Thai Cafe, Again (St. Paul, MN)


We ate at Thai Cafe for the first time late in 2017, really liked the meal despite a major misstep (a number of dishes came out sans heat), and vowed to come back again soon. Predictably, it took us almost another year to make it back, but make it back we did. With us were most of the people who had joined us on the first occasion. We were a large group—eight adults and our two brats—and we got a large number of dishes that we hadn’t tried on that first visit (please read that review if you have not already done so). I am pleased to report that the second meal was not a letdown—in fact, it was better than the first. 

In case you haven’t been, or haven’t read any reports of Thai Cafe, it is located on University Ave. on St. Paul (the food street of the Twin Cities as far as I am concerned). It’s a few blocks away from Bangkok Thai Deli and is the only Thai restaurant in the area whose best dishes approach the best of that restaurant and On’s Kitchen. It’s a small restaurant but a friendly place and on this visit, a couple of weekends ago, despite unusually cold weather, they filled up shortly after we got there.

As noted above, we got a fair amount of food. That was true of our first visit as well. On this occasion, however, we did two things differently. We ordered in waves rather than all at once—this prevented dishes from piling up on the table and we also avoided the issue we had last time of the big entrees coming out before the more appetizery things. And we also made sure to ask for everything to be at the high heat level we wanted when we ordered each wave—one thing did still come out completely mild for some reason, but that was the one exception.

So, what did we get?

  • Fish cake: We got a couple orders of these lovely spiced fish cakes. Excellent just as they are and they would make an excellent snack with beer.
  • Fried beef meatballs: Looked uninteresting but were also very tasty.
  • Sour pork ribs: I did not really need to be told but I was informed anyway by those who’d been at the previous meal as well that we had to get these again. Just wonderful and easily one of the best dishes in the Twin Cities.
  • Thai-style papaya salad: This was the other repeat dish and was very good again.
  • Beef larb: We unaccountably did not get larb on our previous visit. That was a big error as this was very good indeed.
  • Tom yum seafood: Lots of shrimp and mussels in there and a good sour and hot kick.
  • Khao moo grob: As the boys had not enjoyed either their chicken satays or the barbecue pork over rice at the previous meal, we got them this dish of deep-fried pork over rice instead. It usually comes with a red sauce over the top but they gave it to us on the side. The boys ignored the sauce and scarfed down the pork and rice.
  • Spicy pad ka pao: This dish of stir-fried minced pork and basil, served with a fried egg on top, was one of our favourite dishes at the meal. Quite lethal too with lots of minced hot peppers hiding behind the pork.
  • Pad kee mao: This was the one dish that came out unaccountably mild. We added heat with crushed red pepper from the table.
  • Fried glass noodles: Also quite good and also quite lethal at the highest heat setting.
  • Green curry: Another repeat dish. On the first occasion it had come out mild but was tasty anyway. On this occasion we asked for it to be very hot and while it came out hot and was tasty, the heat had rather obviously been added via ground red chillies thrown over the top. Not as good as On’s.
  • Curry fried fish: Another repeat dish, this crispy fried tilapia with red curry poured over was again very good.

Launch the slideshow for pictures of the food and the restaurant. Scroll down for price and thoughts on value and service and to see what’s coming next.

All of the above (remember we had two orders of the fish cake), a couple of Thai coffees and a few soft drinks came to $162 with tax. With a big tip and counting just the adults we were at $25/head. Given how much we ate and how tasty the meal was on the whole, I’d say it was very good value. I think our next visit will be in a lot less than 10 months. Oh yes, service was friendly and very attentive. And given the general lack of melanin in our group, we may have done a little bit to convince them that Caucasian customers might actually be able to handle high heat. We got everything that should have been hot at the highest heat setting and left nothing behind.

Despite the cold weather we got Thai rolled ice cream after at Sota Hot & Cold. The kids enjoyed it as much as they had on the first occasion. I was taken most by the fact that the adjoining Tapestry was completely deserted at just about 1.30 on a Saturday. Does anybody eat at this place?

Coming next from the Twin Cities food scene: dinner at Martina in Minneapolis. And I’ll soon also have my first food report from June’s Scotland trip: a look at two very different Indian restaurants in Edinburgh. And, of course, whisky reviews in between. I’ll also soon have the next installment of my series of reviews of South Asian food writing in the US

3 thoughts on “Thai Cafe, Again (St. Paul, MN)

  1. I made sure to call ahead and make a reservation! We took up one whole side of the restaurant.

    Apparently, the restaurant has been under new ownership for about 10 months or so. We were first there in December 2017 and this visit was in late September this year. So it’s possible we ate under the same ownership on both occasions. At any rate, we didn’t notice any change in quality—most importantly, the pork ribs were made the exact same way!

    Like

  2. Interesting. I was there about two years ago, and it wasn’t real impressive. The new ownership is much for the better it seems, I will have to try it again.

    Like

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