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Sep 21, 2007 08:14 AM

MSP Visitors -- OK plan?

Briniging my son from Montana to Macalester next weekend, staying in MN at friend's temporarily empty house on Humboldt Ave., sort of close to downtown as far as I can tell.

Arriving later Thursday, so I thought we'd hit LaBelleVie's bar for a few small plates, oh, and a nice bottle of wine for Dad (me).

All day at Macalester on Friday. Planning on sneaking out to Mai Village for lunch. Does this make sense?

Dinner Friday is the problem: Little Sichuan sounds great but like kind of a haul. Since we like Thai/Sichuan/Indian/ethnic, do you have any tips for something closer to where we're staying? Maybe Saffron?

Saturday's open, so it's either dimsum somewhere (I forget the name of the place I've read about) or MidTown Global Market before we head back to the airport.

Any and all comments/pointers/criticisms would be most welcome.

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  1. Spot...welcome. Your plan is actually perfect logistically.

    Mai Village (394 University Ave) is on the same block as Little Szechuan (they use this spelling...address is 422 University Ave) and both are reasonably close to Macalester (10 minute drive tops and very, very easy).

    For dim sum, Mandarin Kitchen in Bloomington is not too far from the airport. That would be a convenient option.

    I very much like all of the places you mention although I'm not the biggest Vietnamese afficianado on this board so have less affinity for Mai Village than Little Szechuan.

    2 Replies
    1. re: MSPD

      I would agree to do Little Szechuan instead of Mai Village. Or if you're set on Vietnamese go to Saigon, which is also right there along University. If you decide to stay on campus for lunch, I recommend Khyber Pass, although if your son goes to Macalester you'll probably have many meals there. I've also heard Shish on Grand right near campus is very good.

      I really enjoyed my meal at Saffron last month and I would recommend Midtown Global Market over dim sum on your way out (unless you're really craving dim sum - in which case I would go to Jun Bo, also on your way to the airport).

      1. re: katebauer

        Welcome to St Paul. Friday lunch woulf be perfect for Shish - its practically on campus.

        I've never been, (although I go past it 100 times a day) but I've only wonderful things about Everest as well - Its about 3/4 of a mile at the most from campus.

        The link isn't picking up the right spot - its east of campus, on grand, across from Kowalski's Market.

        Have a great trip!

        Shish A Mediterranean Grill [DUPLICATE]
        1668 Grand Ave, St Paul, MN

    2. If you are staying on Humboldt Avenue it is probably more convenient to get to the Uptown area for one of your dinners rather than downtown. I would recommend jP American bistro. There is nothing wrong with going downtown/warehouse district for Saffron but since you are staying in that neighborhood you might want to get a little feel for it.

      jP American Bistro [CLOSED]
      2937 Lyndale Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55408

      13 Replies
      1. re: mnitchals

        I agree with mnitchals. In the Thai/Sichuan/Indian/ethnic vein, there are a lot of ethnic restaurants along Nicollet Avenue (10-15 blocks east of Humboldt) between Franklin and 29th Streets - a/k/a Eat Street. My favorites include Peninsula (Malaysian), Quang (Vietnamese), Evergreen (Chinese - vegetarian), and Rainbow (Chinese).

        For Thai, both Tum Rup Thai and Amazing Thailand in Uptown are pretty good, as is Mysore for Indian - also in Uptown.

        Also - if you've got your sights set on Little Szechuan, it's not TOO far from Mac. Also, unless you're traveling during rush hour, the distance between Little Szechuan and Humboldt (depending where) is probably not more than 20-30 minutes.

        Have fun!

        Quang Pastry & Deli
        2719 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55408

        Evergreen Chinese Restaurant
        2424 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55404

        Rainbow Chinese Restaurant
        2739 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55408

        Tum Rup Thai
        1221 W Lake St Ste 112, Minneapolis, MN 55408

        Mysore Cafe [Closed April 08]
        2819 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55408

        Amazing Thailand
        3024 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55408

        Peninsula Malaysian Cuisine
        2608 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55408

        1. re: bob s

          Amazing Thailand is off my list of recommendations. I've had three bad experiences in a row there now - bad both with service and with food. Tum Rup Thai is much better in that area, and True Thai is also very good (different neighborhood).

