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Exploring St Paul, MSP Asian area - looking for recs

Hi,

I just started exploring the Asian area on University Ave beginning at around Dale and heading East in St. Paul (yes, I live in the western burbs of Mpls, but my daughter dances in St. Paul, so we spend a lot of time there dropping off and picking up). There are quite a few Asian restaurants there and I'm looking for recs about the ones you have tried and what you thought about them. My journey started a couple of months ago when I wandered into Mai Village one night for dinner. Another night, I attempted to go to Little Szechuan but it was closed, and I ate at Krua Thai down the block. Then last week, I ate at Little Szechaun. And that has been the extent of the places I've tried. I know that I've seen quite a few other places all within several blocks of each other. I think one of the places is called "Cheng Heng"? and across the street, another one called something "Pho".

Any suggestions, recommendations, or ones to stay away from?

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  1. Cheng Heng is the only place I know of in the Twin Cities that serves Cambodian food, and good Cambodian food at that. Definitely recommended. If they still have Cambodian Hot Pot on their menu, that would be a good dish to try.

    1. I think you should do a culinary tour of University Ave - try every single place - and report back to us on a weekly basis! (Just kidding, but I believe there was a group from 3M that actually did this.)

      Que Nha is nice - they have slightly nicer decor and a more varied menu than the average Vietnamese place on Univ. Ave. Across the street is a place that serves Chinese BBQ meats (mostly takeout) - I haven't been here yet.

      Saigon is especially good - great Vietnamese soup (pho) and sandwiches (banh mi) at University & Dale.

      Half a block away is West Indies Soul - nice Caribbean food (try the jerk chicken or red snapper) for when you get tired of Asian food.

      Closer to Snelling, there's Bon Xai, which has received rave reviews on this board and in the paper. I haven't been there yet, but it's on my list (maybe tonight!).

      Have fun exploring University Avenue!

      Anne

      5 Replies
        1. re: AnneInMpls

          hey, that's not a bad idea! I just might! We're in St. Paul almost every evening with time to kill, so a survey of University Ave may be exactly what I need to keep out of trouble (the other choice is waiting and sleeping in my car).

          I'm going to attempt a list of the restaurants there, and get this started...

          Saigon
          Cheng Heng
          Krua Thai
          Little Szechaun
          Mai Village
          Que Nha
          West Indies Soul
          Bon Xai

          where else?

          1. re: bluesman13

            I sang the praises of Pho Ca Dao on another thread today . . . corner of University and Arundel, divey interior but honestly the best pho I've ever had.

            1. re: mcgeary

              mcgeary,

              I think I saw it. Is it on the corner, directly across the street from Krua Thai?

              1. re: bluesman13

                That's the one! Please report back if you do try it.

        2. There are some pretty neat Asian groceries along there, including FoodSmart that also has the Hmong cafeteria in it. Dragon Star is a great grocery: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/12152...

          And, for the experience of it, there's also the "sprawling Hmong market" just off of University:

          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/318303

          There's Trung Nam bakery on University (it's in the old Popeye's building and has a chain link fence surrounding it)--I really like the croissants there...

          EDITED to ADD: Also, on Snelling, just a 3-4 of blocks North of University is the Black Sea (Turkish)

          http://www.blacksearestaurant.com/

          and Kim's Oriental Grocery (Korean grocery--not a restaurant)...

          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/31509...

          there was a thread bouncing about recently discussing good Korean restaurants that mentioned some of the Snelling spots. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/36236...

          Also, in that same 2-3 block of Snelling is Fasika (Ethiopian.

          )

          ~TDQ

          2 Replies
          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            By the way, all of those Snelling restaurants I mentioned are going to be a bit West of Dale...I don't know if that's too far. But, all the others are in the area East of Dale...

            ~TDQ

            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              TDQ (may I call you that?),

              I looked at your post. all I can say is Wow! YOu posted pictures and lists of vendors. You really are the Queen!

              :-)

          2. This is in a different part of St. Paul, but I just want to take this opportunity to say that we love Tanpopo, although we don't get there nearly often enough. This Japanese restaurant in Lowertown serves excellent soups. I also love the agadashi tofu there. Yum. They are a sushi-free zone.

            http://www.tanpoporestaurant.com/

            5 Replies
            1. re: Cassandra

              actually tanpopo usually has a sushi app. just one, though. it's pretty much a noodle house otherwise. a lovely, scrumptious, warm and lovely one.

              1. re: soupkitten

                I love Tanpopo! Nice owners, always feel relaxed there. There is a special roll every night, that includes spicy tuna roll, or california roll.

                1. re: bluesman13

                  Tampopo is the best restaurant in downtown St Paul. Wonderful ambience, excellent Japanese comfort food.

