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Mar 18, 2008 11:22 AM

MSP - Senor Wong's, Downtown St. Paul

I just had the opportunity to have lunch at Senor Wong's in downtown St. Paul, and thought I'd report. It's in the former Benjamin's space in the Kellogg Square Building on 4th Street between Minnesota and Robert, Quizno's is in the same building.

Tons of paint and some Chinese decor have made a tremendous difference, Senor Wong's has a kind of cool, chill-out kind of vibe, particularly on the bar side...which was quiet and dark during the lunch service. On the dining room side, it's a bit more difficult to get rid of the outlines of the diner that Benjamin's used to be, the booths and tables arrangements are, well, dineresque.

The food is essentially Vietnamese, with a couple of Mexican touches to justify the Senor part of the name. Yes, blink your eyes and gasp in amazement for a moment...there is a Vietnamese restaurant in downtown St. Paul. I had a decent, middle of the road Pho for lunch, and the guy I had lunch with had a good rice noodle salad with egg rolls. Both weren't the archetypes of the form, but they were good, even really good...and I took the skyway to get to them!

There were a couple of lunch specials, but overall everything was pretty cheap. My lunch was about $10.00 for a brimming bowl of Pho goodness. I may stop by for happy hour, as those specials look pretty good and include "Polynesian Drinks". Always looking for a decent Mai Tai.

They have a web site at


Senor Wong's
111 Kellog Blvd, St Paul, MN 55101

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  1. Fantastic--thank you for this report. I've been very curious about this place, but just haven't made it over there yet. I can't remember the exact relationship, but, if memory serves, the two guys who run it are brothers AND have another brother, who is the Ngon Bistro guy.

    Can you describe some of the "Mexican" touches? I just can't imagine how that works! But, am intrigued.


    2 Replies
    1. re: The Dairy Queen

      TDQ, I think the "Mexican touches" are limited to Mexican categories on the menu (I got my Pho in the SOPAS Y ENSALADAS section, which made me laugh), a couple of tacos and a chile releno. Otherwise, it's straight up Vietnamese...not even Chinese, which makes it even stranger. But whatever...usually these mash-up concepts are pretty short-lived and the menu settles down to focus on whatever they do best (see Chang O'Hara's and Chino Latino).

      1. re: Dragon

        Okay, that is funny--calling pho a sopa!

        That Benjamin's was a sad place--I'm glad something new has moved in!


    2. Thanks for the report. Pho in walking distance is always a good thing.
      Can't wait to hear about the drink specials.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Uisge

        i just checked their website, they have a late night "donkey show" happy hour 10-close mon-sat with nice app and drink specials. they are selling the newly legal absinthe.

        they apparently also feature "kung-fu funk tuesdays, 'where kung-fu movies meet funk' " $5 mai tais and red dragons, $3 asian beers. "movies and specials start at 10 and go until closing" i think. . . i think they're trying to make a place in st. paul, where people can hang out, and drink pink fruity drinks, and watch movies, all at the same time, besides bob's house! in st. paul!!! omg!

        i'm going btw, going soon. they had me at "kung fu funk." i admit it.

        1. re: soupkitten

          Must go and support... Seriously, I'm happy they are working at beefing up the nightlife.

      2. I have had 2 good experiences in a row there. Both dinners and i think i'm craving the jalapeno wontons again!!
        love the beer selections guys and the gals loved the vino~!@#$%&*()_+

        1. I joined some friends there once for drinks and appetizers to celebrate a birthday. Speciality drinks are a hoot, and well-made. Appetizers were all good: we had the jalepeno poppers, black bean croquettes (fabulous!), sweet potato fries, and some very delicious Korean short ribs served with kimchi.

          1. tried senor wong's twice in past months but did not post-- no fruity drinks, unfortunately we skipped those somehow! the kitchen does a lot to present beautiful plates, but both times we managed to order something that was solidly good, and something that was solidly average or completely tasteless. if i knew what to order, i'd like this place more. what are people's favorite dishes at this joint, for the next time the depot bar or the noose just won't do? (thanks for the specific apps that were good, Clepro)

            2 Replies
            1. re: soupkitten

              Four of us dined here Saturday evening, 21 Feb 09. It was uniformly very good: Firecracker shrimp, egg rolls with shrimp, and Vietnamese spring rolls for appetizers; a sea bass special - one piece prepared in an Asian manner and the other in a Mexican manner, chicken flautas, and negra Modelo pork accompanied by black bean croquettes. All were excellent, particularly the pork entree, the meat falling apart and nicely seasoned. There was also a Korean spicy salad which had a very nice non-Minnesota bite to it. The sambol-horseradish sauce with the firecracker shrimp made no concessions to tame palates, either. The chef gave us free desserts for reasons we couldn't determine but which we much appreciated. The service was very good, and the ambience was quite pleasant. Prices are reasonable. The restaurant is buried deep within the bowels of a large office/apartment building in downtown; I hope this doesn't prove to be a deterrent. Previous comments about the menu lacking enough Asian dishes may have been applicable in the past, but there is an abundance of Mexican-Southwestern items now. We all strongly recommend this place

              1. re: pollysigh

                I think this place is a hidden gem. I have been there for lunch and happy hour several times and have always been happy with the food and service I received. They have happy hour until 7 and happy hour all day on Wednesday. Unlike many websites, they list their happy hour food and drink deals. Unfortuately, the firecracker shrimp is not one of them and I prefer the tostadas to the tacos.