          1. re: pgokey

            I realize this is a tangential knife-fight, but I've had five or six positive experiences at Amazing Thailand -- it's a much more creative (and, in my limited experience) "authentic" menu than Tum Rup Thai. At TRT, we couldn't convince the waitstaff to bring us spicy food. At Amazing Thailand, our waitress brought us a complimentary off-menu dish after we were bold enough to order the durian for dessert; to my knowledge, Amazing Thailand is the only restaurant that serves it.

            1. re: jrnorton23

              You can get durian shakes at Thai Bazil! =).. not bubble tea, actually just durian + ice.

              1. re: jrnorton23

                I would have to agree with Amazing Thailand over Tum Rup Thai. My last 2 experiences at TRT have been really disappointing, after having a few meals there when they first opened that were great. Lately when ordering things at the highest spice levels, our food has been absolutely bland, zero spice. Meanwhile at Amazing Thailand I've found the 5 to be just a little too hot and the 4 absolutely perfect.

                1. re: katebauer

                  Our experiences lately with TRT mirror yours. As my wife (Thai) said on our last abortive visit "they've gone all American taste now" and I tend to agree. They've trimmed their menu some lately and have definitely gone for what the locals are buying. Sad, sad, sad... and probably necessary to stay in business.

                2. re: jrnorton23

                  <mind baffled>

                  I ordered take out the first time. I ordered pad thai, but didn't realize I got garlic chicken until I got home and didn't feel like going back. In isolation, not that big a deal. The garlic chicken was no good, though - the meat was tough and dry.

                  I went once a got a drink and had some crispy noodle appetizer. It was the only time I've ever had this dish, but was dried out. The tofu, pork and shrimp in it were practically unchewable. We had to ask for the check several times, and it took forever to arrive.

                  Third time, we sat well over 30 minutes before our order was taken. Pad thai - it most decidedly is not authentic pad thai. They use a ketchup-like sauce - the crap you get at the supermarket for making your own pad thai at home. It is NOT how pad thai is made. There was no tamarind, no garlic, no fish sauce, no palm sugar. The sauce on the noodles was soupy, even. Pad thai noodles, done properly, if anything, should be a little underdressed. Hands down, worst pad thai in the city. It's just made wrong. Wrong ingredients, wrong flavor notes, wrong consistency. And it was way over-garnished - like they were hiding something. This is the national dish of Thailand - kind of an important one to get right.

                  The egg rolls weren't terrible, but they were far from remarkable.

                  I have not had their curries, which is another good measure of a thai place. I know TRT is one of the few (the only?) Thai place in town that grinds their own curry spices rather than using canned paste. Perhaps Amazing does OK with curry; I don't know. Avoid the pad thai like the plague, though.

                  I have never had spicing problems at TRT. And I don't play with heat, either. I have not been to TRT in a while - 9 months maybe? It might have slipped while I've been trying to keep up with new places.

                  Amazing does have a nice menu, yes. Means nothing, given the service I've had, and the execution I've experienced.

                  1. re: pgokey

                    Okay, time to open it up. Tom Rup Thai, Amazing Thailand, or True Thai (which I've heard some good things about, too)?

                    We like "Thai hot". We cook a lot of Thai (not the easiest proposition in MT), so look forward to eating it w/o preparing it.

                    1. re: Spot

                      PLEASE add Thai Bazil. It's the most authentic in my opinion (I'm not Thai but my best friend who moved here 7 years ago is)..

                      I personally don't know anyone (Thai, Lao, or Farang like us) who has had a bad meal there..

                      1. re: Spot

                        I haven't been all of those spots, yet, Spot but I'm not a big fan of True Thai (overly-sweet one-dimensional dishes, including a papaya salad I had there and one other dish that was too forgettable for me to remember)...

                        HuaGung swears by Krua Thai on University Avenue in St. Paul (Not too far from Thai Bazil, which is the place reannd also recommends.)



                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                          Krua Thai is like the girl with the curl. (you know...when it's good it's very, very good but when it's bad.....). But of all the times I've been there (20 or so) they've only behaved badly twice: once with a papaya salad that was inexplicably sweet, limp and so thoroughly off it made my hair curl, and another with a curry that was again too sweet. Mostly I order their whole fish preps, and I've found those to be excellent. I also like their green basil curry and fried crab cakes.

