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Feb 19, 2011 11:11 AM

Fun, cheap birthday dinner

We're looking for a fun place to go with about 10 people for a birthday dinner on Saturday night. Preferably cheap (<15 each) with plenty of veggie options. Saint Paul area is better, but we'd be up for uptown or anywhere else we can get to by transit!

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  1. See if you can reserve the big table at Tanpopo. Happy Birthday!


    4 Replies
    1. re: The Dairy Queen

      I love Tanpopo, but if your idea of "fun" is noise and crowds, Tanpopo is not the place for you. It is serene and quiet, with wonderful, inexpensive food - especially if you don't order any alcohol (good sake is expensive).

      For a noisier place in downtown St. Paul, maybe try Senor Wong's or Barrio.

      Senor Wong
      111 East Kellogg Blvd., Saint Paul, MN 55101

      1. re: AnneInMpls

        It's a 20th birthday. They can't drink. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7661...
        Anne's right though, it's not a rowdy spot where people are doing shots and eating sushi off of naked bodies or something, so it absolutely depends on your idea of fun. In this case, you'd get your own table, sort of off to the side and you'd be able to converse with your friends. They are very accommodating to groups. Sadly they took their menu offline, which makes it harder to compare prices and to see what options are available for vegetarians unfortunately, but a hearty bowl of noodles will run you $10 or less.

        I agree with Senor Wong's as rec for "fun" (and you can get either Mexican or Asian food there), but only if your emphasis is on fun and not the food and you don't mind loud. Food is only okay, disappointingly so.http://www.senorwong.com/menu/menu_di... The concept is fun, though, and there are definitely some vegetarian (even vegan) friendly options available.

        I don't think of Barrio as especially cheap: two small plates puts you at $15 and even that is barely a meal. No cheap vegetarian options other than the small plates, alas. http://www.barriotequila.com/BarrioST...

        Burger Moe's is pretty affordable and lively, and you could definitely take the bus without a lot of walking. They do have a veggie burger http://www.burgermoes.com/images/main... and some salads and stuff. Menu's not as adventurous as Senor Wong's, but it's probably slightly better, for what it is.


        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          Not being able to drink is a huge plus in terms of keeping costs down.I miss those days. :-)

          Re Senor Wongs: I've been pleased with the quality of food for my two (2) lunches there (noodle salad and a very non-vegetarian but delicious banh mi). But I haven't had any of the apps.

          Re Barrio: Now I remember why I don't go very often - it's expensive, especially for the amount of food in a serving. The quality is high, but you're right - the cost puts it out of consideration for the OP.

          If it were *my* 20th birthday party, I'd probably go somewhere like Ngon (ordering carefully - no apps - would keep the meal under $15), Obento-Ya, or Punch. Note that all these places are quiet - I've always liked quiet fun, even when I was 20.

          Senor Wong
          111 East Kellogg Blvd., Saint Paul, MN 55101

          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            I'd describe the food I've had at Senor Wong's (dinner only, for me, and I've tried appetizers, entrees, and desserts) as well-intentioned, but clunky. Furthermore, I've decided that Mexican-esque and Asian-esque dishes don't go together in a single meal, which forces you to one side of the menu or the other. Might as well just go to one of the ten-trillion places that focuses exclusively on Asian or Mexican.

            The only way I'd see going back for dinner is if I were dining with someone(s) who wanted Mexican when I wanted Asian, or vice versa, or I wanted chi chi mixed drinks with my Mexican or Asian, OR I might go back for their happy hour, which looks really fun and like it might be a good value (but probably not helpful to the OP), but otherwise, meh.

            Finally, the dining room seems to cramped to me for a big group, but maybe they could push the tables together or maybe for a group they could set you up in the bar area. They will certainly be able to tell you over the phone, though, whether they can accommodate your group, so no point in speculating on that.

            For some reason, I mistakenly thought the OP was specifically requesting downtown, but now I see that isn't the case at all, just some place they can access by public transit. Given that downtown St. Paul isn't a requirement, I'd scratch my Burger Moe's rec, unless you really just want burgers. It's a great option for downtown St. Paul and meeting the OPs requirements for cheap, fun, group-friendly, public transit friendly, with veg options, but I think you could be more adventurous about food if you're not limited to downtown St. Paul. I still think Tanpopo is a solid rec (especially now that we've established that "quiet" can be fun after all), though you should check to see how far a walk it is from where your bus would drop you off. In my mind, it's several blocks, but still walkable.

            I'm not sure how comfortable I'd feel taking public transit down University Ave in St. Paul is on a Saturday night (I've never tried it), so I'm just going to avoid recommending anything along University Ave in St. Paul (though there are plenty of great restaurants along that stretch).

            Would Dinkytown or Stadium Village work for your group, public-transit wise?

            How about Pagoda in Dinkytown? Huge variety on the menu, including vegetarian options. Many options in the $10-$11 range. http://www.pagodadinkytown.com/ Lively atmosphere. Depending on how big the group is, you might even be able to reserve one of their little private rooms off to the side.

            Or, Tea House on University Ave in Minneapolis http://ourteahouse.com/Default.aspx I've not been to the Minneapolis location yet, but I've been to others, and reports back on the University Ave location have been good.


      2. It's not St. Paul, but Pancho Villa is a fun place for birthdays--if you bring 6 people, I think the birthday person drinks free. The food is, in my opinion, pretty good. Atmosphere is definitely not fancy. I think it's still 2-for-1 drinks all the time if you ask your server, and they do make a good margarita. I think their carnitas are really tasty, but I haven't done a lot of branching out into their specialties, which I have heard are well done.

        Pancho Villa Restaurant
        2539 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55404

        1. I should have mentioned -- none of us can drink (20th Birthday), so food is more of a priority over drinks.

            1. What about Cheeky Monkey. Fun sandwiches, good options for all and some fun non drinking choices for beverages

              1 Reply
              1. re: liney714

                Cheeky Monkey's got a couple of nice vegetarian sandwich options and is definitely easy on the budget. http://www.cheekymonkeydeli.com/menu Such a cute place and so cozy with that fireplace this time of year. I've never gone with a group, though. Can you get a group in there on a Saturday night?