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Thai Shack East restaurant opens in Selden’s Independence Plaza

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Kay Norton only enjoys her mother’s recipe for Pad Thai, and she refuses to give customers anything less delicious.

“Some of the recipes are from my mom,” Kay Norton, 49, of Medford, said. “I’m really picky. Pad Thai, I eat only when my mom cooks.”

“I want my customers to eat what I would eat,” she added.

She and her husband, Donald Norton, opened Thai Shack East in Selden’s Independence Plaza late last month. Kay Norton said she works with her chef and former longtime boss, Tom, to crack her mother’s recipes and learn how to cook for swarms of customers.

The take-out restaurant has seen more foot traffic than the Norton had predicted. Like many new restaurant owners, they are struggling to find staff, and need to hustle back and forth from the register to the phone, and from the fryer to the prep station.

“The first weekend we opened, an avalanche of people came in here,” Donald Norton, 52, of Medford, recalled. “Word of mouth has been really well.”

After that weekend and a regularly scheduled Monday closure, the couple, married for seven years, closed Tuesday to restock and triple their amount of food preparation. They said they continue to see positive reviews posted to social media groups.

Biggest hit: Kylie’s fried rice

Until the Norton’s find more kitchen and front-of-house staff, Thai Shack East will run a limited menu.

“Some of the recipes on the menu, I had to cut — it takes time to prep and it takes a long time to make,” Kay Norton said. “You have to be there, at that dish only. The temperature has to be right.”

For the new restaurant owner, who lived in Thailand until 2001, her favorite dish is street style grilled pork on a skewer. While she served it during Thai Shack East’s inaugural week, she could not dedicate the proper time and attention required to slow roast the dish to her liking with such limited staff, so she cut it from the menu. Just for now.

There’s still plenty of choices for customers seeking fresh made authentic Thai food. Guests looking for a full plate might consider Kay Norton’s mother’s pad Thai recipe, a crispy half boneless duck with spicy basil, or a spicy red or green curry dish.

The couple said Kylie’s fried rice has been the restaurant’s best seller so far. One night, in a dash to make dinner for her daughter Kylie, Kay Norton added left over bacon and sausage to fried rice. Kylie loved it.

Now, hoping to make her daughter feel she is a part of her new venture, Kay Norton cooks Kylie’s fried rice for her customers. In addition to the two meats, the special includes egg, onion, broccoli and tomatoes.

No matter what customers order, Kay Norton highly recommends an essential Thai iced tea, a sweet delight brewed fresh and mixed with a splash of whole milk.

“It’s the signature of Thai restaurants,” she said.