                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                            I am going to have to get over there and try those places. It drives me nuts that the Thai restaurants in Uptown don't cut it - if I end up agreeing Tum Rup has declined - when there are FOUR of them within 4 blocks of each other.

                          2. re: Spot

                            Please also include Chai's. It is better that all of those named.

                3. Are you staying on Humboldt in Minneapolis or Humboldt in St. Paul?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: clepro

                    In Minneapolis. (Didn't know there was one in St. Paul!)

                  2. You've gotten some good advice thus far. Little Szechuan, Mai Village, Saigon (has a nice big parking lot, great pho and great bahn mi sandwiches), and another place I highly recommend for both food and the charming atmosphere, Ngon Bistro, are all on University Avenue. Any of those places would be about a 10 minute drive from Macalester. You'd just zip up (North) on Snelling Avenue, then turn left (East) onto University. I think you'd hit them in this order (i.e. from West to East): Ngon, Saigon, L.S., M.V. (L.S. and M.V. even share a parking lot--they are that close.)

                    I really don't recommend Mai Village to people any more, unless they are a big group, then, sometimes I think it's okay. I prefer Ngon Bistro, even for groups.

                    Another option, slightly different and not as fantastic, but still really good and just a hair closer than the others on University is Cafe BonXai (get the coconut soup--it's fantastic), which, if you drive up Snelling and turn left on University, will be within a block. It also has a small parking lot.

                    Shish and Kybher Pass are both walkable from the Mac campus.

                    Another place that's easy to get to (you'll have to drive, though) from Mac is Everest on Grand (Nepalese). Fantastic veggie momos. You just zip East on Grand Avenue 8-10 blocks.

                    I'm afraid I don't know where Humboldt is, so I can't help you with restaurants near there.

                    Have a wonderful time. Please do report back on where you went and what you thought. And, good luck to your son--I'm sure he'll enjoy Macalester.


                    1. Oh, and another good place to sneak off to if you have time while at Mac is Izzy's ice cream. Zip up (North) on Snelling, turn left (West) onto Marshall.


                      4 Replies
                        1. re: St Paul Susie

                          Many thanks for all of the input! I'm nearly there.

                          Thursday evening remains as planned -- LaBelleVie.

                          Friday I'm ditching my boy and having a selfish, solitary lunch at Little Szechuan.
                          We'll hit Izzy's on the way back to the pad, then either Peninsula (I got Oseland's book as a present but haven't cooked from it) or Tom Rup Thai. Anyone feel strongly about either? Any must-haves?

                          Saturday, BOTH Mid Town Gl. Mkt. and JunBo -- we don't have to be at the airport until 6 or so, and we're always hungry.

                          Any other ideas, as always, much appreciated. What would I do without this board?

                          1. re: Spot

                            I'd go with Peninsula because it has a broader menu, but you can't go wrong either way.

                            On Saturday, if it's a nice day out, you could go to Minnehaha Falls, which is on the way. (It's also accessible from the airport by light rail if you wanted to return a car, get your bags checked in, etc.) There's plenty to look at and places to walk to. If you're still hungry after Midtown Global Market you could go to Sea Salt Eatery.

                            Sea Salt Eatery
                            4801 Minnehaha Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55417

                            1. re: Spot

                              Dan dan noodles are a must-have at Little Szechuan (and the rabbit big sister style is a must avoid).

                              L.S. has two menus--the one with all the photos is the "authentic" one. Here's a couple of threads on L.S. that might help you choose; there are plenty of favorites. Mine are the stir fried green beans, the fish fillet and tofu in spicy broth, one of the fried tofu with bell peppers dishes (can't remember the name...), the stir fried cucumber...


                              I love Midtown Global Market--the al pastor huaraches from Taqueria Los Ocampo; the veggie momos from Everest Cafe; just about anything from La Sirena Gorda; the sambusi from Starlight Cafe. Safari Cafe is good... If you haven't tried lefse before, you can try it at Cafe Finspang.

                              As far as Jun Bo, if one of the servers brings something out on a platter, hot from the kitchen, and offers it to you, it's usually worth trying.

                              Danny offers some of his tips on ordering for success at Jun Bo in this thread

                              Have fun! You have a lot of good places to try.


                              Little Szechuan - DUPLICATE
                              422 University Ave W, St Paul, MN 55103