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Favorite Thai Restaurant

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I adore Thai food. My favorite Thai dish is a super spicy chicken (or shrimp) pad Thai. I lived in Omaha, Nebraska, for a few years out of college and found an authentic little Thai restaurant that was AMAZING. I have not been able to find anything to come close in the Twin Cities, strangely. Sawatdee is the closest I have found.

Any recommendations?

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  1. Bangkok Thai Deli is likely the most authentic Thai place in town, and my favorite...however it is not the Americanized version of Thai you'd find at places like Sawatdee, King & I or True Thai. Chai's is good. Sen Yai Sen Lek is my favorite in our neighborhood, though it can be hit or miss.

    To be fair: I've never had pad thai here or in Thailand, so I can't say how authentic that dish is anywhere.

    -----
    Chai's Thai Restaurant
    414 1/2 Cedar Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55454

    Bangkok Thai Deli & Supermarket
    315 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55103

    Sen Yai Sen Lek
    2422 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55418

    25 Replies
    1. re: Foureyes137

      I like Bangkok Thai Deli just fine, but it would've been better had the pineapple in my dish been fresh and not from a can. I also wasn't overwhelmed with vegetarian options, which is a bit surprising for a generally veg-friendly cuisine. I tried asking about some dishes, but there was a large communication gap with the server, which is fine, but not worth risking for me.

      There are only two places I can think of off hand that I've sworn never to return to, True Thai (was never seated after an hour after others came and went) and Taste of Thailand on Selby (twice tried to sneak me chicken in my vegetarian order). Thai is my favorite cuisine, but the local Thai places seem set against me patronizing them.

      -----
      True Thai Restaurant
      2627 E Franklin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55406

      1. re: semanticantics

        I'm, admittedly, not all that versed in traditional Thai, but are you not counting fish sauce, oyster extractive and shrimp paste when you say it's typically vegetarian friendly? We (try to) make a good deal of Thai dishes at home, and I can't think of many that don't call for one of these. We'd actually stopped going to Thai restaurants with vegetarian friends because those flavors are so integral to the dishes and frequently not too perceptible other than the umami elements they lend (and you can't pick-out fish sauce and fish stock). I suppose if I were vegetarian...I'd choose to be blissfully unaware ;)

        Are there places in town that specialize in vegetarian Thai? It would certainly be nice to be able to eat Thai with our veggie friends again.

        1. re: Foureyes137

          My favorite is massaman curry, which to my knowledge, doesn't require those things. At Bangkok, however, it sounded like the massaman was pre-made, and only in chicken? Again, language barrier.

          I do accept than when I dine out, something might come across my path that might have a non-veg element, but if I were the kind to flip out over that, I wouldn't eat out.

          1. re: semanticantics

            Massaman makes since since Muslims have a far more vested in not eating the wrong things than, say, our primarily non-Muslim friends. ;) All I can say is thank goodness coconuts grow on trees!

      2. re: Foureyes137

        I have to say, I went to college in Boston where there were three or four awesome Thai restaurants within a few blocks of me, and I have yet to find many thai places that are that good. Instead, I've found a lot of thai restaurants in St. P/Mpls where I refuse to return. I will never go back to Sawatdee, King and I, True Thai (yuck), Taste of Thailand (which burned my rice noodles, leaving the non burnt stuff mushy), and couldn't be paid a million dollars to step foot into Mango Thai again.

        With that being said, I've been to Bangkok Thai Deli many times and have NEVER been disappointed. I simply LOVE their pad thai and think it is one of the best I've ever had. I've talked with the owner a few times, who grew up in Thailand. All of the recipes, she says, are her own or her grandmother and mother's. She says they make all of the soups and sauces from scratch, there is no "adding powder to oil or water in my kitchen." I think this is the reason that 1. The food is not the typical American-Thai fare, and 2. There are not many vegetarian options. I also really like their Pho here. The other nice thing is that most dishes are less than or around $10.

        -----
        True Thai Restaurant
        2627 E Franklin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55406

        Mango Thai Restaurant
        610 Selby Ave, St Paul, MN

        1. re: linfr21

          Boston is a big place for sure but after eating at 4 different Thai restaurants during a trip there in March of 2009 I decided I'd much rather eat at any number of the Americanized Thai restaurants in MSP.

          1. re: Bill Roehl

            Oh dear! Which ones did you go to?

            To be honest, the ones that I speak of were in the 'Burbs, not really in Boston proper.

