would be buffered from the 150-or-so upstairs apartments by 9 stories of resident-only parking. Underground, a separate 2 floor garage will gobble up retail traffic from an opening on W. Clay.

Also present on the 19,900-sq.-ft. site where the apartment’s staking its claim: the restaurant’s 2 parking lots. The northern one ran over the duplex-turned-psychic-shop directly south of it after the structure — memorialized in the aerial below — was demolished in 2016:


All 3 lots are owned by a group connected to Tanawat Sumrith, who — along with partner Anuch Sumrith — acquired the restaurant from its 2 sister-in-law founders in 2015. The earlier pair opened for business in a converted house at 1209 Montrose 37 years ago under the name Golden Room. It was originally a Chinese place, but they began slipping Thai dishes onto the menuaccording to Greg Morago — in an attempt to work up the inner Loop’s appetite for the obscure cuisine. By the time they swapped out the aging yellow structure for the current red stucco and rebranded as Khun Kay, they’d gone fully Thai.

Houston’s planning commission weighs in on the apartment proposal this Thursday. Two variance requests are on the table, asking permission to nudge the building up 5 ft. from the property’s edges along Montrose Blvd. and W. Clay. In return, the developer promises new, bigger sidewalks shaded from the adjacent roads by strips of trees.

And in the back: some sort of barrier to separate the building from the row of townhome developments behind it  — none of which measure more than 5 stories.

Map and site plan: Houston Planning Commission. Photos: Wolfgang Demino via Houston Streetwise [with permission] (restaurant and parking lot); Casey D. (restaurant face); Joel F. (sign)

Montrose Gardens

18 Comment

  • Farewell, Khun Kay. You were great when you were the Golden Room, then good when you where Khun Kay, then not so great lately. But I have a lot of memories of eating there with my family.

  • First 9 stories (10 including the retail) are parking? Yowza. I’m sure others will enlighten me, but is it normal–even in Houston–for a building directly backing up to homes to have that high of a parking platform underneath it? Even the Ashby Highrise was proposing 5 or so, right?

    I can’t say I ever had the chance to eat at Khun Kay, but I ran by it on my way to Buffalo Bayou often. Once I nearly stepped on a dead rat in front of the place. You can’t really hold a Thai restaurant in Montrose at fault for that (in fact, you might even call it an endorsement). But then it sat there for three weeks decomposing and I had to strike the place off my list of places to try.

  • YEK-that’s actually a preparation method. It gets stuffed with rice sometime during the fourth week.

  • #EndParkingMinimums

  • Calling fake news on this one. No way this half-acre site builds underground parking, plus 2 floors or retail, plus 9 floors of above ground parking, plus 9 floors of residential.

    That said, don’t complain about residential without GFR, then also complain about the amount of parking (required by ordinance) when someone builds residential with GFR.

  • Many years ago, I was walking across the public space at One Shell Plaza downtown. I saw a rat scamper past me and go into a hole in the travertine marble of the plaza. It occurred to me that the rat had some pretty fancy digs. My point being, they are everywhere, even if we don’t see them. I’ve also seen rodents run across the floor in restaurants in NYC and Amsterdam. I’m sure they’re everywhere else.

  • Unbelievable. Every COH official is for sale.

  • The tom kah ga and cashew chicken were okay; though the curry’s (aka soup) and their pad thai (wtf mayonaise?) were beyond awful.

  • YEK,
    Small spaces make for inefficient layouts. (Which is why requiring each development to provide it’s own parking encourages surface lots over structured parking and suppresses small-scale development in favor of larger projects.)
    Back-of-the-envelope, I’d guess every 7500 sf of retail will require one floor of parking, as will every 20 apartments.

  • Cool project, kudos to the developers. Yeah, the amount of parking is insane, but I doubt it’s more than is required by code. Houston’s off-street parking requirements are the real insanity here.

  • With ya Christian. But I have doubts for this being built too, especially the part about underground parking. Wow.

  • FYI- they’re providing more parking than what the code requires.

  • @Christian
    “Cool project, kudos to the developers”? Kind of jumping the gun there, eh?
    We don’t even know what this proposed tower will look like. If there is a rendering out there, I can’t find it. It could be the most generically designed building in the history of mankind for all we know.
    Further, as others have pointed out, the parking exceeds minimum requirements and results in a somewhat baffling and fairly inefficient floor arrangement. I would say that is far from “cool.”

  • Loved the Golden Room. KKT is ok. Like many “proposed” Houston developments , I’ll believe this when it actually is COMPLETED. No underground parking post-Harvey .

  • Underground parking is just fine post Harvey. Most underground garages didn’t even flood then, and this one would just be for retail parking so nobody would be leaving their car there long term anyway. I don’t see the problem.

  • Trust me, you don’t want to see the render :-p

  • What would it take to get rid of parking requirements in this city? It is inefficient to have a burgeoning walkable area with so much space wasted on parking.

  • As the psychic house next door I have to say. This is not good I know Houston thinks it’s becoming some sort of mecca city. But all we are doing is building apartments and mattress stores. Oh and town homes, streets used to have meaning. People individual people used to own this city, now everything is a chain. and every 6 months we hear about the new better chain coming. While our own Houston stables slip further down a pit of despair.

    I love Houston I just wonder where it went and if it’s coming back.