This article is sponsored by Green Line District Marketing.
St. Paul’s newest dining district, Little Mekong, has restaurant roots that extend back several decades in the capital city.
Little Mekong is a five-block stretch of University Avenue, between Mackubin and Galtier streets, that was once home to such St. Paul dining favorites as Lang’s Sweet Shop and the Suzie Q Cafe. Today, Little Mekong boasts more than a dozen popular and highly rated Asian restaurants, representing a variety of cultures from Cambodia, China, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Little Mekong is easily accessible from Interstate 94 in St. Paul via the Dale Street or Marion Street exits. While many of the restaurants in the district feature on-site parking, there is also ample on-street parking available.
The district’s name derives from the Mekong River, which flows from China through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Some 40,000 residents of St. Paul trace their origins to one of these nations, many who were displaced to America. Today, they enrich the entire Twin Cities community with a rich variety of cultures, tastes, and traditions. Little Mekong restaurants have proven exceedingly popular, and the region has become a destination of choice for discriminating diners from all over the city.
“Little Mekong restaurants attract a wide variety of customers, including those who live in the neighborhood, residents of St. Paul, Minneapolis, and suburbs, and even those who drive in from Wisconsin,” said Va-Megn Thoj, executive director of the Asian Economic Development Association, which provides counsel to Little Mekong businesses. “Little Mekong features local, family-owned restaurants whose dishes you cannot find anywhere else in the Twin Cities.”
Among the can’t-miss restaurants of Little Mekong:
Bangkok Cuisine, 432 University Ave. W. — Bangkok Cuisine offers a variety of Thai dishes and advertises “the hottest spice in town” upon request. However, all of its delicious dishes can also be ordered with mild or medium spice. Dinner favorites include Pad Se-Ew, thick rice noodles stir-fried with eggs and broccoli; Panang Curry, bell peppers, carrots, pineapple, and coconut milk with your choice of meat or tofu in a tasty Panang curry sauce; and expertly prepared Pad Thai, light and slightly sweet. Bangkok Cuisine is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday, closed on Sunday.
Bangkok Thai Deli, 333 University Ave. W — This restaurant specializes in affordable, delicious Thai dishes at its new, larger location in a former fast food restaurant. Often on reviewers’ short lists for the best and most authentic Thai food in town, Bangkok Thai Deli attracts regular diners from throughout the Twin Cities. A huge menu is highlighted by house specialties such as Nam Tok, a tantalizing mix of beef, ground roasted rice, fish sauce, chilies, shallots, lime juice, and mint; Tom Yum soup, a hearty bowl of straw mushrooms, chilies, lemongrass, seasonings, and shrimp (if you choose) giving a characteristic hot and sour flavor; and Hor Mok, a tasty fish custard steamed in a banana leaf cup. Bangkok Thai Deli is open seven days a week.
Cheng Heng, 448 University Ave. W. — Cheng Heng excels in Cambodian fare, including flavorful soups, salads, and noodle dishes. This unassuming restaurant delights the palate and the pocketbook with such favorites as delicious Tom Yum chicken coconut curry soup; amazingly flavorful steamed fish curry, wrapped in a banana leaf; tasty made-from-
scratch spring rolls; and tantalizing taro bubble tea. And save room for one of Cheng Heng’s fantastic desserts. The restaurant is open seven days a week.
Little Szechuan, 422 University Ave. W. — This Chinese restaurant, reportedly a favorite of St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, excels in Szechuan cuisine. It has become so popular it opened a sister Little Szechuan in St. Louis Park. However, don’t miss the original in Little Mekong. A large, picture-filled menu details such house specials as the Red Revolution fish soup, a hot and tantalizing bowl of fish, vegetables, and spices nearly big enough for two; the fall-off-the-bone pan-seared lamb chops; or the Ma La beef tendon, Szechuan potato fries, or Dan Dan noodles, perfect as an appetizer or small dish. Little Szechuan is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week.
Mai Village, 394 University Ave. W. — this Little Mekong landmark features a large, intricately detailed dining room and authentic Vietnamese cuisine. Mai Village’s tasty egg rolls, spring rolls, and cream cheese wontons make great starters; the grilled lemon chicken, chicken chow mein, and hot and spicy shrimp with lemongrass are all tasty entrees. Before or after your meal, stop to admire the koi fish in the indoor pond. Mai Village is open Monday through Saturday, closed on Sunday.
Tay Ho, 302 University Ave. W. — can’t decide between Chinese or Vietnamese for dinner? Go to Tay Ho to get the best of both nations! Tay Ho’s humble red, white, and blue storefront reveals a small interior brimming with tasty and inexpensive Asian treats. The Bun bo Hue soup, with rice vermicelli and your choice of meat, has just the right mix of spicy, sweet, salty, and sour flavors; the tasty and surprisingly filling pho soup is one of the restaurant’s top sellers; and Tay Ho’s egg rolls are a can’t-miss delight. Tay Ho is open for lunch and dinner, seven days a week.
Little Mekong restaurants also often feature live music, dance, and other events. To learn more about the restaurants and shops of Little Mekong, visit www.littlemekong.com.