Dick Simcoe passed away on June 11th. I came to know Dick and his wife Surin through their restaurant Little Thailand, the first Thai restaurant in Central Texas. It is also the best. Eating there is like going to someone’s home and having their mother cook for you while their dad serve you drinks and imparts his wisdom. I don’t hesitate to say that it’s my favorite restaurant in Austin.
You should want to go to there.
Surin and her sister Malee did the cooking, and Dick helped with the orders and ran the bar in the back. Dick’s Lounge. Oh man. What a place. When Bergstom closed down, Dick was able to get the bar from the officer’s club and move it to his restaurant. He made the best Thai bloody marys. Scratch that. He made the best bloody marys period. He has an old ‘60s jukebox that plays 45 records for free ("hold it down until you hear a click"), and he would sometimes have a box of newly hatched chicks under a lamp. Nothing seemed out of place. And Dick made sure you never felt out of place.
Dick was originally born in Hawaii and enlisted in the Air Force a month after graduating from Austin High. Eventually rising to the rank of major and flew gunships during two tours of duty in Vietnam. After retiring from the military, he ran charters from the Philippines to both Bangkok and Hong Kong. His business was doing very well at the expense of the large commercial airlines "so the Philippine government gave me two weeks to leave the country."
He then moved to Texas and opened the original Little Thailand in 1981. Dick originally had a trailer near the back of Bergstrom AFB, and the pilots were allowed to sneak out for lunch in order to get their Thai food fix. When the base closed, he moved the restaurant to its current location under the water tower in Garfield.
You always listened to Dick when ordering. If he told you to order the dish with chicken, you did. Because he was inevitably right. It always tasted better Dick’s way. And don’t put his hot sauce in your soup. You put dry spice on wet and vice versa. Again he was right. I’ve eaten at plenty of Thai restaurants, but I don’t order some tom, yom nua or lop nua anywhere else. They’re nowhere close to being as good as they are at Little Thailand.
Former Faces keyboardist and Manor resident Ian McLaglan would try to schedule his flights back into Austin during the hours that the restaurant was open. He wasn’t the only one. I still do it. I’ve even had a birthday party there, and Dick gave me a Little Thailand pen and daily planner that I will not dare write in.
He used to always greet us with 'Hey kids' when we walked through the door. It'll be hard not hearing those words anymore.
Rest in peace, Dick.