Pandemic Takeout 64: Karen Thai (St. Paul)


It had been more than two months since our last Thai meal (at Basil Cafe on—where else?—University Ave. in St. Paul) and that seemed like a dangerous situation to be in. Accordingly, on Saturday I drove up to Exit 110A on Highway 35E to Karen Thai in St. Paul for our latest pandemic takeout meal, bringing food back to eat on our deck with friends just as we had been doing last summer. The restaurant has been open for three or four years and I first heard about them about two years ago. I’m not sure why it took us so long to get there but multiple nudges from people online finally saw us fixing that oversight. Here is how it went. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 55: Basil Cafe (St. Paul, MN)


In my recent review of takeout from On’s Kitchen I noted that we would not go three months between Thai meals again and as it happens we didn’t even go three weeks. This past weekend we went back to University Ave. in St. Paul (the Twin Cities’ true Eat Street) to pick up another round of Thai takeout. Not to On’s again and not to Bangkok Thai Deli or even Thai Cafe either. In fact, we went to a place we’d never been before and which I’d not even really registered the existence of till someone recommended it to me in a discussion on the excellent East Metro Foodies Facebook page: Basil Cafe. Recommendations from strangers for Asian restaurants of any kind in the Twin Cities can be hit or miss—usually more miss than hit—and this is particularly true of Thai food, the preferences for which in the area seem to run towards the sweet and standard. And so I won’t deny that I was a bit skeptical going in. I am, however, very happy to say that we did in fact enjoy the food a lot. Here are the details. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 53: Back to On’s Kitchen (St. Paul, MN)


Back in the winter we went 3 months between Thai meals, going after a very good lunch from On’s Kitchen in November on a long, unplanned and unfortunate fast that we only broke with takeout from Bangkok Thai Deli in February. We haven’t made a mistake like that since, having been back a month later in March to Thai Cafe. And, less than a month past that meal, we went back this past weekend to On’s Kitchen to pick up another large order to eat on our deck with friends. The weather this weekend was nowhere as warm as on the previous but as long as it isn’t snowy or icy or raining we’re eating outside with vaccinated and cautious friends every chance we get. This too was a good meal, if falling a bit short, on the whole, of November’s. Herewith the details. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 49: Back to Thai Cafe (St. Paul, MN)


After Mediterranean, Indian and Mexican meals in the past three weeks (at Gyros Grill, Godavari and El Triunfo) we were jonesing for something Southeast Asian and Thai in particular. Having eaten takeout from Bangkok Thai Deli relatively recently we were looking to go somewhere else. On’s Kitchen was the natural second choice but it turned out they were closed for one of their regular breaks (till today, I think). Then I thought that we might give Ruam Mit Thai another go—we weren’t overly impressed when we ate there a couple of times a few years ago but I recently received reports of improvement there under new ownership. I called and it turned out they too were closed on Saturday for maintenance. Then I though I would give Phi Chay, the successor to Supatra Thai (another place we didn’t think too highly off when we ate there some years ago), a go. But it turns out they’re only open on weekends. I thought about Thai Garden and Krungthep Thai but then decided to just go back to another tried and true place: Thai Cafe. And a good decision it was too as the meal turned out to be rather good indeed. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 45: Bangkok Thai Deli (St. Paul, MN)


It has somehow been three whole months since our last Thai meal. That was from On’s Kitchen on University Ave. in St. Paul (the Twin Cities’ true Eat Street, as I never get tired of repeating) and was a very good meal. Here now is a report on a large meal brought home from their peers, Bangkok Thai Deli, a little further up (or down, depending on your perspective) University Ave: Bangkok Thai Deli. We’ve got food from them earlier in the pandemic as well—back in the summer when it was possible to eat outside with friends. Now it’s best not to be outside in Minnesota. The last week and a half has been unfeasibly cold (the minimum today/Sunday is forecast for -24f and the maximum only at -7f). Thankfully, at a maximum of around 0f things weren’t quite that bad on Saturday when I drove up to pick up this meal. Here are the details. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 13: Bangkok Thai Deli (St. Paul, MN)


