By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Apr 10, 2006 at 5:35 AM

When Singha Thai restaurant opened in West Allis in 1990, it was one of only three Thai options in Milwaukee –- and the only one on the West Side. Since then, Thai places have popped up all over the city, yet Singha Thai has remained a savory staple. After 16 years on Highway 100 and Lincoln Avenue, Singha Thai restaurant has expanded its reach to Downtown.

On Thursday, April 6, sisters Noi Vechsathol and Moonie Douangmala opened the second location of their family’s restaurant, distinguishing it from the first as Singha Thai 2.

Taking over the old Los Mitos space at 780 N. Jefferson St., Singha Thai 2 brings the same authentic quality found at the first, and adds an element of urban dining to the traditional Thai setting.

In addition to a full bar –- something the first location lacks –- the Downtown spot has an outdoor patio attached to the southern side of the building.

"It’s going to be great for summer," says general manager Douangmala. "Thai food outside -– where can you find that?"

She’s pretty sure that with warm weather starting to make a regular appearance, Singha Thai’s signature Thai iced teas -– brewed herbal teas mixed with a sweet cream and served over ice -– and Thai coffee drinks (they serve Alterra) will be a big hit with Downtown diners.

Like the West Side location, Singha Thai 2 has an ever-changing daily lunch buffet from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

"Every day there are five different dishes in the buffet. We change them so people can really try a variety of Thai food," says Douangmala.

The new Jefferson location boasts 150 of the original’s 200 menu options, including the famous pud thai, curry varieties and a plethora of the restaurant’s originals like the Singha wings -- marinated chicken wings with special Thai spices -- and Singha Talay -- stir-fried shrimp, squid, crab and scallops with vegetables.

Douangmala says that what makes her restaurant stand out in Milwaukee and in other cities –- one of her sisters has opened a restaurant in Chicago and another in New York -- is that the food is authentic.

"Our recipes have been in the family forever. My mom –- who is originally from Thailand -- loves to cook; she’s extremely passionate about it. My mother took all her recipes and started this business in Chicago in the ‘80s and now she’s passed it down to us."

A chef from the West Side has relocated to Jefferson Street to bring the recipes to life Downtown but Douangmala reiterates, "It’s not the chef. It’s the recipe that makes us what we are."

Singha Thai is open Monday through Saturday, and Douangmala says that once the summer festivals begin, the Downtown location will open on Sundays as well.

Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”