                2. re: soupkitten

                  oh, sorry, I didn't know. apparently, I need to get myself over to Tanpopo to try the sushi appetizer! what a nice excuse to go :-)

                  1. re: Cassandra

                    as if any of us need an excuse to go to tanpopo! :)

                    if you don't see the sushi on the printed menu it is often featured on the big chalkboard "specials board" hung over the pass thru in the rest.

              2. ok, in trying to keep with the theme of University Ave Asian restaurants starting at around Dale, and continuing East until, maybe, Robert St, here's what I've got:

                Saigon
                Cheng Heng
                Krua Thai
                Little Szechaun
                Mai Village
                Que Nha
                West Indies Soul
                Bon Xai
                Pho Ca Dao
                Trung Nam bakery
                Food Smart Grocery (w/ restaurant in back)

                Anything where else I've missed?

                1 Reply
                1. re: bluesman13

                  If it were me, I'd take Mai Village off your list, or, push it to the bottom. Some of those other restaurants are much better.

                  And, yes, I like to bring my little digital camera along when I go chow-exploring so I can remember where and what I ate, etc. It's easier sometimes than taking notes. I thought it was fun to experiment a little with Chowhound's new photo feature (it turns out to be fairly easy, though I haven't completely figure out how it crops.) I just wish the photo catalogue in our profiles could be annotated or, at least, provide a link to the thread where the photo is posted to provide context.

                  ~TDQ

                2. There was a thread a few years ago on University, you can read it here: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/121657

                  Limiting your University Avenue experiece to East of Dale is really selling yourself short, as is limiting yourself to Asian options. There's good Chow from around the world all the way down to highway 280!

                  Some Off the top of my head, some of my highlights on University are: Barbequed Chicken/Duck/ Pork from Tai Hoa, Carribean from West Indies Soul, Cambodian from Cheng Heng, Wings from Arnellia's, a new Ghanan place (I haven't tried this one yet), all sorts of things from Foodsmart, and more if you expand the radius a little bit (on Snelling is Black Sea and Fasika, on Dale is the awesome pulled pork at Aesop's table and Dragon Star Market.

                  )

                  Okay, I'll admit it, I've eated way too many lunches along University.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Danny

                    Danny, where is the new Ghanan place?

                    ~TDQ

                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      University and Victoria. I'm ashamed to admit it isn't all that new! kcmarshall wrote about it a while ago: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/124708

                      1. re: Danny

                        Oh my! You're right, it's not at all new! But, it's great to have something new to explore. Is the "Best Steakhouse" he's referring to now the Cafe BonXai?

                        ~TDQ

                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                          No, there were a few "Best Steakhouses" along University. Both places are in former "Best Steakhouse" locations.

                          1. re: Danny

                            Actually, the Best Steak at university and Victoria is still up and running. Kenkayba’s is right next door. I’ve been wanting to check it out. The sign out front says that they now serve both Ghanan AND African American soul food now...

                  2. Your list looks great. I'd make the following recommendations:

                    I agree with TDQ to remove Mai Village. It's not that it's BAD per se, it's just not really very good, and you pay a lot more for the (now-dingy) ambience.

                    I'd add Trieu Chau for pho. Oh, and I think they have the best egrolls in town too.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: diesel

                      ok, great, I love eggrolls! (and I think it's hard to find really good eggrolls)

                      I'll update the list shortly - but I think for the sake of completeness, I think I'll leave Mai VIllage on there. You know, I've eaten at Mai Village twice in the last year. I didn't think it was great, but I enjoyed the experience. It was fun to cook the beef on the little burner thing. But now that (with all the kind suggestions) I've lots of new places to try! I can't wait!.

                      1. re: bluesman13

                        I haven't tried the beef on the burner, but I tried the seafood on the burner once and oh my goodness I made such a mess. If you ever decide to order this, make sure you're not wearing clothing that would be ruined by grease spatter. I enjoyed the meal from a "chow" perspective, but it was intended to be a romantic meal in a charming setting and we were a little dressed up.

                        One of my very first dishes at Mai Village that I really enjoyed (a couple of years ago now) was this dish where you roll your own little beef wraps at the table--they provide you rice paper and all kinds of fresh veggies (cilantro and sprouts etc.) and dipping sauces. I'm afraid I don't remember what it was called. But, my fond memories of that initial experience kept me defending Mai Village for a long time. I should try it again and see if it's still as good. I've always wanted to try the 7 course beef dinner there. It sounds fun.

                        ~TDQ

                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                          The seven course beef thingy has 2 courses where you make your own spring rolls - one involves cooking slices of beef in a broth like fondue, the other is grilling marinated beef. (I don't remember either making a particularly huge mess, perhaps there is more moisture to fly around when you grill seafood than when you grill beef?)

                          1. re: Danny

                            yes, I've had both on separate occasions - actually the only two items I've had there - the food was good and it was fun to make your own roll. I'd be interested to know if you know what the name of that sauce was they served with it - I'm not sure if i really like it, but it was most unusual tasting - there is some ingredient in there that I can't figure out what it was.