Cousins open cafe with Thai, Karen and Burmese food

Published 3:27 pm Tuesday, June 21, 2022

By Marissa Hanson

A restaurant in Albert Lea that opened earlier this month brings a taste of something new to the community.

Natural Asian Grocery and Café is co-owned by cousins Jester Thakolo and Ehkmler Soe.

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Thakolo is a refugee from Thailand who moved to America 14 years ago, and Soe lives in Austin.

Thakolo said for a long time, he worked for different parts of the state government, such as a case worker in refugee relief, and he also worked in restaurants. Recently, however, he has been wanting more.

“I didn’t want to work off tax[payer] money anymore,” Thakolo said. “I wanted to work for myself.” 

So he moved from Omaha, Nebraska, to Albert Lea to start up a business with his cousin Soe and their family. 

This isn’t something they can do overnight though.

“We are working from the ground up,” he said. “We are growing as we can.”

As part of the café they have a variety of Thai, Karen and Burmese food that you can order for both takeout and to dine-in. They also have a small grocery store that you can shop at. They are working on expanding both the grocery aspect of their store and the food aspect of the café. 

Natural Asian Grocery and Café is located in the strip mall around Walmart at 2351 Leland Drive in Albert Lea. Their store is open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday through Saturday and their kitchen is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Both are closed on Sunday. 

They can be reached on Facebook at Natural Asian Inc. as well as calling their store at 507-369-5214.