        2. re: Foureyes137

          I've been to Bangkok thai a few times. Once, I was with a gluten free friend and when we inquired about what was in their pad thai the server said "ketchup" and in addition also said no tamarind and no fish sauce. How authentic is that?? With that said, I highly recommend Supatra's thai on 7th street in Saint Paul. It's the best across the board so far of all the thai places I've been to here.

          1. re: cramcrkr

            Wow, really? I tried Supatra's when it opened and I thought it was pretty horrid. But it's right in my hood, and it's been a long time now, so I'd be willing to give it another go. . .

            What did you like at Supatra?

            1. re: diesel

              I've had many things that I liked... curries, spring rolls, papaya salad, any of their noodle dishes, a lemongrass chicken dish....

              Other people enjoy it too based on the overwhelmingly positive reviews

              1. re: cramcrkr

                what overwhelmingly positive reviews? it's gloppy dreck, or at least was when it was in the current heartland space, the service sucked on top of everything (not that i would mind, if the food was decent) and the bartenders needed to be walked thru basic 2 ingredient cocktail recipes.

                1. re: soupkitten

                  I haven't been to Supatra's, so I can't comment on their food. But I *think* that the place in "the current heartland space" was the original Sawatdee. I went there once or twice, and mostly remember freezing in the cavernous and poorly heated space in the winter. Oh, and the 7-part appetizer with lettuce and crispy rice noodles and (yes) very gloppy sweet sauce. But I also remember liking it much better than I like the Minneapolis Sawatdee now...

                  1. re: AnneInMpls

                    sawatdee may have been there quite a while ago, but supatra's was *definitely* there briefly 3-4 years ago, when i lived a block away. i gave it a few chances, but why eat crap like that when you can walk across the farmer's mkt and get excellent food at tanpopo? they never seemed busy and closed quickly after maybe a year. i was shocked to learn they were opening space on w 7th, i'd assumed their business had completely failed when they closed.

                    1. re: soupkitten

                      Aha! I completely missed the Supatra era - my memories of Sawatdee in that space are from DECADES ago. The place has definitely taken a huge step up now that Heartland is there. I haven't dined in yet, but I love the deli/market. (A completely off-topic comment.)

                      But back to Thai food: I like Bangkok Thai the best. I've loved everything I've had there - even the reputedly made-with-ketchup pad thai. But my top choice is the seafood custard in banana-leaf cups.

                      Anne

                      1. re: AnneInMpls

                        agreed on bankok thai-- haven't tried that seafood custard yet, sounds awesome!

                        1. re: soupkitten

                          soupkitten, you will want to order 'Hor Mok", that is the fish custard that Anne was referring to. It is absolutely fantastic, but the taste is something not many western folks are used to.

                          1. re: soupkitten

                            If you can, get the white hor mok. We tried to get more to take home, but they didn't have any. She said they don't make it as often or something like that.

                          2. re: AnneInMpls

                            We ate at Bangkok Thai Deli a few weeks ago-the sight of my 7 year old scarfing down his pad thai seemed to delight the staff there-our server, the owner, & the busboy all commented on it, & one of them earnestly recited the recipe to our son (repeat-he's 7). The pad thai does contain ketchup.

                            1. re: Josie

                              I cooked in a restaurant on Koh Pengan for a season in 1988. Ketchup was the base of their Pad Thai sauce. It's nothing to be afraid of...tomato, sugar, vinegar. This restaurant had no electricity, served locals, and turned out totally authentic Thai cuisine.

                      2. re: soupkitten

                        ::::sigh:::: The last time I was so forthright about Supatra's the mods deleted my post. So, thanks SK for the candor and saying what I am thinking. My tongue is presently minced meat, but my face is smiling nonetheless.

                        And by the way, the fine folks at BTD have added Kao Soi to their menu and it's to die for. SO MUCH BETTER than that offered at Sen Yai Sen Lek it's not even funny.

                        And for the ketchup haters... my Thai mother-in-law makes her pad thai with ketchup (and she still lives in Bangkok). She puts it on pizza and fried chicken too. A pretty decent Thai cookbook by Victor Sodsook, called True Thai, also calls for ketchup in his Pad Thai recipe. Yep, it's true, Thai people discovered ketchup and there is no looking back...

                        cheers,

                        Huagung

                        -----
                        Sen Yai Sen Lek
                        2422 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55418

                        1. re: HuaGung

                          good cookbook, that one! i don't think it's still in print, but i see it sometimes at the used book store. i've gotta get myself another copy, i gave my old one to my kid brother (who loves it and won't give it back)!

