Pandemic Takeout 32: On’s Kitchen (St. Paul, MN)

It took us a while to get to On’s Kitchen on our pandemic takeout outings. We’ve got food from Bangkok Thai Deli and Thai Cafe since the lockdown eased in the early part of the summer but it took us another few months to go back to On’s. This is partly because we’ve been trying a number of restaurants we haven’t been to before or in many years (Vietnamese places like Pho Pasteur and iPho and also Indian places like Indian Masala and Godavari). But to be honest it’s also because we weren’t very enthused by our last pre-pandemic meal at On’s. That was in September of 2019 and after posting that review I learned that On had retired from the kitchen earlier that year—momentous news from the Twin Cities’ best Thai restaurant that you think would have been reported by all the professional critics but who am I kidding? Anyway, given that it had been our favourite Thai restaurant in Minnesota for many years, it didn’t seem right to stay away and so I drove up last Saturday to pick up a large order to eat on our deck with our usual crew. Despite the good weather, or rather because of it, we skipped going to a park for a walk—we figured there’d be larger crowds and so just did a long walk in our own neighbourhood. The walk was good but I’m happy to say the food was better.

First things first, On’s is open for in-person dining. You may not be able to tell this from driving by as their windows are all boarded up. As to whether this is a remnant from the unrest this summer or an anticipatory precaution re the elections, I don’t know. But they are open for their normal hours: 10 am to 8 pm, Tuesdays through Saturdays. I did note that the sign on the door said “Mask Recommended” and not “Mask Required” and this made me glad that I was double-masking it as I now am anytime I enter any space that has the potential of being crowded or having people in close quarters. There were a few people dining in when I got there just after 11.30 but it was far from full. With the boarded up windows, however, it felt a bit like being in an aquarium in there.

What did we get?

For the boys, their usual chicken satay and khao ka-mu (five-spice marinated shredded pork with greens and rice). Both were greatly enjoyed. The adults started with an order each of the sour pork sausages (very good) and the tod man (red curry fish cakes; also very good). From the Thai salad section we got the larb with beef (very good), the som tum/papaya salad, Thai style (excellent), the yum woon sen (glass noodles with a lime dressing with pork and shrimp; good), and the mango salad (decent). The soupy side of things was taken care of by an order of tom yum with shrimp (very good). With the opening salvo out of the way we moved on to heavier fare: pad prik moo grop (crispy-fried pork belly with Thai basil and chillies; excellent), green curry with pork (just okay), panang curry with beef (quite good) and pad eggplant (eggplant, pork and shrimp in a sour-salty-sweet sauce; excellent).

For a look at the restaurant and the food launch the slideshow below. Scroll down to see how much it all cost and what we made of it on the whole and in comparison to our late-2019 lunch.

Well, on the whole, despite being a takeout meal that traveled 50 minutes after pickup and was reheated before serving, this was a much better lunch than our previous. I wouldn’t say it was up there with the best of our meals in the heyday of the restaurant but it suggested that even without On’s presence the kitchen may have regained its footing somewhat. More research will be needed to confirm this one way or the other.

While ordering I’d asked that everything that should be hot be made Thai hot. I wouldn’t say that’s what we got—we’ve had far hotter meals there—but we got closer to that than we had in 2019. I’d also asked that the relevant saucy dishes be made thicker and less sweet. They followed this instruction for all but the green curry which was still as soupy and sweet as it had been on our last visit. Ah well, it may be that we need to stop ordering this here and get it from Krungthep Thai (which is where we had our last good one).

Price? With tip, about $25 total for the boys’ meal and about $25/head for the six adults eating. It must be said that with leftovers the adults’ part of the meal could have been eaten by eight people, which means the true per head cost was below $20. A good deal for good food. Also a very good deal: the election results. Some of our friends brought a nice bottle of bubbly to celebrate and it went very well with the food.

What’s next? This coming weekend is going to be quite a bit colder than the last but we’re hoping to gut it out for another deck meal. Probably another Indian meal if it happens, this time from a western suburb of the Cities.


2 thoughts on “Pandemic Takeout 32: On’s Kitchen (St. Paul, MN)

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