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University Ave. reminder

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The construction continues and the business still need our commitment to keep them open. Lets renew our pledge to eat on University whenever possible. Even Rick Nelson doesn't thimk it is that hard to get to them.

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  1. Great reminder. I wish he'd given the nearest cross-street for these places that you can get through on...

    http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/...

    ~TDQ

    1. Ditto that. I was there last night - compared to the University Ave construction of last summer, this one seems to be less of a hassle to get around. I stopped by for pho and then went to Sun Foods off University & Rice and had no issues. I was expecting the worst based on last summer and was pleasantly surprised.

      4 Replies
      1. re: spahkee

        Last Sunday afternoon I had probably the most memorable, life changing meal in my entire life. Bangkok Thai Deli will be my regular stop from now on. I had the whole fish which was deep fried Talapia with two sauces on the side. Some of the freshest and most tasty fish I have had. Also I tried a noodle soup which name escapes me but the broth was crimson as blood and as spicy as a dragon's tongue. It also had deep fried fish cakes and copious amounts of sliced pork. Also the stuffed chicken wings were to die for. This place is the real deal.

        1. re: Fudist

          Might have been Boat Soup, which has blood in it.

          1. re: semanticantics

            It was actually the Dudee Noodle Soup. I went again today and got the Pork Boat Soup which I actually even enjoyed more. I brought my cousin along who loves Saigon and Trieu Chau and he agreed BTD blows them away. Anthony Bourdain would be in heaven here.

            1. re: Fudist

              Actually just got home from there. Today's dish seemed a bit oilier than usual, but still awful tasty.

      2. Tried to eat at Ngon last night. Either R.N.'s article, this post, or some kind of father's day blitz had the place hopping. At least 20 seats open, the bar fully seated, and a 30 minute wait (insert sad emoticon here). After the transiting an alley way, and making a couple of questionable driving maneuvers to get there, I felt a mix of feelings. I've never had a reservation there before in my many visits. We'll be back again, but you might want to call ahead. I don't think Caribe was having this problem.

        1 Reply
        1. re: keg

          Since Caribe is now closed (at least their web site says so), I don't think they were having that problem either.

        2. My father and I went down to Regions to see a relative and we decided to take a drive down University to see the destruction. Wow, I don't think things are going to improve all that much even after the construction is completed. Where are people going to park?

          One of the recent casualties is JJ's Chicken & Fish. I had not eaten there in a long time but thought they were still open just a few weeks ago. If these businesses do not have a parking lot, are near a parking lot, have rear parking, or some other parking solution, things will remain tough for them.

          14 Replies
          1. re: John E.

            I have not run into an issue finding parking within a block / block and a half on a side street. Uni is slow and all kinds of broken up, parking isn't the issue, it's construction traffic. But if you know where you are going and use a different major street, like Marshall to navigate the east / west part of your trip, getting over to Uni isn't that bad.

            1. re: semanticantics

              semantic, I agree. Use side streets and walk a block. It's not rocket science.

              1. re: MSPD

                I do sort of get it that St. Paul is a strange and foreign land for many in the metro, and construction is a turn off obviously, but if you're from the general area and have two feet, it's not horrible. The fish place that went under wasn't lighting the world on fire to begin with. Ngon reportedly is still doing pretty well. Bangkok Thai hasn't seemed affected on my three recent trips.

              2. re: semanticantics

                Side streets? Do you really think that is enough parking for all of the businesses on University Avenue? When I was writing about parking, I'm not referring to now while it's under construction. I'm referring to AFTER the train is running.

                1. re: John E.

                  JJ's was a converted fast-food restaurant. Parking was not one of their problems. And, in truth, parking isn't going to be any worse once the trains are running than it is now. Nothing wrong with walking a block or two.

                  Construction traffic at rush hour IS bad, but I've been to University Avenue businesses a few times a month since construction started and travel really isn't prohibitive at non-rush hours -- even if you have to circle the block after missing the little sign indicating parking for wherever you're going.

                  Personally, I think JJ's had some other issues.

                  1. re: steve_in_stpaul

                    JJ's has been really bad for at least a year now in terms of food but yeah stay away from Uni during rush hour if possible because it is bloody murder. Use 94 and get off on the Capital exit if going to BTD and if you must park in the now vacated Burger King parking lot across the street. Last 3 times I went on a Monday evening, Sunday morning and Friday night they were packed. I would avoid that place this week however because it will be ridiculously hot in there what with the no air conditioning and never mind the fish funk.