                          i have never fallen in love with sen yai sen lek the way others have, i think my first horrible experience there really turned me off. i did have a much more positive second experience, but still, meh. looks like i really need to get back over to bankok thai deli one of these days to get the good stuff!

                          1. re: HuaGung

                            Let's face it, white people assume that chefs at ethnic restaurants discern their recipes by consulting their long-dead ancestors. That's how we got Sri Racha, right?

                            BTD's Pad Thai does not taste like ketchup. If it did, nobody would eat it. I'd hazard to guess ketchup makes its way into some top Vietnamese joints as well.

                            BTD also executes far more intriguing, and controversial, dishes. By my lights, we should be talking about their take on beef salad, or their pork dishes. Those recipes are challenging convention, for better or worse.

                            Don't get me wrong. If a Thai restaurant can't put out some tasty pad thai, you have to wonder if they can rock more complicated dishes, and also why they are serving mediocre food to at least half of their patronage. But if someone tells me that Lemongrass or BTD aren't good Thai restaurants because of a ketchup-related technicality, I'm not buying.

                            You can cheat with fish sauce just as easily as ketchup, yah?

                            1. re: kevin47

                              This is perhaps uber technical, but ketchup did originate in the 1600s and was ORIGINALLY a sauce made with pickled fish and other nummy spices. I doubt it but maybe, just maaaybe, the ketchup they use is this original, and not the Americanized tomato based ketchup of the recent centuries? If not, the history of ketchup is enticing, and I thought I'd share in case it was not known!

                              Wishful thinking, perhaps, but I'll still eat BTD without shame :)

                              1. re: linfr21

                                interesting historic point linfr21, bet it didn't have the sugar overload (or should I say corn syrup these days) that US ketchup has, and which is messing up my pad thai..

                    2. re: cramcrkr

                      Oh dear...I have to agree with diesel. I've been to Supatras several times, and I find the portions to be small and the noodles either dry or burnt.

                  2. What luck! Heavy Table published an article today on Uptown Pad Thai!

                    http://heavytable.com/uptown-pad-thai...

                    1. Wow, fabulous info! Thank you, all of you! And what a very timely article.

                      Thanks!!

                      1. Another big thumbs up for Bangkok Thai Deli...

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Josie

                          I have high hopes for Naviya's Thai which is in the stages of getting ready to open, will be next to the Dunn Bros. on 43d and Upton. Naviya is allergic to msg and doesn't use it, her food at previous places has gotten a lot of raves. Both of these facts are a plus for me, I know Bangkok Thai does use it. Also, I kind of question the term 'Americanized' used in a blanket statement for restaurants, by someone who has never even had the dish in question.

                          1. re: faith

                            I've eaten Thai food in Thailand, I've just not eaten pad thai there or in the US as it doesn't appeal to me (think you and food with salt in it). I'm no expert, but I know food with incongruous ingredients, subdued spice and atypical omissions when I eat it.

                        2. Try the Asian Deli's Pad Thai (on Western in St. Paul between Uni and 94). It's a new place people have been talking about here, and I think it's great. I can't speak to its authenticity, but I'm in love.

                          -----
                          Asian Deli
                          388 Western Ave N, St Paul, MN 55103

                          1. No mention of Lemongrass? I have an ideological dispute regarding their Lao-style papaya salad, but other than that, it's just great food.

                            If pad Thai is your thing, try Sen Yai Sen Lek. They arm you with the most tools to manipulate the flavor. By and large, pad Thai is a preference thing. Frying noodles isn't rocket science.

                            -----
                            Sen Yai Sen Lek
                            2422 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55418

                            1. For 100% authentic Thai food I would suggest trying out On's Thai Kitchen in St.Paul, 1613 University Ave West. Inside the same building where Cafe Bonxai was. True authentic Thai food, great prices. Owner is one of the best Thai cooks I have met, and the food speaks for itself. You won't be disappointed.

                              10 Replies
                              1. re: CDN_in_MN

                                I had no idea that Bonxai had closed. That's too bad.

                                CDN, since you know the chef, what does he or she recommend?

                                1. re: kevin47

                                  Tom Yum Goong, Pad Thai, Panang, Laab, stuffed chicken wings.
                                  I really like the Pad Ga Pow beef. They are slow right now in the evening, so it makes for a nice quiet night out with friends.

