On’s Kitchen III (St. Paul)


After an iffy report from Minneapolis (of dinner at Kado no Mise), I have a very positive report from St. Paul: of lunch at one of the most reliable restaurants in the Twin Cities, On’s Kitchen. This is my third review of the Twin Cities’s best Thai restaurant. We’ve eaten there several times since my previous review and somehow it’s been 2.5 years since I’ve got to writing them up again. We were there for lunch last weekend with a small subset of our usual dining out crew and we ordered a number of old favourite dishes plus some we haven’t eaten so often. It was all very good. 

It was a bloody cold day last Saturday and because the city of St. Paul doesn’t plow its alleys, the little parking area behind On’s and the neighbouring businesses was squeezed tighter than usual and it was really difficult to get in and out. This ends the negative portion of the review.

In the “old favourites” section of our order were the mango salad, the crispy shrimp, the pad sathor and the whole steamed tilapia with lime and chillies—the latter three are from the On’s Specials section of the menu. The two things we got that we hadn’t tried there before were the clams with basil (also in the On’s Specials section) and the yum khana gaeow with shrimp (from the salads section). Both were very good but we particularly liked the latter which features sliced gailan (Chinese broccoli) stems in a savoury red curry sauce (not identical in flavour to their other red curry dishes). The one less than entirely positive note was struck by the massaman curry which we got with beef. The curry was very good but the thinly sliced beef was rather overcooked. Should have got it with chicken.

For pictures of the restaurant and the food, please launch the slideshow below. For price, service, value etc. scroll down.

Oh yes, we asked for everything that was meant to be hot to be “Thai hot” and it all came out well above the normal Minnesota spicy level: the mango salad, in particular, had a big kick, and the pad sathor was no slouch in that department either.

All of this came to about $165 with tax and tip. This might seem like a lot for four adults and two small kids but we over-ate and took a lot of leftovers home. Really eight adults could have eaten all this food and been stuffed. So really it was about $20/head. The food was, as I said, very good. And perhaps because they weren’t as full as they usually are at Saturday lunch—due to the cold, doubtless—service was also more efficient than usual. Speaking of which, I didn’t see most of the familiar front of house staff—I wonder if there’s been some turnover or if this was a one-off.

Anyway, not a whole lot that’s new in this report but it’s good to be able to confirm that On’s Kitchen is as good as it ever was. And as much as we liked our meals at Thai Garden, and especially Thai Cafe, they can’t quite compare. Hmmm maybe it’s time to go back to Bangkok Thai Deli again as well. If there are other Thai places in St. Paul you’d recommend, please write in below. I’m particularly curious about Ruam Mit Thai near the Children’s Museum. The Yelp reviews don’t seem promising (despite four stars) but Yelp is Yelp.

Up next on the food front: the last of my restaurant reports from Los Angeles in December and another University Ave. report.

4 thoughts on “On’s Kitchen III (St. Paul)

  1. We moved from areas with incredible Thai restaurants (LA/SF/DC) and all three of us (2 adults and our teenager) believe On’s is the best Thai restaurant we have eaten at. Consistency, flavor, best-in-class versions of many favorites. We have a few dishes here and there we’d say we prefer, but on balance, On’s is nearly impossible to beat.

    We have been going at least every other week for a while now. I think we haven’t calibrated on spice yet. We all like heat, but aren’t usually up for Thai hot. The first two times we ordered medium, it was blistering. We almost always order medium or hot in cities we lived in before and often eat Thai, Indian, Mexican, etc. But literally every person we have spoken to has not had this same experience at On’s.

    For now, we stick with mild and doctor it ourselves with the spices/sauces on the table.

    All that said, folks are really missing out if they aren’t eating here and man are they spoiled if they go most other places.

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  2. I don’t know about San Francisco or DC’s Thai scenes but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that On’s is better than anything in L.A. Better than most cookie cutter places on the Westside, certainly, but in Hollywood/Thai Town they’d be in the second tier at best, more likely third tier. Still, far, far better than you might expect to find here.

    We have had a few not-so-great meals there in the past—always turned out to be the case that On wasn’t in the kitchen.

    Have you tried Bangkok Thai Deli or Thai Cafe yet?

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  3. On’s is so good. Took a flier on 95 – Spicy Cat Fish Stir Fried, which is actually deep fried catfish steaks covered in an intense, herbal, curry sauce (looks like it’s probably pad ped pla dook in Thai). The sauce is amazing. Fish was good too, but you have to put up with lots of bones. Maybe the same as 90 – Pad La Prik but with a different fish?

    I think the only thing I’ve been underwhelmed by was the sausages. They were still good, but not as sour, funky, and herbal as I’ve had elsewhere.

    Tried Bangkok Thai Deli too. It was good, but clearly not on the same level as On’s.

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