Katoi reopens Monday, changes name to Takoi

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

As Thai-influenced restaurant Katoi prepares to reopen Monday after closing in February following a fire, the owners have announced a “shift” in the name of the popular dining spot.

It will now be called Takoi.

The name change comes after owners were approached by some in the community who felt the word “Katoi,” which comes from the Thai word “Kathoey” was an offensive term for transgender women.

Restaurant co-owner Courtney Henriette said the word means “ladyboy,” which is commonly referred to in Thailand as a transgender woman or an effeminate male.

Upon opening in March 2016, the restaurant stamped the phrase “LADY/BOY” on the restaurant’s unisex bathroom.

Henriette said they were aware of Katoi’s meaning, and “at the time it fit.”

“This word to us embodies going beyond, sort of going against normative culture,” she said. “For three-plus years that word embodied that. ... We apologize to whoever we’ve hurt with this word. That was not our intention.”

The shift in name will allow the restaurant to keep the integrity of their brand, Henriette said.

“Getting rid of this word, that sting, for us it’s not that difficult because the same way we have been this entity — we’re known as a restaurant — but in actuality we’ve embodied a food truck, a place in Ann Arbor, this is the second time opening at 2520 Michigan Avenue,” Henriette said.

“We continue to do what we do even outside of this building and even outside of the word.”

The owners released a statement Wednesday explaining the meaning of the new name: “Takoi, as defined by the Urban Dictionary, is the awkward moment of interesting dance that we all do when attempting to pass another on the street. More than just a scrabble shift in letters, this pivotal moment of engagement that is Takoi describes a moment shared between strangers.”

A change in name can be an expensive task for an established restaurant.

On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that “Top Chef” Judge Tom Colicchio will change the name of his Manhattan restaurant Fowler & Wells to Temple Court.

Colicchio opened the restaurant in October on grounds that used to house the publishing company and scientific institute for Edward Fowler and Samuel Wells. The issue is that those men were proponents of a now-outdated practice called phrenology (the study that the shape of a person’s skull was related to personality and mental aptitude) that was used to justify slavery.

Colicchio had been working on the name change for months and told the New York Times it has cost between $50,000-$100,000.

Henriette would not cite the amount it will cost to change the restaurant’s name, but she emphasized “it wasn’t even a question of money; it was a question of keeping intact what we had built” with employees and the community.

The Corktown spot was known for small, shareable plates, a superb cocktail program and a hip atmosphere. Katoi did not take reservations, and it wasn’t uncommon to have more than an hour wait for a table during busy nights.

In February a fire set during a break-in shuttered the popular restaurant for six months.

Two days before the fire, the national James Beard Award Foundation listed Katoi as a semifinalist for its Best New Restaurant award. While it didn’t go on to become a finalist, the restaurant was the only Michigan business on the list. Chef Brad Greenhill was visiting Thailand when the blaze struck.

When Katoi reopens Monday as Takoi, patrons will see a few more tweaks. The first thing they — or anyone driving down Michigan Avenue — will notice is the tall chain link fence surrounding the restaurant. The fence is to enclose the surrounding space so some of Takoi’s chefs can cook outside. The outdoor seating area will also be behind this fence. The bar area has been expanded via the use of a shipping container.

Another update is that while Takoi still won’t take traditional reservations, diners can purchase tickets in advance for a “Takoi Experience.”

For $65 per person (plus $35 for a beverage pairing) guests can arrange in advance for the chef to take them on a culinary ride to wherever he feels like going that night (with dietary restrictions in mind).

Tickets can be purchased for groups of two-to-six now for as soon as Oct. 5 at katoidetroit.com.

While the owners of Takoi have been gearing up to relaunch, they’ve also been working on a second restaurant. Located on Grand River near Warren less than 2 miles from Takoi, it will be called Magnet. A concept has not yet been revealed.


Twitter: @melodybaetens


2520 Michigan, Detroit

(313) 855-2864 or katoidetroit.com

Reopens Monday

5 p.m.-midnight Mon.-Wed. and 5 p.m.- 2 a.m. Thurs.-Sat.