                    1. re: steve_in_stpaul

                      I'm sure JJ's had issues. I never actually ate at that one but did eat at the one on White Bear Avenue a few years ago before it closed. My original point was about what the construction is doing to businesses on University Avenue. I mentioned JJ's only because it did recently close.

                      1. re: John E.

                        Not intending to be argumentative here, as I know the construction certainly has an impact on businesses on Uni, but so far people have only cited ones that were already on the brink for what appears to be other reasons (e.g., bad location - Caribe, bad product - JJ's).

                        The rail should be completely laid by the end of this year with things easing up from a construction and traffic standpoint next year - it should at worst have a small positive impact on local business, hopefully a fairly substantial positive impact when the project is complete. It just seems as if it is commonly accepted truth that construction is shuttering businesses left and right - those that I have been frequenting seem to be weathering the storm pretty well.

                        1. re: mull0263

                          What have you seen, other than their doors still being open, that gives you the idea that University Avenue businesses are "...weathering the storm pretty well."? I would guess that may be true with some of them, but probably a tiny percentage of them are doing it 'very well'. If a restaurant has to go from 65 employees to 11, is that doing it pretty well?

                          1. re: John E.

                            Which restaurant went from 65 to 11 employees?

                            1. re: mull0263

                              I remembered wrong, it went from 48 employees to 11.

                              http://www.twincities.com/stpaul/ci_2...

                              1. re: John E.

                                I'm not going to argue one way or the other about whether or not businesses are weathering the storm or not, it's pretty clear that Mai Village's problems began long before the LRT construction began. See http://www.tcdailyplanet.net/column/l...

                                1. re: John E.

                                  There is general agreement here and in other threads regarding our need to support good restaurants, particularly when construction is making it hard to reach them on a whim.

                                  Let's acknowledge that restaurants that make poor food and/or poor business decisions will have a tougher time when other stuff is going on. That is just more evident when people can't reach them on a whim.

                                  JJ's? Caribe? Mai Village? We're 0 for 3 in naming a business whose problems are limited to light rail. Not all restaurants need to be saved, at least not with my wallet. Mai Village has been discussed extensively already in this very context, particularly here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/840255

                                  The original disagreement with John E.'s post was whether the parking on University is going to be a problem post-construction. Having witnessed the same disruption for a longer period along Lake Street, I'll be curious to hear of a spot that can pin all its failures on the light rail project.

                                  1. re: KTFoley

                                    Here's my list of University Ave. Restaurants I'd be sorry to see go:

                                    1. Little Szechuan - so much better than Tea House.
                                    2. iPho by Saigon - bahn mi baby.
                                    3. Pho Cadao - best Pho in town.
                                    4. On's Thai
                                    5. Fasika (spelling?)
                                    6. Big Daddy's BBQ (best we've got in Twin Cities, AFAIK).

                2. Walsh Construction should be embarrassed by this.

                  http://www.twincities.com/stpaul/ci_2...

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: ChillyDog

                    Couple notes: Yeah, this is pretty lame of the construction crew. It might have been an easier fix for Hai if he threw together some cold drinks and some appetizers to augment the lunch pails with a "hey...keep up the great work and I'd appreciate it if you looked out for my customer parking and access (wink, wink)".

                    Separately, I drove University from the U of M to Homi last night. For fun, I timed it. 6:39 at the University, in my seat at Homi a couple minutes after 7:00. Really no different from before -- the stoplights caused all of the delays. Parked right in back. The worst part was that Homi doesn't have air conditioning....holy hot. I've never been so relieved to go OUTSIDE INTO 85+ degrees. But....steady business the whole time, including takeout. Pretty good to see on a Monday evening.

                    Great mole by the way.

                    1. re: MSPD

                      Thank you for reporting back on how you got to Homi and where you parked. Right now, during construction, that information is exceedingly helpful. Sorry to hear about the no air-con. Yikes!

                      And, yeah, I wish Hai had thought to be a little bit more cunning in dealing with the construction folk. He shouldn't really have to, of course, but that's how these things sometimes go. I'll bet a little iced tea could go a long way right now!

                      ~TDQ

                      1. re: MSPD

                        Talking to the owners of business on University the crews never come in for lunch and don't give a damn about access...

