There are holes in the wall, there are holes in the wall, and then there is Va Lor. Tucked into a bank of brown brick buildings on the bustling stretch of University Avenue between Dale and Western, Va Lor is one of those places you can’t really miss—it’s painted bright red. You can’t miss on the menu either. It’s twenty-items long, all priced between $2 and $6. The menu is also pictorialized on the wall, and other than the Buddha in the corner, that’s it for décor. Va Lor puts all the love in the food. Be sure to get the papaya salad. Intoxicatingly good, it’s made in a stone mortar by the namesake chef/owner, and is redolent with fresh lime, garlic, chilies, and fish sauce, and served with a side of tapioca noodles. Similarly, shrimp rolls are made with tapioca noodles rolled egg roll–style around shrimp, ginger, and cilantro, then served with a hot-and-sweet sauce. If your tastes are more meat-friendly, fried sausages with purple sticky rice were meat-a-licious. After all that (and some chicken wings), even my wallet left happy.
371 University Ave. W., St. Paul