                                  1. re: CDN_in_MN

                                    Beer and wine?

                                    1. re: kevin47

                                      I know they have beer, but not sure about wine.

                                      1. re: CDN_in_MN

                                        I am eating my favorite food, Massaman Curry, takeout, from On's, right this minute!

                                        1. re: semanticantics

                                          My takeout order took about 6 minutes to prepare. I got Massaman Curry with Mock Duck and an extra side of white rice. When I got it home, the curry was kind of separated with red oil on top, which had me thinking it was going to be quite hot like the "Thai" hot I used to get from Taste of Thailand. The container was chock full of mock duck, probably the most I've ever seen in a dish. It was actually so full of mock duck, I only found two segments of potato, which was kind of a let down. The pineapple was also rings from a can, although a lot closer to ripe than the pineapple I had in a dish at Bangkok Thai Deli.

                                          I made my plate, and my flavors were there. There wasn't any real spice, which may be because I didn't ask for it, and they erred on the side of caution for a non-Thai person. It wasn't the best I've ever had, but "pretty good" massaman for me is a lot better than most "very good" other dishes I can think of. At $8.99, the portion was huge and will be dinner for me twice.

                                          I'll definitely go back, I'll probably try the Pad Thai next time.

                                          The Bonxai signage is still up and the interior (and phone number) are the same.

                                2. re: CDN_in_MN

                                  Dang! I also was unaware that Cafe Bonxai closed. I feel like it's all my fault - I used to go there every week for that amazing coconut soup, but my routine changed and I haven't been able to get there for a year or more.

                                  But I'm glad to hear that there's another great place in that spot. Thanks for letting us know!

                                  Anne

                                  1. re: CDN_in_MN

                                    Thanks for the heads up. I'll give it a shot sometime next week.

                                    IMO, Mango Thai is to Thai food what Ngon is to Vietnamese. For what it is, it's not bad. But if I want to go out for Thai food, it's not what I'm after. I prefer Bangkok Thai or Sen Yai Sen Lek.

                                    For convenience we'll hit Pad Thai on Grand, reasonably well executed Minnesota-style Thai standards, but nothing is particularly outstanding.

                                    -----
                                    Mango Thai Restaurant
                                    610 Selby Ave, St Paul, MN

                                    Sen Yai Sen Lek
                                    2422 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55418

                                    1. re: JimGrinsfelder

                                      I think the question of what is authentic Thai food is a good one, and just like everything else lately, things are changing rapidly in many countries due to Western processed foods spreading everywhere (thanks Coke and Pepsi). So, sugar, msg and ketchup do get used a lot now in Thailand. Were they used 100 years ago? I doubt it. I care about authenticity but I also care about my health and try to find food that is authentic but tastes good and is relatively good for me. I liked one person's comment that a lot of this discussion comes down to personal taste. I like King and I's pad thai because it doesn''t seem super sugary, therefore I doubt if they are using ketchup. Does this make me have less cred, hope not.

                                      1. re: faith

                                        I have to agree with you, of the places I've had pad thai I like King and I's the most.

                                  2. I love Thai food cos i'm Thai. :)

                                    I've been to Omaha a couple of times and have tried Thai food at a couple of Thai restaurants .. if I remember correctly .. that places that I tried was Thai Spice and Thai Kitchen? .. Im not really sure, but Im so sure that the food at both places tasted strange and not authentic. The curry tasted like they were from the can curry paste, and not how the curry taste when you make the curry paste yourself. I know this for a fact because my mom was there with me and she never buys curry paste. She only makes her own curry paste.

                                    So I'm sad to inform you that probably you did not try the real authentic Thai food at Omaha, and that is why you consider Sawatdee as the closet thing to Omaha. Sawatdee might be the original Thai (chain) restaurant in town, but the food there is no where near authentic. The cooks there are not even Thai.

                                    You can simply skip all the Thai places in up town if you are looking for something authentic. For Thai students and Thai people in town, we dont really go eat at any Thai establishments up town .. whether it be Amazing Thailand, Chiang Mai Thai, Tum Rup Thai, or Roat Osha unless it's REALLY necessary. Not only the food is no where near authentic, the knowledge of pretentious non-Thai servers on Thai food are questionable. It's merely unacceptable when your servers who probably have never even set foot in Thailand pretend to know so much about Thai food but they actually know nothing at all.

