Food allergies led North County restaurateur to Asian cuisine

Bill Abii’s Thai One On, with locations in Vista and Carlsbad, serves gluten- and dairy-free Thai and Japanese food


Most restaurant owners get into the business because they’ve had a passion for food their whole life.

But as a boy, Bill Abii had a difficult relationship with food because he was born with gluten and dairy allergies. It wasn’t until he took his first business trip to Thailand at age 18 that he found a cuisine that he could dive into with gusto, as Thai food is largely gluten- and dairy free.

After working in the sales and retail industries around the world, the Lebanon-born Abii moved to the United States at age 35 and got into the restaurant business, first in Florida and later in Vista, where he now lives. In 2007, he opened Thai One On restaurant in Vista, which served authentic Thai food. Last December, he opened a second location in Carlsbad.

“I’m very picky when it comes to food and I always want the best, the freshest, the most delicious,” said Abii, 58. “I knew that the ideal way to ensure that was to own my own restaurants and share the highest quality food with my customers.”

The second location of Thai One On, in a former Pick Up Stix location at La Costa Avenue and Rancho Santa Fe Road in Carlsbad’s La Costa area, isn’t a cookie-cutter of the original store. Over the past 10 months, Abii and John Adams, who joined the location as general manager in February, have transformed the 60-seat space into a dual-cuisine restaurant with a wine bar.

The Carlsbad location of Thai One On serves traditional Thai food but it’s also a full-service sushi bar, serving a variety of Japanese dishes that, like Thai food, are mostly gluten- and dairy-free.

The Carlsbad restaurant hosts its grand opening this week with a fundraiser for the Carlsbad Education Foundation through Sunday, Oct. 6. For every Honor Roll sushi roll sold this weekend, the entire $15 cost of the dish will be donated to the foundation. The Honor Roll is a spicy tuna and shrimp tempura roll with albacore and avocado on top.

Adams, a Carlsbad resident, is the classic example of a restaurateur with a lifelong love affair with food. As a boy growing up near Sacramento, he made sausage with his Sicilian grandparents, caught fish for dinner and worked in his uncle’s delicatessen. By 17, he was a working at a Folsom restaurant where he worked his way up to sous chef.

Over the next decade, Adams alternated between jobs in corporate information technology and working as a chef. He co-owned a sushi bar in Elk Grove, was executive sous chef at Valley View Casino and ran his own award-winning food truck, Epic Eatz, which was featured on the online TV series “Beer Geeks.”

Adams said Abii gave him great freedom to source the best fish he could find for the Thai One On sushi bar, including scallops, seabream and yellowtail from Tokyo, tuna from Spain and salmon from Norway.

To showcase the seafood, Thai One On has introduced a special 10- to 12-course, $150 omakase menu, created by sushi chef Aaron Hahn, formerly of Wrench and Rodent Seabasstropub in Oceanside. Some of the items offered on the omakase menu, which is being presented every two months, are A5 Kobe beef and toro from Japan and caviar from the Caspian Sea.

Adams said that once the Carlsbad location has built up a strong business, he and Abii are looking to open another restaurant together with a different take on Asian cuisine. The next location, probably in Encinitas, will be a traditional Japanese izakaya (pub) serving ramen and robata (charcoal-grilled food).

Thai One On Carlsbad

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
Where: 7750 Rancho Santa Fe Rd, Carlsbad
Phone: (760) 487-5225