We began the pandemic getting takeout food only from places in our town or within a 20 minute or so drive. We then expanded our range to Bloomington and then to South Minneapolis. Now, more than three months in, we’ve finally made it up to St. Paul; and—with apologies to Joy’s Thai of Lakeville—we’ve finally eaten really good Thai food for the first time since this madness began. Yes, I drove up to University Avenue and picked up a box full of food for another socially distanced lunch on a deck with friends. A 50 minute drive to get there only to turn around and drive another 50 minutes back: but it was worth it. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 04: Joy’s Thai (Lakeville, MN)


An unexpected aspect of the pandemic is that it has led me to realize that I miss some flavours so much that I am willing to eat replacement-level food in order to be able to taste them. The flavours of Thai food are the major ones in this category. We’re covered at home for most Indian and Korean food; Grand Szechuan and El Triunfo scratch our Sichuan and Mexican itches very satisfactorily. However, there is no Thai food in our town, we don’t have a pantry or fridge stocked with Thai ingredients, and our favourite Thai restaurants in St. Paul are a two-hour roundtrip, which—at least for now—seems like a bit much for takeout (check in with me again after a few more weeks of isolation though). As a result, I went to Lakeville last weekend to pick up a large order from Joy’s Thai. We’ve eaten in there before and it’s not normally a place that we’d choose over a longer drive to the University Ave. stalwarts. But these are not normal times and any acceptable Thai food is more than acceptable. Continue reading

Bangkok Thai Deli V (St. Paul, MN)


In January I posted a review of lunch at Krungthep Thai in St. Paul, the second incarnation of the Bangkok Thai Deli spin-off. I noted in that review that I thought that meal compared well with those we’d eaten at the mothership. In saying so I realized that we had somehow not been to Bangkok Thai Deli in almost two years. That error needed to be righted and this past weekend we got around to doing so. We descended on them on Saturday with a few friends we eat out with often. I can report that we had a very good meal. I can also confirm my impression that Krungthep Thai is on par with the original. Herewith the details. Continue reading

Thai Street Market (St. Paul, MN)


Thai Street Market, which opened a couple of years ago is located in the northeast quadrant of St. Paul, just short of the northwestern snout of Maplewood (a very oddly shaped city; I cannot be the first to think that the top bit looks like the outline of a drawing of a dog’s head). I’ve been seeing very positive notices of it online for a while now but it’s been hard for us to go past the University Ave. stalwarts while on the hunt for Thai food. After a very satisfying exploration late last year of Krungthep Thai‘s menu, however, we were finally motivated to give Thai Street Market a go. In fact, it is also located on Rice St., just about a mile north of Krungthep Thai. We descended on them this weekend with four of our regular eating out crew. Here is what we found. Continue reading

Krungthep Thai (St. Paul, MN)


I have reviewed a Twin Cities restaurant named Krungthep Thai before. This both isn’t and is that restaurant. Confusing, I know. That Krungthep Thai was located on Nicollet Ave. in Minneapolis—the so-called “Eat Street”; the real Eat Street, of course, is University Ave. in St. Paul. It closed some years ago and Khun Nai Thai (which I have also reviewed) opened in its space. This Krung Thep Thai then popped up on Rice Street. in St. Paul a couple of years later. Both were/are satellite locations of Bangkok Thai Deli, which sits, along with On’s Kitchen, atop the Twin Cities Thai food scene. Now, while we liked our meal at Krungthep Thai mostly fine, we found it to be an inferior facsimile of Bangkok Thai Deli. For this reason, I was reluctant to go try this new incarnation. But curiosity and greed finally overcame my hesitation. Accordingly we descended on them last month with friends we eat out with often. Here is what we found. Continue reading

On’s Kitchen IV (St. Paul, MN)


