When it comes to Thai food in the Twin Cities, MPLS doesn’t stand a chance against STP (and only a few places in California maybe have a chance to battle our TC Thai cuisine, as the only state with a larger Thai community).
Thai food is not always a common item in U.S. cities: While traveling in NYC for example, I realized that there isn’t a large Thai community and were therefore a noted lack of good Thai restaurants. This in a city that is often referred to as the restaurant capital of the world.
Thai culture is embedded into the Twin Cities landscape, and I couldn’t be happier about it.
So here’s a list of the best Thai food in and around the TC. Dig in, dive in and appreciate the culture brought to you by our friends, family, and neighbors.
#1 – Thai Café | 371 University Ave W, St Paul, MN 55103 | (651) 225-8231
Talk about a hole-in-the-wall: Thai Cafe is a hidden gem on St. Paul’s University Ave. University is known for having vast cultural neighborhoods (like the Little Mekong neighborhood where Thai Cafe is located) and tons of diversity. Find yourself immersed here in the best green papaya salad around, period, and make sure to enjoy some bubble tea and cream cheese wontons with shredded carrot and scallion as well, all while watching Planet Earth on the screens hanging from the walls.
#2 – Ruam Mit | 475 St Peter St, St Paul, MN 55102 | (651) 222-7871
This obscure restaurant is located in a small strip mall off busy 7th Street in downtown STP. But don’t let the neighboring Domino’s fool you on the quality of food in the area: This place has been a veteran favorite for over 10 years. The Pha Ram Long Song is rich and spicy, with a hearty helping of Popeye’s favorite veggie piled underneath, and a crunchy and creamy peanut sauce. The Pla Rad Prig is a must-have whole fried seasonal fish (which is usually Minnesota’s favorite Walleye) covered in a spicy red curry sauce. Pro tip: When ordering the papaya salad (which comes with slices of dried beef jerky, yum), don’t ask for the hottest they can make it; it will come riddled with Scotch Bonnets and Habaneros, which then will become a 48-hr firey experience. You have been warned.
#3 – Sen Yai Sen Lek | 2422 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55418 | (612) 781-3046
One of the best Thai curries in the TC has got be the Khao Soi at Sen Yai Sen Lek in NE MPLS: Sweet, spicy, savory, creamy and crunchy with a bunch of zesty fresh lime squeezed over the top and wide egg noodles to satisfy your belly. This a is a winner through and through. The owners are not only true to their traditions of Thai cooking, but they like to stay involved and give back to the community as well and use the very best local and organic ingredients whenever possible.
#4 – Sawatdee STP – 486 Robert St N, St Paul, MN 55101 (651) 528-7106
Even though this place has been known as a party spot with uncharacteristically wild management, it still has a team of die-hard Thai ladies in the kitchen crankin’ out some truly delicious family favorites. Out of the now 7 Sawatdee locations, the one in downtown St. Paul has always had the best food. The Laab Esan here is stellar, stocked with cilantro, lime and chilies to get the blood flowing. Bonus: They also offer a decent date night with ‘Thai for Two’ on Tuesdays.
#5 – Bangkok Thai | 333 University Ave W, St Paul, MN 55103 | (651) 224-4300
One word: Traditional. This place is not a place to bring your suburbanite neighbor only interested in Pad Thai. The papaya salad here is riddled with bits and pieces of shellfish and fish sauce for example; a super funky and unorthodox experience for the unadventurous Midwestern palate, but oh-so-delicious for someone who wants a true taste and smell of a Thailand marketplace. Go for the seafood preparations here as well, as they are executed with simple perfection.
#6 – Pad Thai | 1681 Grand Ave, St Paul, MN 55105 | (651) 690-1393
This place is in a cute, quiet neighborhood with a lot of effort put into ambiance (less hole-in-the-wall than some of the other entries). The food here is very mild, making it a great place to take someone who isn’t yet sure of their Thai food orientation; perfect for the kids and grandma for some truly smashing Pad Thai.
#7 – Sober Fish | 2627 E Franklin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55406 | (612) 354-2544
Rice dish, noodle dish, sushi fix… what’s your wish? This is the only other Thai joint on that side of the Mississippi River to make the list. This place is adorable, clean, hip, and great for both intimate dinners and large parties. Sober Fish does a sort of dual menu with Thai dishes and sushi options, but it’s all good across the board. Bonus: It’s sober in name only. There is plenty of alcohol to enjoy with your meal.
#8 – Lao Thai | 501 University Ave W, St Paul, MN 55103 | (651) 224-5026
Being one of the more modern and updated Thai restaurant spaces, Lao Thai Family Restaurant gets an “A” for customer service, cleanliness, and atmosphere. I’ve had some great meals here, but the service is really what takes the (fish) cake: Here you’ll get actual recommendations when you ask your server, instead of the waiter just pointing at the picture of the most ordered dish. Great traditional dishes with a decent pho and fried rice on the menu as well.
#9 – Eastside Thai | 879 Payne Ave, St Paul, MN 55130 | (651) 776-6599
The ever growing and surprising East STP strikes again. Payne Avenue has made the best turn around of its history, and the food on Payne is now too good not to go. Eastside Thai’s salads, soups, noodles, curries, sticky rice dishes, fried rice dishes, broths, and stir fries are all excellent; it’s those from-scratch dishes you can tell are cooked to order the moment you ask for them without any corners cut. Get some.
#10 – On’s Kitchen | 1613 University Ave W, St Paul, MN 55104 | (651) 644-1444
This place gets more “People’s Choice Awards” than any other Thai place in town; so many people eat here it’s almost always packed; don’t be surprised if you have to wait for a seat. Located next door to the iconic Turf Club near Snelling and University, it’s the perfect place to grab a bite before a show. This hardworking family of restaurateurs gets all the support.