                                    Chai's on Cedar used to be the good place to go for Thai food until the owner opened up Mango in St Paul and left the Mexican cooks handle the kitchen. We all skip that place long ago, and now Mango is just way over-priced Thai restaurant.

                                    True Thai used to be good ages ago, but now with the Myanmar lady as a head cook, Im sorry that I have to say 'YUCK' to this Thai place.

                                    Sen Yai Sen Lek is always bad in my experience. Ive tried the food there 3-4 times and never had good dishes, and with the service that bad .. there's no returning.

                                    Right now, we only go to 3 Thai places in the cities .. Bangkok Thai Deli, Pupraya, and Nong's Thai Cuisine.

                                    Sadly, Bangkok Thai Deli is not as good as it used to be, because the other head cook has split up and I think she has opened her own place. Anyway, they still offer more unique Thai dishes than other places, so we still go there if we crave Thai food.

                                    Pupraya is a Hmong owned restaurant with Thai cooks. Some dishes that we have tried and we think are really good are fried calamari, papaya salad, roast duck curry, stir-fried crab in yellow curry sauce, and stir-fried Chinese broccoli with crispy pork belly.

                                    Nong's Thai Cuisine in Golden Valley is a nice Thai place. From what I know, the head cook there used to be the head cook at True Thai during its peak. I like their curry puff, papaya salad, pineapple curry, sukiyaki, and tamarind fried rice.

                                    Oh .. I dont eat Pad Thai in the Midwest cos I find this dish overly sweet, so I cant really recommend any dish from any Thai restaurants in the TC area.

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: moomon

                                      moomon, thanks for the detailed rundown from an actual Thai person! I like hearing that you too (and me) don't care for sweet pad thai. I really like the pad thai at King and I because it is totally not sweet, yet good, but it is ridiculously expensive as has been pointed out on this board. The serving is huge though so it could serve 2-3 people! I have only had the tofu version though, don't eat meat now. I'd be curious to know what you think of the King&I version, and don't everyone chime in about how unauthentic it is!

                                      1. re: moomon

                                        I noticed you mentioned Chai's on Cedar used to be good until the owner opened Mango Thai in St Paul and you don't eat there because it's too expensive. If the food was not over-priced would you eat at Mango? I've been there a couple times and thought the food was good (although I've never been to Thailand and wouldn't know authentic Thai if it bit me in the nose).

                                        Seems Mango Thai is not well liked on this board.

                                        -----
                                        Mango Thai Restaurant
                                        610 Selby Ave, St Paul, MN

                                        1. re: moomon

                                          I would be interested to know what you think of Lemongrass. It remains my favorite of the Thai restaurants in this area, though I am intrigued to try a On's.

                                          1. re: moomon

                                            The chef you speak of at Bangkok Thai did leave and recently opened up On's Kitchen located at the same location where Cafe Bonxai was.

                                            1. re: moomon

                                              Try the Pad Thai at Than Truc in Woodbury. While the restaurant is Vietnamese, the owner begged the family recipe off a Thai friend. Not the tomato-ie stuff most restaurants in the area make; truly good.

                                              -----
                                              Woodbury Cafe
                                              803 Bielenberg Dr, Saint Paul, MN 55125

                                              1. re: vls

                                                Another vote for Asian Deli. As mentioned, it is not the "best" but it is very very good at what it does. It is also, very accessible, easy to park, quick, cheap and the servings are huge. That said, I find it the most attractive alternative for your daily fix...As far as Pad Thai, it is as good if not much better than many.

                                                -----
                                                Asian Deli
                                                388 Western Ave N, St Paul, MN 55103

                                                1. re: shanemio

                                                  Supatra Thai Cuisine since relocating to Randolph and West Seventh has improved immensely. The Pad Thai is tremendous and second to only BTD imo.

                                            2. King and I

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: danionavenue

                                                BTW, had a simply blah pad thai on On's recently. Really sweet...none of my three eaters went for it. A testament to it's lack of appeal. On was not cooking that evening...may be the reason. Whatever, it was pricey and bad.

                                                1. re: shanemio

                                                  Sorry to hear that. I've had two really good meals there within the last month. I didn't have pad thai though.

                                                  1. re: shanemio

                                                    I don't like On's pad thai, it is too sweet, kind of ketchupy. Everything else is really good though.

                                                2. City Pages is naming Krungthep Thai (2523 Nicollet) as it's choice for best Thai. Spin off from Bangkok Thai deli. Haven't been there yet but it's on the list.