Loyal Customers Sad To See Restaurant Go: 'Bennie Was Not Just A Proprietor, She Was A Friend'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A Manhattan spot known for its Thai food served its last dish Sunday, another sad sign of the times for restaurants in our area.

Tucked below Fulton Street in lower Manhattan is a hidden gem — Bennie’s Thai Cafe.

But it’s no secret the authentic Thai cuisine crafted by owner Bennie Boon is some of the best you’ll find in New York.

“We can always trust that this food is really good, so we come here very often,” lower Manhattan resident Anna Sang said.

“They keep coming back,” Boon told CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez. “I wonder how they love fried rice and pad Thai so much.”

Bennie Boon, owner of Bennie’s Thai Cafe, writes down orders. Her restaurant closed on July 26, 2020, amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Credit: CBS2)

Sadly, Sunday night, 24 years to the day when Bennie served her first customer at the restaurant, she served her last.

“I miss my customers. I miss them so much. They are like friends,” Boon said.

“I just found out they’re closing and I wanted to cry,” lower Manhattan resident Dora Anderson said.

“Bennie was not just a proprietor, she was a friend. Like, there were times when I came in and I didn’t have enough money. She just wrote my name down and said, ‘Pay me when you get a chance,'” lower Manhattan resident Stephanie Bernard said.

Bennie is beloved in the neighborhood, sharing her family recipes with the movers and shakers of the Financial District.

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She survived Sept. 11 and Superstorm Sandy, but she says the coronavirus pandemic was too much. With customers losing their jobs or working from home, she can’t afford the rent to stay open.

Selfless as Bennie’s known to be, she’s worried about her employees finding work.

“In 24 years, somebody work like 20 years, 18, 19 years. We all stick together like family. We eat together. Endure so much. It’s sad,” Boon said.

Loyal customers old and young have sent cards and flowers to wish Bennie well, all hoping she’ll somehow make a comeback.

“I don’t know how long I’m gonna stay away … I love to cook. It’s from here,” she said, tapping her heart. “That’s why.”

Every dish made with love, Bennie’s will be missed.

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