University Avenue's best Asian restaurants

Categories: Top 5
University Ave map.jpg
Restaurants worth fighting LRT construction.
This week's Dish review dubbed On's Thai Kitchen on University at Snelling in St. Paul as a restaurant worth enduring the hassle of LRT construction (Work is now being done between Emerald and Hamline, with the 'dozers moving on to the rest of University through the summer.)

As businesses struggle with reduced traffic, here are five more favorite Asian restaurants worthy of your support.

5. Bangkok Thai (315 University Ave.)
One of the most authentic Thai spots in town, Bangkok offers true Thai eating, tucked into the back of a Asian grocery store. Just be forewarned: The curries pack some real fire!

4. Mai Village (394 University Ave.)
Mai Village takes its splendor seriously: Diners cross over a wooden bridge, past a waterfall, and over a koi pond to get to their tables. The space is luxurious in its hand-carving and silk embroidery and bamboo stalks. They have all the requisite spring rolls and such, plus a full liquor license, but to match the extravagance of the space, be sure to order Seven Courses of Beef.

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Grab a table at Little Szechuan.
3. Little Szechuan (422 University) Sure Szechuan's all the rage these days, but Little Szechuan was among the originals, proving why dan dan might just be the best way to eat noodles since flour met water. If you can handle the punch of chili and Szechuan peppercorns, try the painful-but-good kung-pau chicken or the ma po tofu.


2. Trung Nam (739 University Ave.)
Despite its former fast food digs and daunting chain link fence, this French/Vietnamese bakery is one of the strip's best day starters with its bargain-priced croissants and Vietnamese coffee. In the old days, Trung Nam used to close in the early afternoon, but the shop now serves pho in addition to its original banh mi, and stays open till midnight six days a week (closed Sundays).

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Ngon Bistro's pretty digs.
1. Ngon Bistro (799 University Ave.) Among the prettiest of all Frogtown's restaurants, airy, mod Ngon offers American bistro fare plus Vietnamese classics like pho and broken rice plates. Plus, there's a locavore happy hour to enjoy their regionally focused craft beer list. And we can hardly wait for the forthcoming Ngon VW bus food truck!

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11 comments
Clcarlson523
Clcarlson523

The people at Cheng Heng are wonderful! Everything I have eaten is wonderful and takeout is fast.

Chris
Chris

One of my favorites that doesn't seem to get much attention these days is Que Nha. It's friendly, clean, authentic and delicious.

Rgbaxter999
Rgbaxter999

way more than these few listed..plus mai village and ngon are really not up to the standard of the real vietnamese spots..those two are more for scared white people to try

Rob
Rob

One of the best spots on University Ave is Cheng Heng. Great family owned place with fresh, authentic food. The owners will also help you try dishes to suit your taste after you have been a few times and everything is excellent!

bri-bri
bri-bri

I want to marry the Homestyle Tofu at Little Szechuan.

Mike
Mike

Ngon? Really? That place is overpriced and not that authentic for Vietnamese food but it is clean and pretty. Agree with Rgbaxter...good spot for a white person to experience "ethnic" food.

Bangkok Thai is the real deal. Little Szechuan used to be pretty good, but the last few times I've been pretty disappointed. Trung Nam croissants can't be beat, the rest of their food is standard.

Saigon is another good one that could have replaced Ngon or Mai Village.

Pretty good list, just a little disappointed in the top spot...

Rachel Hutton
Rachel Hutton

That's another great suggestion, Rob--it's been far too long since I've visited Cheng Heng. The restaurant serves Cambodian/Thai food and is located at 448 University Ave., fairly close to downtown.

Rachel Hutton
Rachel Hutton

I'm curious, why, specifically, you would say Mai Village and Ngon are "not up to the standards" or "not that authentic"? Have you had the pho at either spot?

If a restaurateur like, say, Naviya LaBarge, wants to serve her Thai food in a more upscale environment, cook with naturally raised meats, take some creative liberties on culinary tradition, and charge a little more for the experience, I don't think that makes her any less "legitimate" than back when she hewed closer to preparations from her homeland and sold her food out of a no-frills suburban strip mall. They're just two different experiences.

On my own dime, I tend to prefer the latter experience--I'd go to Saigon more often if only it would stop closing-and-reopening-and-closing so many times--but not everyone wants to see a baby bottle in the cooler next to the tri color (as I once did at Bangkok Thai!), and some may want to pair a glass of wine with their banh mi and if they want to pay for the pleasure, I don't think you can fault them for that.

Randie
Randie

Mike, if you have not had the chance you should give On's a try...She used to cook at BTD until she left there late last spring, since we started going to On's we actually have not found a need to go back to BTD.

Kate
Kate

I agree with RJbaxter and Mike completely. Rachel, Ngon doesn't even offer bahn mi on their "Vietnamese" menu. Their pho is good and I think their choice in using local and sustainable food is highly commendable. They are doing a good job, kudos to Ngon. But c'mon, Rachel, seriously? Ngon as #1 Asian on University? Above Bangkok? A big part of the University Ave Asian food experience is the no frills atmosphere. I suggest you make your Top 5 lists a bit more specific, maybe "best asian" is too broad a category to group such different restaurants together.

Mensch Maschine
Mensch Maschine

I'm with Randie... On's Thai Kitchen is as good as University Ave gets for me...

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