Siam Classic

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Taste of Thai Just the Way You Like It
By Val Wallace

Siam Classic owner and head cook Unchalee Geyer (left) with her nephew Op ongsuppat and sister Orachon Pongsuppat (Op's mother).

Siam Classic owner and head cook Unchalee Geyer (left) with her nephew Op ongsuppat and sister Orachon Pongsuppat (Op’s mother).

Celebrating its 10th year in historic downtown Manassas, Siam Classic has developed a loyal clientele since it opened at 9403 East Street in 2004. The quaint Thai restaurant that seats about 50 is inconspicuously located off a side street, and its parking, in the back, is not immediately obvious.

However, the eatery continues to pack in the patrons, who come back again and again. “Most customers we have are repeat customers, 80 percent,” said owner Unchalee Geyer, who is also
the eatery’s head chef, cooking all its sauces. “I think the way we treat them and the way we keep the price low and affordable, and that the food’s really good—that’s what keeps them
coming back.”

What also helps: “I’m very picky about my cooking. Everything has to taste and look good,” she said. Additionally, Geyer, who has more than 20 years of experience in the industry, makes sure that patrons get the dishes they order exactly to their liking. Spices that go into each entree are added on a scale of one to 10 depending on the customer’s preference. “We cook to order. We don’t cook ahead of time. So they have a lot of choices,” Geyer said. “We do whatever the customer wants. We rate spices one to 10, but you can go above 10. Some customers go all the way to 30 or 50.”

She said popular dishes include Pad Thai and Sizzling Ginger, which is stir-fried onions, bell peppers and sliced ginger in a sweet sesame sauce, served with rice on an iron skillet and with
the customer’s choice of five types of meat. “My aunt created that,” said her nephew Op Pongsuppat, who for the past nine years has helped Geyer manage the restaurant. “She creates her
own sauces. The sauces are always her sauces,” he said. “As a cook, she is a 10 out of 10. She can cook everything, and everything she cooks is good.”

Pongsuppat described Siam Classic’s atmosphere as familyfriendly. This goes not only at the eatery’s 16 tables in its cozy dining room, but in the kitchen, where family members of Geyer’s assist as needed depending on the size of Siam Classic’s lunch and dinner crowds. The staff ranges from six to nine part-time, in addition to Pongsuppat and Geyer, who both work full-time at the eatery, he said.

The entree House Seafood includes stir-fried mussels, squid, shrimp and scallops mixed with bell peppers, onions, celery, scallions and egg in a house coconut yellow curry sauce.

The entree House Seafood includes stir-fried mussels, squid, shrimp
and scallops mixed with bell peppers, onions, celery, scallions and egg in a house coconut yellow curry sauce.

Late on a quiet Sunday night, however, Andre Howard of Manassas and Amy Viccari of Woodbridge were enjoying a peaceful meal together at the eatery, one of Howard’s favorite
restaurants, he said. His favorite Siam Classic dish: “It’s a tie between the Pad Thai and the Pad See Eiw,” he said. Pad See Eiw is stir-fried wide noodles with egg, broccoli and Thai soy sauce,
served with the customer’s choice of vegetable, pork, chicken, seafood or beef.

Howard, who is an operations manager at LA Fitness in Woodbridge, said he was looking for a Thai restaurant when he moved to Manassas two years ago. “I come here often. This place’s food is really good,” he said. “When I get an urge for Thai food, this is the place I come to.” Howard visits Siam Classic mainly for dinner, but he said that he also orders take-out from
the eatery.

For Viccari, a personal trainer and cardio kick-box instructor at Anytime Fitness in Woodbridge, this was her first time visiting Siam Classic. Howard had asked her to try it. What did she
think? “It was incredible,” she said of her entree, which started with a “w,” she laughed when asked its name. “If you fed me pizza morning, noon and night, I wouldn’t say no, but this hit
the spot,” she said.

Others frequenting Siam Classic, like Howard, also have their favorite dishes. “I always get the number 19,” said Rita Marroquin of Manassas. The Fairfax architect said she’s been a
diner at the restaurant for the past six months, coming in with roommate Nick Barry about three or four times per month. (Number 19, by the way, is the Pad See Eiw.)

What does Marroquin like about the eatery’s food? “It’s fresh, very fresh. We’ve never had a bad meal here,” she said. Barry, who has been visiting the restaurant for a year, said he also likes
the service. “I don’t ever need a menu. He [Pongsuppat] knows what I’m going to order before I order it,” said the third-party concrete engineer.

And what does Barry order? “It’s the number 36. I don’t have a clue what it’s called,” he grinned. Number 36 is the Pad Kapow, a stir-fried meal with bell peppers, onions, garlic and fresh basil leaves in a house basil sauce and served with the customer’s choice of vegetables or one of six meats.

Geyer said she has never formally studied cooking. She learned how to cook as a child and young adult from her parents in her native Thailand, where they cooked lunch daily for the 20 to 30 employees of their lingerie business, she said. She and her siblings helped prepare the meals.

Coconut Lemongrass, which is one of five soups on Siam Classic's menu, is a hot and sour lemongrass soup with seasonal vegetables and a splash of coconut milk.

Coconut Lemongrass, which is one of five soups on Siam Classic’s
menu, is a hot and sour lemongrass soup with seasonal vegetables
and a splash of coconut milk.

She also worked at a Thai restaurant for five years in California, where she entered the United States in 1974 from Bangkok, when her husband, Harlan Geyer, who died in 2001 from
pancreatic cancer, moved back home with his young bride. She was 24. The couple relocated to the Washington, D.C., area in 1978 when Harlan, a government employee, was transferred to be closer to the nation’s capital, she said.

Geyer, who has lived in the area ever since, worked 15 years at the Thai restaurant Bangkok West in Reston, where she continues to live, before the eatery and the mall it was in closed,
she said. She then worked 15 years for Giant Food in various capacities before opening Siam Classic. She had an opportunity to buy the building that would house it, and took advantage of
it. Her purchase included Marie’s Cafe, also in the building and which served breakfast only. As Siam Classic’s business grew, Geyer closed the morning diner to make more space for the Thai
restaurant, she said.

Three years ago she paid off the building’s mortgage, “and now that’s why we keep the price [of our food]low, because we don’t have a mortgage,” Geyer laughed.

For more information about Siam Classic, its menu and hours, visit www.siam-classic.com.

Freelance writer and editor Val Wallace, of Manassas Park, is a regular contributor to Prince William Living and is also on the magazine’s editorial staff. She can be emailed at
[email protected]

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