Tru Thai, Kangaroo Island, Australia

With less than a month left, we were busy checking off our KI Bucket List to make sure we saw and did everything possible. There was one restaurant, Tru Thai, that we had heard about for months but never made it to. It was near the American River and open to locals on Thursday nights only. Last week we drove the 45 minutes to get there, only to find out it was closed because the chef had a new baby. This week I called ahead and talked to a nice guy named Tony. Tony said this was their Grand Re-opening to celebrate the new baby. He told me to bring my friends and make a night of it because there would be four local bands playing!


I had to really convince Maggie and Matthew to believe me that the place was open. After failing them the first time they were a bit skeptical. Fortunately, Tru Thai turned out to be awesome! It looked like a scene right out of Tillman County (more thoughts on that here.)  The place was a huge barn split into three sections. The middle section was open and inside it there was a foodtruck and a non-alcoholic bar area. There was a man standing in one corner with a guitar and a microphone and scattered in between him and the bar were about a dozen wooden tables complete with fold out chairs.

Tru Thai, Kangaroo Island

Tru Thai, Kangaroo Island

As soon as we walked in a man with blonde curly hair and striped pants walked up to us. He must have seen the wonder on our faces because he picked us out to be the volunteers he'd spoken to from Seal Bay. I introduced myself as the face to the voice and he welcomed us loudly to his restaurant. I had no idea I had been talking with the owner. For several minutes we chatted with Tony about the restaurant and how we had wanted to come here for some time. At one point he learned Maggie was German and when she asked if he spoke it he replied in her native tongue. Impressed, we asked how he knew German. Tony explained that both his first and second wives had been German. He travelled the world with his first wife because he had been a competing South Australian surfer. He went on to tell us that he turned in his surfboard for a snowboard and later changed again to horseback riding. I could see that his barn décor reflected his eclectic life. Seeing my wandering eyes, Tony offered to give us the grand tour complete with an overview of the menu.


He walked behind the food truck, into the back section of the barn. There we saw one large table with elaborate table decorations. Tony said this room was reserved for big functions and private events. The room was huge and open and closed in on all four walls, unlike the middle section we had just came from.



Next he took us back through the middle section and into the other side of the barn. This was a cool spot with tapestries covering three of the four walls. The fourth wall had a dart board and a pool table set up for entertaining. Tony explained that this section was for bands and overflow crowds. I noticed the stage and band equipment set up in the corner. He told us in a half hour the area would be occupied with a local band.


After the tour Tony took us back near the food truck and explained his menu. Bascially you could order what you wanted buffet style and get charged by the weight or you could purchase the $15 everything on a plate special. The last option was to have a four course meal brought to your table at your leisure throughout the night for $30 a head. He said that was only for the truly hungry who would be dining for several hours. After giving us the schpill Tony left us to it. We thanked him for the tour and in a flash he was off talking to some guy with a long ponytail in his beard.


The three of us opted for the $15 everything on a plate special. The woman who served us was also the chef. Tony had introduced us but I had already forgotten her name. Her food, however, was unforgettable. Everything at Tru Thai was homemade and fresh. For the same price of a frozen fish and chip basket at our place, we were eating fresh food with local ingredients.



After receiving our plates we opted to sit in the tapestry room so we could save ourselves some good seats for the bands that would be playing later. Maggie, Matthew and I were so hungry that the only time we talked during our meal was when I dared Matthew to take a big bite of hot sauce by itself. To my surprise he did it, but then later coughed and coughed until he had to go and buy a drink. Maggie and I laughed and then put appropriate sized portions of hot sauce on our own plates, careful to mix it in with the other food. We knew from previous experiences that thai hot sauce was no joke.


When I had cleared my plate I was mostly full but I had already eyed a triple chocolate cake and I knew I had to have it. It was a bit hard to spend six dollars for a single slice, but when I tasted the cake I realized I would have paid $20 for such a delicious desert. The bottom layer was solid brownie, like a moist soft perfect brownie, covered with cheesecake that wasn't too rich or cheesy and topped with a light chocolate moose. It was the best desert I had had in a very long time.


When we finished eating we threw away our plates and listened to the acoustic show. The guitar player announced he was from North Carolina but spending lots of time in Nashville where he was working on his new CD. A member of the audience asked what he was doing on KI so he explained he was volunteering at Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary for a few months.


We were really surprised when we later heard another musician say he was from somewhere in Texas. We never got his full story but it was cool to see so many Americans in one place. The third musician was a local who played the keyboard like an angel. It was the guy I had seen Tony talking to with the ponytail beard. I enjoyed him the most. He played with a lot of soul and it was apparent in his face when he sang.


While I was lost in the music Maggie and Matthew had met a young girl with a puppy and were busy getting lost in paws and teeth. When I looked up to see the puppy I noticed the girl's mother standing there. It was a lady I had met in Kingscote a few weeks before. She was the owner of the tattoo and piercings shop, though I had walked in the store thinking it was a flooring shop. The lady was kind and said the flooring shop went out of business five years ago, despite what Google was advertising. She offered to pierce my ears for half price instead but I told her I'd take a rain check. When the lady saw me she greeted me warmly and asked if I had found my flooring stock. I told her we did eventually find it and thanked her for the helpful information during the process.


As she walked away I noticed her outfit. She was wearing a denim jumper that squeezed everything on her body. It was a dangerous get-up but I admired her boldness. I turned my attention back to the stage just in time to see Tony playing the bongos. I smiled as I watched him bop and sway. I guessed he was in his mid-fifties. He had a single hoop on his left ear and you could tell he still had an air of surfer-dude in him. He was totally into the rhythm and his bongos perfectly complimented the bearded ponytail's keyboarding. A woman in the audience was playing some kind of morocco and together the music was beautiful. I looked again at Tony and my mind wondered about all the creative jobs and lifestyles there were out there. Here was a room full of relaxed, creative people having a good time. I envied them. I had always wanted to belong to such a community but hadn't yet had my chance. Maybe the creative life is only uncommon if you haven't been around it. Maybe jobs in the creative field were not limited to those who had been trained as such. Perhaps all that was needed was a brave and willing spirit to walk into it. There was something about live music that always made my soul do a little moving. I couldn't put my finger on it, but I felt it again that night.  


Could Tillman County support a restaurant like this?  Read my thoughts right over here.