Dumpling deliveries during pandemic lead to Ypsilanti's newest restaurant, Basil Babe

(Photo: Basil Babe)

A way to see friends and family and get creative during the pandemic morphed into something unexpected.

Haluthai "Thai" Inhmathong grew up around food and spent much of her time at her parent's restaurant.

"I was born and raised in their kitchen," she said, noting that "it was all hands on deck" at the immigrant-owned Siam Square in Ann Arbor.

Though cooking was a big part of her family, Inhmathong followed a different path, studying advertising at Eastern Michigan University in her hometown of Ypsilanti.

"My family never pressured me into pursuing the family business," she said.

However, when the Covid pandemic hit Michigan in 2020, Inhmathong would inadvertently switch paths. With the illness forcing isolation and distance between people, she started making dumplings and taking drives to drop them off to her loved ones.

(Photo: Basil Babe)

"The only way I could express myself was cooking and feeding people," she said. "I developed my own flavor."

As she cooked more, she made more trips, driving miles around Metro Detroit with a cooler full of dumplings. As she cooked more and developed her own flavor, Inhmathong's dumpling drop-offs blossomed into a popup business featuring Thai food called Basil Babe.

Basil Babe popups at businesses around Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and other areas, like Hazel Park, drew crowds.

"Basil Babe just kept growing," Inhmathong said.

(Photo: Basil Babe)

And it kept growing until Inhmathong knew it was time to take the next step – opening her own restaurant

That restaurant, also called Basil Babe, will open in the former Tower Inn and Hamburger Mary's space on Cross Street in Ypsilanti. The location, in the city where she grew up, is important to Inhmathong.

(Photo: Basil Babe)

"It means the world to me. I'm such a local," she said. "I just love being back at my community."

Through this new endeavor, she hopes to provide "accessible, heartfelt meals" while uplifting the community and other businesses.

The restaurant will feature a rotating menu with more dumpling flavors and options than popups, which typically consisted of one entree and two dumplings. Inhmathong said the brick-and-mortar space will give her more "creative freedom" with her food.

(Photo: Basil Babe)

Don't worry if you can't make it to Ypsilanti, though. Basil Babe popups will continue, including a weekly visit to HOMES Campus in Ann Arbor that recently began.

"It's so great to be able to feed everyone," Inhmathong said.

Basil Babe is planning to open at 701 W. Cross St. in early 2023. You can find updates here