Driving around the city at night is not a fun experience these days, as shuttered shop houses and empty bars and restaurants are a visual reminder of our collective suffering. While the pandemic may not be present here in Chiang Mai, her lingering effects are setting root noticeably.
On that cheerful note, it is therefore so lovely to see how some businesses have successfully adapted and are, if not thriving, then surviving.
One of these is Corner Bistro, an unassuming casual bar hidden away in a soi behind Huay Kaew Road. Kevin Lo, one of its three owners, had been slowly and steadily building his business up over the past five or so years and Corner Bistro had become well known for its late night hip hop parties and all-American vibe, attracting mainly expats and locals to its easy going venue, solidly tasty food and very reasonably priced food.
Following the shutdown, with curfews and other sanctions in place, Kevin and his partners had to dig deep to rebuild their business and bring their customers back. And they seem to have been doing that valiantly.
First of all, as the entire world closed their doors, they opened theirs to serve food to the poor; setting up a stand for the needy to come and collect food for free daily. When they ran out of their own funds, they appealed to friends, family and customers and for many weeks fans of Corner Bistro followed their news and photos on social media, appreciating the efforts, generosity and sacrifice. To generate income, they then opened the Burrito Squad delivery service, selling generous and deliciously fresh burritos at super affordable prices (150-200 baht), making a name for itself even before the Corner Bistro could reopen. With choices of marinated char grilled chicken, slow braised pulled pork, char grilled steak and vegetarian, as well as nachos, quesadillas, taquitos and tacos, Burrito Squad has now become its own business and will soon be available to order on Grab.
“Most people know what a burrito is, so we decided that this could be something we could do well, keep the prices low and serve quality and quantity,” explained Kevin. Word began to spread on social media, with recommendations bringing in new customers daily.
As Chiang Mai’s covid numbers went flat and sanctions lifted, Corner Bistro opened its doors again and slowly people came back.
“We decided to pivot towards food. With two places in one, we encouraged people to come and pick up their burritos, and then perhaps staying and eating it here and having a drink,” said Kevin. “We kept communicating with people, built up some good karma with our food drive, and because of Thailand’s clean covid records, people weren’t scared to come back when we opened our doors.”
Today, Corner Bistro is back to its bustling best.
“I’d describe Corner Bistro as more of an events and bar space now,” said Kevin who has been keeping the bistro’s calendar busy. “Thursdays are quiz nights with a fun pub quiz starting at 8.30pm. We draw between 20-40 people each week. Then Fridays are hip hop nights where local expat and Thai hip hop
DJs come, bringing the local hip hop crowd with them. Saturdays we have rotating events, so this month we will have a standup comedy night, a live music night and a drum and bass night.”
With each activity often pulling in a different crowd, and Corner Bistro’s all-Americana menu serving subs, burgers, salads and a solid and varied selection of drinks, “Our decision to do more with less, to spread ourselves out to appeal to different groups and to keep communicating with our customers kind of paid off.”
“At this point doing it right is paying the bills. So I suppose we are doing it right.”
Whether you are looking for a fantastic deal on a great meal, a to meet some new people, a fun night out in the city, a chilled place to have a quiet beer in the evening, Corner Bistro manages to have just the right formula to offer something for everyone. If you haven’t been yet, make sure to visit Corner Bistro and give Kevin a shout.