West Seattle 101: Buddha Ruksa

bookcover4.jpgfrom “West Seattle 101” by Lori Hinton
(updated with additional information 3/08)

At the end of the West Seattle Bridge, on the corner of 36th and Genesee, a beautiful, little restaurant is in full bloom.

Welcome to Buddha Ruksa Thai Cuisine.


Pronounced “poot-ta rucksuw,” the name signifies a Thai flower similar to the gladiola. It translates literally to “safe and well under the protection of Buddha.” The elegant red blossom is also the favorite flower of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, whom the restaurant honors by choosing this name.

Along with the flower comes royalty, simplicity, and some of the most uniquely prepared Thai food in the neighborhood.

Buddha Ruksa, founded by Anucha “Nui” Onongard and Michael Hootman, opened in January of 2003. Hootman is a Boeing employee with a love for food and a knack for the business side of the venture. Onongard hails from Lopburi, Thailand, just north of Bangkok. He provides years of experience in Thai restaurants as well as a handful of family recipes.

Onongard moved to Seattle in 1993. He first worked for a Thai restaurant in West Seattle and then served and managed for nearly eight years at the Noodle Studio on Broadway. A resident of West Seattle’s Pigeon Hill neighborhood, Onongard purposely built his restaurant just minutes away from his home.

The restaurateur chose West Seattle for two reasons. “Restaurant work requires many hours, and I wanted work to be close to home,” he says. “Also, West Seattle is a very good neighborhood with sweet people and a real community feel.”

The menu is inspired largely by Onongard’s mother, who still resides in Thailand. “My mom is a very good cook,” grins the proud son. “My sister Anita moved over here to be my cook and uses those same recipes.”

Sure, Buddha Ruksa serves your typical swimming rama and multicolored curries, but the presentation is impeccable (check out the gorgeous lotus shaped garnishes) and there are also a few of “mom’s” items here you won’t find on other Thai menus. For example, two appetizers are straight from the Onongard home. Prawns in a Blanket are garlic-and pepper-marinated prawns wrapped in a spring roll, deep- fried golden brown, and served with a sweet garlic-chili sauce. Kra-Thong-Tong features golden pastry cups filled with curried ground chicken, shrimp, and vegetables, and is served with a cucumber salad.

Besides everyone’s favorite pad thai, Onongard says the crispy garlic chicken sautéed with basil is a real hit (this dish has also earned the local reference “crack chicken” because it’s so deliciously addictive). With a new special every month, Onongard aims to keep things fresh and interesting while experimenting with new flavors and styles one week at a time.

The diverse flavors of salty, spicy, sweet, and sour only complement the Zen simplicity of Buddha Ruksa’s traditional Thai decor.

Also, keep your eyes out for the restaurant’s new addition—a cocktail lounge that will be ready to serve special Thai concoctions in just a couple weeks.

So check out the Thai restaurant named after the beautiful little flower. Chances are you’ll leave your meal also feeling “safe and well.”


What: Buddha Ruksa Thai Cuisine

Where: 3520 SW Genesee St, 206.937.7676

Online: www.buddharuksa.com

When: Tuesday–Friday: Lunch & dinner 11 am-10 pm; Saturday & Sunday: dinner 4 pm-10 pm; closed Monday

Price: Entrées from $8.25–$16.95
Find more “West Seattle 101” stories on WSB by going here.

Buy the book at any of these West Seattle stores:
Alki Bike & Board
Barnes & Noble
Coastal Boutique
Easy Street Records
Square 1 Books

Also, online:
Adventure Press

Basic Green Box