A high-profile downtown eatery will soon close its doors to be transformed into a new restaurant space for a local couple known for their popular Thai cuisine.
“It’s a bittersweet transition. My wife (Tessa Leung) and I started our first restaurant, Sontes, in 2006. It has been an incredible journey. The staff, guests and community have made a lasting impression on us and we are honored to have been a part of the hospitality community for all these years,” stated co-owner Nelson Leung. “We are forever grateful to our team for sticking with us through this difficult last year.”
Nellie’s catering arm will continue to serve clients until the end of December. The adjacent Tessa's Office Wine Boutique, run by Tessa Leung, will continue to operate in an attached 184-square-foot space.
While it's the end of the road for Nellie’s, this is the start of a new journey for Annie and Ryan Balow.
With Annie as the chef and Ryan as general manager, the Balows have been serving up special orders of Thai cuisine to diners in the Rochester area under the ThaiPop name since 2014. They started with serving at “pop-up” events in downtown Rochester, and later at Forager Brewery.
When Nellie’s was still Grand Rounds, they operated a “micro-restaurant” in the brew pub’s basement every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday night.
From the start of the pandemic, ThaiPop transitioned into offering takeout meals, sharing the kitchen with Grand Rounds, and later with Nellie’s. Its dishes grew in popularity, with many selling out in pre-orders before the start of the week.
Now the Balows are making plans to step out of the kitchen and spread out into the restaurant and bar space in the 146-year-old building.
“From day one seven years ago, having a brick-and-mortar restaurant was always the end goal,” Ryan Balow said.
ThaiPop will continue to offer takeout through next week, accepting pre-orders on Sunday. While they hope to make appearances at some summer events, the main focus will then be on creating the new restaurant.
Balow hopes to open by the end of the summer.
"We're looking forward to opening our doors for full-service, and offering a lot of the popular dishes from our tasting menu and takeout menu, along with some new inspired dishes, along with some really refreshing cocktails, along with craft beer and wine," he said.
After 15 years under three different names, Leung was excited to have the Balows take the space.
“It seems fitting that such a vibrant, young and talented team is going into the space. It has been a pleasure to watch ThaiPop grow and thrive and we wish them all of the luck in their new venture,” Leung stated in his announcement. “Rochester is fortunate to have such a gifted chef calling downtown Rochester home.”