Metro-East News

New Thai restaurant opens; Peel pizza announces expansion

Thai food lovers have a new place to eat

Owner Devon Whitsell describes the menu at his new restaurant, Bann Thai, in Edwardsville.
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Owner Devon Whitsell describes the menu at his new restaurant, Bann Thai, in Edwardsville.

Devon Whitsell didn’t even like Asian food growing up.

But the owner of a new Thai restaurant in Edwardsville fell in love with Thai food and culture after meeting his fiance, Wannisa Suriya, whose parents immigrated from Thailand.

“The diversity of the food is amazing,” said Whitsell, 24, of Granite City, formerly of Edwardsville. “You can go to any Thai place and the food is going to be different, depending on whether its from northeastern Thailand or southern Thailand or wherever.”

Whitsell opened Bann Thai restaurant the end of September in Club Centre, the former location of Wang Gang Asian Eats and more recently Taj Indian Cuisine, which moved a few doors down.

Dishes range from Thai favorites such as pad Thai and drunken noodles to larb, crying tiger and other eastern classics. Whitsell also serves soups that aren’t always available at Thai restaurants in the United States. Suriya, 24, is partial to the khao soi.

“I love curry, and it’s like a curry noodle soup,” she said. “My mom used to make it for me when I was a kid, and now I don’t see her quite as often.”

Suriya’s parents live in Chicago. She studies early childhood education at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, where she met Whitsell five years ago, and works part time at the restaurant.

Whitsell honed his Thai cooking skills by hanging out with her family and working at another Thai restaurant in Edwardsville. He adds his own twist to traditional recipes.

“All of our dishes (at Bann Thai) are made from scratch,” Whitsell said. “All of the sauces and some of the pastes are made from scratch. Everything is fresh. We’re not using anything boxed or pre-made. I buy fresh Atlantic salmon and slice my own rib eye.”

The restaurant is at 4 Club Centre Court, Suite H, off Illinois 157. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. For more information, call 618-307-5894 or visit or the Facebook page.

Peel pizza to expand into St. Louis

Owners of Peel Wood Fired Pizza and Brewing Co. in Edwardsville and O’Fallon have announced that they will expand to the other side of the Mississippi next year.

Their third location will occupy an 8,800-square-foot space on the first floor of a new, 26-story upscale apartment building called Two Twelve Clayton in downtown Clayton, Missouri.

“It’s a blank slate,” said Brandon Case, who owns Peel with Patrick Thirion. “We won’t have to work our concept around a space.”

Peel Pizza

The new location will house a restaurant and bar, but no brewery. The company will continue to brew beer in O’Fallon, deliver it to Clayton and offer about 20 other craft beers.

“We’ll have our wood-fired pizza, salads and sandwiches,” Case said, noting the menu will be about 95 percent the same as menus in Edwardsville and O’Fallon.

The owners haven’t set an opening date for the new location, other than to predict it will happen mid-year. The address is 212 S. Meramec Ave. in Clayton.

“It’s a good opportunity,” Case said. “It’s a good area.”

The Medicine Shoppe reopens in O’Fallon

Jackie Howell has been working as a pharmacist for other people for more than 30 years. Now she’s striking out on her own.

Howell recently reopened The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy in downtown O’Fallon. She wants to bring back the friendly, hometown service that pharmacist Sam Aldeman provided in the same location from the early 1980s until his retirement three years ago.

“He was a hugger,” said Howell, 55, of Belleville. “Even now, when he comes in, he gives hugs.”

Howell took possession of the storefront in June. She had worked at the pharmacy part-time for other owners, who operated it for about two years. They closed in April.

With help from family and friends, Howell gutted the space, installed a new ceiling, flooring, plumbing, counters and computers and applied a fresh coat of paint.

The Medicine Shoppe reopened Nov. 1 at 122 W. State St. in O’Fallon.

“It felt like it took forever, but I’m really pleased with what we did,” Howell said. “Now if we can just get the customers back in here, I think we’ll be OK.”

Jackie Howell, new owner of the Medicine Shoppe in downtown O’Fallon, has been a pharmacist for more than 30 years. Teri Maddox

Howell graduated from Purdue College of Pharmacy at Purdue University. She and her husband, Doug, moved to the St. Louis area in 1990 when he got a job with KSDK Channel 5 in St. Louis.

Howell started her career as a pharmacist with Hook’s Drug Stores in Indiana and later worked 16 years for Schnucks and 10 years for Walgreens.

She took the part-time job at The Medicine Shoppe last year to spend more time with her two children, Jake, 18, and Rachel, 20, before they left home.

“I love O’Fallon,” Howell said. “The (O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce) is so good to work with. It just seems like people really want you to succeed.”

For more information on The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy in O’Fallon, call 618-206-8655 or visit or its Facebook page.

Code Rulers Escape Room moves to O’Fallon

It took only a year for a metro-east escape room to run out of room.

Code Rulers Escape Room, which opened last year in Collinsville, has moved to a space in O’Fallon that is double the size.

“One of the things people were always asking was, ‘Do you have space for birthday parties or training?’And I didn’t have that space,” said owner Sharece Johnson, 34, of Belleville.

The former location also had no office and only one restroom. The new space in O’Fallon’s Eagle Center has three game rooms, a party room, an office and two restrooms.

“(The additional restroom) definitely cuts down on the check-in time,” said Johnson, who also is an adjunct instructor at Lewis & Clark Community College in Godfrey.

Owner (2)
Sharece Johnson opened Code Rulers Escape Room in 2016 after her brother suggested the family go to an escape room over the holidays the year before. Teri Maddox

Escape rooms require groups to find clues and solve puzzles to get out of locked rooms within a time limit. Businesses, organizations and sports teams use them to improve communication and encourage teamwork, while friends and families do it for fun.

The O’Fallon location of Code Rulers opened in September. Two of the three game rooms are open. One has a Titanic Time theme. Players in a dimly lit engine room try to save a sinking ship.

The second room has a Movies 4A Moment theme. Players try to sneak into a movie theater without paying or getting caught.

Code Rulers is at 7 Eagle Center, Suite B2. Hours are 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays. For more information, call 618-207-2565 or visit

Teri Maddox: 618-239-2473, @BNDwriter

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