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Dec 25, 2007 03:12 AM

MSP - Best Bahn Mi, Frozen custard

I am revisiting the lovely if icy-cold Twin Cities in mid January and want to get suggestions on the best bahn mi places. Last time I was here, I ate lots of Cambodian, Hmong, and Laotian food to my heart's delight and wanted to get my fill of bahn mi. (Sadly, all these types of food are under or completely not represented in NYC where I currently live.) I could go on and on about how much cheaper and better the Vietnamese food in MSP is, but most New Yorkers think that they have the best of EVERY kind of food under the sun.

So I am definitely getting my heaven chicken wing fix at Lao Thai, but where else should I go? Been to Cafe Latte - was good but not earth-shattering. I remember a pretty fantastic Cambodian place, but not the name of it, sadly - the owners are actually Cambodian-Chinese. Plus I definitely want to eat lots of bahn mi. And I'd love to make the trip a doubly good one by eating some frozen custard/ice cream in wintertime. I'm staying near the City Center Shopping Center so I'd love a good recommendation near there too.

I have a few short days - please help me make my journey a delicious one!

PS - If anyone can help me remember what jazz club/restaurant has a really good if pricey ice wine, I will be very grateful.

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  1. The best bahn mi is at The Saigon, on University Avenue in St. Paul. Sadly, it may be closed by then. You might try the Jasmine Deli, on 26th and Nicollett, not too far from where you are staying. Not made to order, but still good. Quang, also on Nicollett, is many people's favorite Vietnamese restaurant. They rave about the sea bass soup, available only on weekends. Your jazz/wine list place must be the Dakota, also on Nicollett and very close to your hotel. Frozen custard? Isn't that a Wisconsin thing? Some people swear by Liberty Frozen Custard, also on Nicollett at 54th (we do have more than one street here.) Never been there myself.

    5 Replies
    1. re: dlgoldie

      Dakota would have been my guess, too, for the jazz club with the ice wine. Here's a link to the wine menu on their website.


      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        Wow - the Dakota's dessert wine list looks great! The prices are surprisingly low. The sweet wines seem to be about 2x retail. (Their dry wines seem to be running at about 3x, which is still not as high as some places - 4x is distressingly common elsewhere.)

        I know whereof I speak, as I've been buying a LOT of dessert wine lately - a few presents, but mostly for myself. (I've been very good this year, so I deserve a treat.)

        I highly recommend the Adelsheim De Glace. It's pink and delicious. Or, heck, go for the Canadian Ice Wine! I love the Inniskillin (of course). I think I saw it at Surdyk's for $80, last time I checked. At the Dakota's price of $99 for a half bottle, it's still cheaper than a trip to Ontario. :-)

        Happy New Year,

        Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant
        1010 Nicollet, Minneapolis, MN 55403

        1. re: tart1

          They're moving, but they don't know yet where their new location is. As of right now, they think they'll be moving in the next couple of months.


        2. re: dlgoldie

          Yep, Saigon is the best. Well actually, I have this fantasy about a sandwich composed of Saigon fixin's with Trung Nam bread, but the real world compels me to choose one place or the other. So yes, try for Saigon, and if it's closed for the moment, jump a block west down University and do Trung Nam instead. Also be forewarned that Saigon is closed on Mondays.

          The Cambodian place you asked about is probably Cheng Heng. Love it. Enjoy your visit!

        3. Get a Bahn Mi at
          Trung Nam French Bakery
          739 University Avenue W.
          St. Paul

          It's not near your hotel but at least it's not on Nicollet.

          2 Replies
          1. re: mnitchals

            If you're going to get a bahn mi at Trung Nam, get there before noon, even by 11am, if you can. They make them in the morning--not to order--they just whip up a batch of whatever their sandwich of the day is-- and sell out very quickly. Closed on Sundays.

            Re: Cambodian, see ibew's reply in the other thread.


            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              Jasmine Deli has a great banh mi, as does Quang. They both have the standard pork pate sausage on them. I have recently taken to the grilled chicken banh mi @ Quang, and it's absolutely delicious. So much better than the sum of its parts.

              There's really not much good in terms of ethnic Asian cuisine downtown or in the skyways...if anything, I would recommend Tea House in the skyway level of the Towle Building for some pretty fantastic Sichuan lunch.

              There are only 2 jazz clubs, Dakota & Rossi's, and I would never recommend Rossi' Dakota it is.

          2. I won't add much new.. but I do want to know where Lao Thai is.

            Banh mi - have tried so many. I don't like Jasmine Deli's at all. Quang's standard one sitting on the counter is solid - won't be disappointed. Saigon is fun because they serve it up like subway - you pick your toppings and watch them apply ;)

            For frozen custard.. I would go w.Liberty's, but want to warn you they are not open again until something like Jan 12th (taking vacation w.the school holiday, too). Call first -

            If you're here when they're closed, you won't be disappointed by "settling" with local ice cream at Sonny's, Izzy's, Pumphouse Creamery, or even Sebastian Joe's. Blue Sky Creamery has liquid nitrogen Ice cream.. and used to be a 1-of, but now there's a couple locales (uptown & rosedale mall) & you can get their products in local groceries. It's really smooth like custard, though.

            2 Replies
            1. re: reannd

              I tried Blue Sky once. I had a coupon. I ordered the vanilla scoop in a cup because that's my test case for all ice creams. If a place can get vanilla even close to what I like (real vanilla and not too sweet) then I am a devoted customer from then on. It was closer to custard in texture, which I don't really like. It was also wayyyy too sweet.

              Again, since I'm not a custard fan I can't recommend any. For ice cream though, I agree with all your recommendations except Blue Sky.

              I only know of one vegetarian bánh mì, and it's found at Jasmine Deli. Mock duck and crunchy vegetables. I think I know where I'm going for lunch tomorrow,

              Jasmine Deli
              2532 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55404

              Pumphouse Creamery
              4754 Chicago Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55407

              1. re: reannd

                If it's still open, it should be here according to a quick Google search:

                Lao-Thai Family Restaurant
                501 University Ave W
                St Paul

                So delicious and so cheap!

              2. Saigon has a Minneapolis outlet around the corner from Jasmine Deli. Saigon Deli Express is in the parking lot area behind Tacos Morales and Azia. They have around ten different fillings, including a grilled meatball and tomato sauced meatball that are wonderful. Make sure to get some of the little meat-loaf things they have wrapped in plastic on the counter. They have a slice of garlic and thai chili on top. They rock.