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NoMa’s Incoming Thai Salad Stall Expects to Open by the Winter

Som Tam comes from Lucky Buns and Alfie’s chef Alex McCoy

This former ATM vestibule will soon come to life slinging Thai street foods.
Tierney Plumb/Eater DC
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

Alex McCoy, the chef behind the acclaimed globally-inspired burgers at Adams Morgan’s Lucky Buns, is getting closer to bringing NoMa a compact spot dedicated to the same Thai street foods he’s showcased at various pop-ups through the years.

His new Som Tam project — located inside a converted cinder block-lined ATM vestibule (111 K Street NE) — is now shooting for a late fall or early winter in time to warm up the growing neighborhood full of 9-to-5ers and millennial residents with piping hot curry bowls at lunch and well into the night.

The menu specializes in Isaan (Northeastern Thai) street foods. Think pounded Thai salads that go heavy on green papaya, fish sauce, lime, and chiles and khao soi, or curry soup made with egg noodles. His versions will be filled with beef, chicken, and roasted mushroom.

The “jungle style” salad incorporates rice noodles, sawtooth herbs, fermented fish, Thai eggplant, crab paste, and bamboo. Another is smashed cucumber with tomato, chili vinaigrette, and peanuts.

The recently opened Laos in Town nearby also brings the heat with its papaya salads.

Som Tam will set up shop at Navy Yard’s sprawling outdoor market Smorgasburg starting Saturday, September 14, one week after it returns from a self-imposed hiatus.

The idea in NoMa is to mimic the experience of visiting bustling street stalls crammed across Thailand. Som Tam’s obtuse triangle-shaped space is a snapshot of city living, abutting the track lines where trains whiz to and from Union Station.

Patrons will be able to order at the window and take a seat out along its expansive palm-filled patio. There won’t be alcohol (yet), but “definitely Thai coffee and milk teas made the classic way,” McCoy says.

For about six months in 2016, McCoy ran a Thai pop-up called Alfie’s in Park View. The chef, an avid traveler to Thailand, has been sharpening his skills via late-night Thai pop-ups out of Lucky Buns in preparation for reviving Alfie’s in a permanent space.

Here’s a look at the latest proposed menu for Som Tam:

Khao soi bowls at Som Tam.
Alex McCoy/Som Tam
Burmese curry
Burmese curry could rotate in as a curry of the day.
Alex McCoy/Som Tam
Alex McCoy/Som Tam