Nothing leads to dramatic, area-train-hopping-battles-to-the-death more than debating the best Thai restaurant in town:
“How could you say Big Bowl, that’s pan-Asian,” says an area wife, leaping from the coal car to the steam engine of an area train, while attempting to take out her husband with a coal-rake.
“It makes as much sense as an answer as the Hmong Village in Dayton’s Bluff,” answers the area husband, agilely ducking around the steam-whistle.
“That’s not Thai at all, it’s Hmong or perhaps Lao, which is as effectively different from Thai as Southern Italian is from Northern Italian!"
And with that the couple and the train plunge into a dark tunnel, and we will never learn what they decided were the best Thai restaurants in MSP. But we can learn which ones I decided are, because I’m about to tell you.
5). Supatra's Thai Cuisine A great local beer list and Supatra Johnson, the friendliest Thai chef in Minnesota, make Supatra one of those restaurants you go to twice and immediately consider part of your family. I love all of Supatra’s food, the smoky Thai cashew snack is a must-try, the waterfall beef salad is a gorgeous explosion of herbs and fire, and the Supatra curries are unmatched. Photos from supatra.com. 967 W. 7th St., St. Paul, 651-222-5859, supatra.com
4). Naviya’s Thai Brasserie Just American enough to understand your gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, local micro-brew, and 90-point wine requirements, but just Thai enough to bring spice like a chamber music concerto, delicate and dancing, Naviya’s is the Thai restaurant that occupies that very unusual Venn diagram where cool, healthy, romantic, and authentically Thai meet. 2812 W. 43rd St., Mpls., 612-276-5061
3). Krungthep Thai Cuisine I never quite like the sister-restaurant to Bangkok Thai Deli quite as much as the original, the servers speak English but then don’t really understand the food, which seems to lead me in a worse place than when I’m relying on sign language at the BTD. Then again, Krungthep Thai is excellent and has a beer and wine license, and boy oh boy does a beer make a little appetizer like a Tod Mun fried spicy fish patty with a dip of lime and herbs go down well. Those little Hor Muk curried steamed fish bundles are great too, as is the lemongrass silver thread noodle salad—aw heck I love this place too. Photo by Katherine Harris. 2523 Nicollet Ave., Mpls., 612-824-7721, Krungthep Facebook
2). Lemon Grass Thai Cuisine The ace in the hole of the northern suburbs, Lemongrass is living Thai food, reimagined by the young family running it into contemporary idiom. So, the cooked duck laarb is called Crazy Duck—and it’s crazy good. The Chiang Mai alley noodles are sour with pickled mustard and crunchy; the sriracha fried rice tastes like what your best friend Thai chef would make for you after-bar, and that’s a good thing. 8600 Edinburgh Ctr. Dr., Brooklyn Park, 763-494-8809, lemongrassthaicuisine.net
1). Bangkok Thai Deli Every year when I do my taxes I discover that yet again I have spent most of my own money at this well-known small spot. Get the mango-salty crab salad, the water-spinach with Thai peppers, the boat-noodle soup with beef, and everything else—I never go wrong here. Photo from Bangkok Thai Deli's Facebook page. bangkokthaideli.com
1). On’s Kitchen Thai Cuisine See what I did there? It’s a tie for first. How could I put On’s at number two? Unless I want to get assassinated by the many thousand people who believe On’s to be the very best of all. And I’m not courting assassination this week. If you’ve never been please know it’s right next to the Turf Club, and is super-fantastic, especially beautifully designed for sharing and snacking. So, load up the table with Meing-Kum, those fiery castanets of ginger-lettuce wraps, a tom ka soup of coconut and lemongrass so fragrant you may as well be in a spa, sour herbal sausages, whole fish steamed in banana leaves, nam khao rice salad with sausage and peanuts in a lime vinaigrette. Photo from onskitchen.com. 1613 University Ave. W., St. Paul, 651-644-1444, onskitchen.com
As ever, what did I miss? Is your favorite on here? If not, we can battle it out the next time we’re atop a hurtling steam-engine. Or you can post it in the comments, and I’ll go check it out.