When people ask for recommendations for the best Thai food in the Twin Cities I usually mention Bangkok Thai Deli, and lately Thai Cafe, and then say, but really, On’s Kitchen is the best. It recently occurred to me though that somehow we have not eaten at On’s since my last review and that was in early 2018. Science demanded that we go back soon to check if that recommendation can continue to be issued with such conviction. And so it came to pass that we descended on On’s Kitchen with a few friends last Saturday and ordered and ate an ungodly amount of food. What was our verdict on its current merits? Read on. Continue reading

Ruen Pair (Los Angeles, January 2019)


It remains a truth universally acknowledged that Los Angeles has the best Thai food in North America. Well, I’m sure there are people in Portland and New York who would like to disagree but why bother with folly? On longer visits we eat out in Thai Town a fair bit. On this trip, however, I was only going to be there a week (the family had already been there another week before I got there from Delhi—aren’t our travel details fascinating?) and so we’d planned on just one Thai meal and Night + Market Sahm was going to be it. But after the disappointment of that dinner—which we’d been looking forward to, we had to eat a better Thai meal before leaving L.A. The thing to do was to go back to a Thai Town classic. But which one? We considered returns to Pailin or Jitlada but in the end decided to go back to a Thai Town institution that we hadn’t been to in a decade and a half: Ruen Pair. And it was a very good idea. Continue reading

Night+Market Sahm (Los Angeles, December 2018)


The original Night + Market opened in West Hollywood in 2010 (I think). I think it first flashed on our consciousness a few years later. We’d been planning on eating there ever since but somehow never got around to it—don’t feel too bad for us: we were mostly feeding our Thai food desires at Jitlada at the time. Somewhere in there they opened a second location in Silverlake (NIght + Market Song) but between menus that did not seem particularly kid-friendly and a no-reservations policy at Song, we never got around to it—it didn’t help that Luv2Eat opened in that period. Last year they opened their third location, Sahm, in Venice, and despite the fact that it’s the furthest of their outposts from our usual base of operations in Koreatown, that ended up being our first-ever Night+Market meal. We ate it as our last meal of 2018, in the early evening after a day spent with the kids on the beach and at the Santa Monica pier. I would love to say that our first Night+Market experience and our last meal of 2018 was great but, alas, it was not. That is not to say that it was bad; it was not bad, but it was, in our opinion, far from the quality of the best in Thai Town. Continue reading

Chilli Club (Hong Kong, December 2018)


Back to Hong Kong but not to Cantonese food. After four Cantonese meals in a row after arrival, I had Thai food for dinner on my second day. Lunch had been a dim sum blowout at Maxim’s Palace and my friend wanted to take me to one of her favourite Thai places for dinner. Though I put up knee-jerk resistance (“I want to eat Cantonese”, I whined), I was secretly curious to see what Thai food in Hong Kong would be like. On our previous trip we’d eaten at a well-regarded Sichuan restaurant and had not been terribly impressed. Would Hong Kong do better by a non-Chinese cuisine renowned for its heat? Read on. Continue reading

Joy’s Thai (Lakeville, MN)


We ate at Joy’s Pattaya Thai in Richfield last year and thought the meal was decent enough. However, it is still far enough away from us that it never quite made sense to go there over our favourites on University Avenue in St. Paul (shout out once again to the Twin Cities’ true Eat Street). Imagine our surprise then to discover that a second location of Joy’s has been open for almost three years, just off Cedar Avenue in Lakeville, and just about 15-20 minutes from us. This is yet more evidence that you should not look to me as someone who is very up on Twin Cities restaurant openings and so forth (as with whisky, I have lots of opinions but very little information). But while may be slow to learn about restaurants, once we do we are quicker to go out and check them out. Accordingly, a couple of weeks ago we descended on Joy’s Thai with a number of the friends who’ve joined us on our University Avenue outings. Herewith, an account of our meal.  Continue reading

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.  Continue reading