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Dec 1, 2010 07:15 AM

Favorite Thai Restaurant

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.


                      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...



                        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!


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


                      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