Pandemic Takeout 19: Thai Cafe (St. Paul)


We are big fans of Thai Cafe, which was recently named the Twin Cities’ “Best Thai Restaurant” by City Pages. These awards, like all such in the genre, should not be taken too seriously—they name Magic Noodle the “Best Restaurant in St. Paul”, for example—but Thai Cafe is indeed a deserving contender: we’ve consistently ranked them third behind Bangkok Thai Deli and On’s Kitchen, and with On’s retirement they may have moved up a spot (though Krungthep Thai, Bangkok Thai Deli’s satellite location is also a contender). They’ve been closed for most of the pandemic and have not reopened now either for in-person dining. The restaurant is just too small for social distancing. As of a week ago, Monday, however, they are open for curbside/parking lot takeout. We’ve been missing their sour pork rib a lot and so Saturday found us in their parking lot waiting for our order.

They have a menu on a little table by their rear entrance (keep in mind that you cannot go in) but the thing to do is to call your order ahead of time. If you do so you can either pay over the phone (as we did) or pay at pickup. We called right before the 11 am opening on Saturday and it took about 40 minutes for our food to be ready (it was a large’ish order). Keep in mind that this is their first time doing an all-takeout model and be patient.

Depending on how far you’re going with your order you may want to optimize it for travel. We’d spent the morning walking on a trail by the Mississippi and were taking the food on a hour’s drive back to our town, to the deck of some friends for a socially-distanced meal. And so not all of our choices survived the trip as well as they would have a much shorter trip from the kitchen to our table. In this category fell the pad kee mao and, alas, the sour pork rib. Both tasted very good but the textures were off: the noodles in the pad kee mao had predictably gummed up a bit and the pork rib had hardened. This will not be an issue if you are going 20 minutes or less. Everything else we got survived the trip well and we had a very tasty lunch.

To see what else we ordered, launch the slideshow below. To see which things we liked the best and how much it all cost, scroll down.

The fish cakes were a big hit and we really liked the Thai-style papaya salad (pretty hot at the highest setting) and the tom kha soup with chicken as well. The boys haven’t cared greatly for their chicken satay in the past and were not excited about them this time either, but they really liked the roast duck over rice. The red curry with pork was also quite good; the Thai Cafe fried rice was fine but nothing very special. All of this came to $120 with a 20% tip. Four adults and two children ate very well and there was a decent amount of food left over. I’d call that a good deal.

I think the next time we do a pickup from them we’ll either take it to the backyard of friends in St. Paul or to the nearest picnic-appropriate park. Or maybe next time we’ll just eat the sour pork rib in the parking lot itself.

Okay, a recipe on Thursday; probably the last India trip report on Sunday. I’m not sure yet where next week’s pandemic takeout report will be from.

4 thoughts on “Pandemic Takeout 19: Thai Cafe (St. Paul)

  1. MAO, I’ve heard bbq style ribs re-heat well in a low-temp oven. Could that work for these or do you think they’d become too dry? (Despite living close to Thai Cafe, we often can’t eat dinner until 9 or 10. I try to keep takeout warm or gently re-heat a bit).

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