                    2. A new contender for best Thai in the Twin Cities? Thai Cafe, 371 University, is an unprepossessing little storefront bistro, but the food is first class. The chef was professionally trained in Thailand and it shows in the beautiful presentation and high quality ingredients of the food. We had a whole fish with a lovely laab sauce chock full of fresh mint and delicate slivers of purple shallots, Sour Pork Rib - bite size riblets marinated for hours in a complex marinade and served with deep fried kaffir lime leaves, a perfectly balanced papaya salad and several other dishes. The service, by the chef's young daughter, was friendly, helpful, and non-obtrusive yet attentive. I can't recommend this place highly enough and fear for its ability to survive the construction maelstrom outside its door.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: lizpeck

                        We visited there ... oh, probably last year since LRT construction was nowhere near that end of University. As you said, very unassuming -- but quite good. I wanted to try it again before we sang the praises here; just never got around to it. Last few times I've been in On's, the place was decently full. Maybe it's time to visit Thai Cafe a few times until construction abates.

                        1. re: steve_in_stpaul

                          And a 50/50 for our first-ever visit to Que Nha. Mrs. Sisp loved her Hot & Spicy Chicken with Vegetables; it *was* pretty tasty. I had their Rare Steak & Tripe Pho. Meh. Skimpy on the beef and tripe, no basil as a side for the pho, and nowhere near the broth flavor of the pho at iSaigon or some of the other Vietnamese restaurants on the Avenue. I'd go back, but I'll go elsewhere for my soup pho-rays.

                          1. re: steve_in_stpaul

                            The wife and I stopped by Que Nha Friday night after seeing the recommendation by Andrew Zimmern in the December Mpls St Paul magazine. In general, I'm highly skeptical of these lists, but his recommendations agreed complete with mine for the restaurants I know.

                            Best Pizza: Punch
                            Best Pho: Pho 79
                            Best Sushi: Fuji Ya
                            Best Pastry: Salty Tart

                            and he nominated Que Nha as the best Vietnamese. So off we go to the land of Light Rail construction on a cold November evening.

                            To make a long story short, I'd agree that this was the best Vietnamese I've had in a long time. I'm a long time habitue of Eat Street, but the cooking here was significantly better.

                            We had an absolutely excellent papaya salad. To be honest, I've never had papaya salad before - but this was absolutely scrumptious. We also had their steam rice pot with seafood, bamboo and Chinese sausage - essentially a clay pot meal. Also absolutely delicious. The pho, with abalone and sea cucumber, was okay - not spectacular (as AZ indicated in his recommendation), but how often do you eat abalone and sea cucumber? Yes, of course it's canned.

                            I'd definitely go again and try out their other dishes. Only two issues: they should turn up the heat and use less MSG. But definitely would go again.

                            1. re: discus

                              Pho 79 is good, but Pho Cadao is better.
                              Fuji Ya? Really? Compared to?
                              Salty Tart is good, but Patisserie 46 or Rustica are as good.

                      2. I stopped in at Trung Nam yesterday. Bon mi and almond croissant (the only kind they had left). Absolutely the best imo. I saw what seems to be a food truck in the parking lot. If you're going to a place on the north side of University, I recommend taking Thomas or Charles to the cross street you're looking for. Many businesses have signs to help guide. I'm not sure the best way to navigate the south side.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Haricotsv2

                          Was Trinh the food truck? I know they use Trung Nam's bread for the banh mi's they're slinging in the downtowns. Not sure if it's the same ownership or not though.

                        2. Oops! Bahn mi. Can't even blame my I-phone!

                          1. The East end is now almost impossible to drive on(worst than last summer ever was). Was at Ngon last night and it was mostly empty. Brave the elements, nonexistent crossings and be adventitious. Support these Restaurants or they will be memory's.

                            1. Went to Homi on Saturday night. The fresh Guacamole with chips and Salsa was a great way to start. Also had a nice bowl of Caldo De Camaron. At least 8 large head on shrimps that were bursting with fresh flavor. The broth was a bit spicy, briny and tasted of the sea (not at all fishy). The owners were warm and inviting. Only one other couple and a take out on a Saturday night however is sad. This place is a gem and will now be my go to for Mexican.

                              1. Wasn't sure if I should start a new thread on this, but I was at Bangkok Thai Deli this afternoon and found the grocery part of it pretty much packed up. Big sign inside announces that BTD will close on October 31st and move to 333 University Avenue, which is just west of their current location (the closed Burger King). A sign on the BK says "Coming Soon/Bangkok Thai Deli". Neither sign announces a date for reopening and I didn't get a chance to ask anyone at BTD.

                                Just a heads up if you're going there anytime after Wednesday.....

                                1. Here's a nice piece from the Pioneer Press on many of our University Ave favorites: http://www.twincities.com/localnews/c...

                                  ~TDQ

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                    I noticed that at least a couple of the places on University, east of Dale, appear to be upping their game with major remodels. I gotta get to some of these places.