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When the weather turns cold in Minnesota, like everyone else, I find myself venturing out less and less. And let’s be honest—when it’s so cold you can’t bear the thought of trekking to the grocery store and lugging everything inside from your detached garage, what do you do? You order takeout.
Which is why I focused my next food roundup on the Asian food of West St. Paul: Because what’s better than picking up Asian takeout on a frigid winter day? Especially when we have a killer new option in town—and some lesser-known treasures.
981 Smith Ave. S.
Chin Chin, a delivery and carryout only restaurant on Smith Avenue, declares itself “home of the cheese puff!” Their cheese puffs are delicious and addicting, though the cream cheese is clearly mixed with sugar, making them more enjoyable as sort of a dessert than an appetizer. They offer a large menu of traditional Chinese fare, from chow mein and fried rice to several egg foo young options. Anytime meal in a boxes are a great deal, and come with tasty chicken fried rice, an egg roll, and two crab rangoons. We especially enjoyed the sesame chicken, which was crispy and not overly sweet.
1375 S. Robert St.
I must admit, I had never been to Lucky China before, even though I’ve lived in West St. Paul for more than 15 years. The nondescript restaurant tucked between Perkins and Beirut is easy to overlook—but don’t make the same mistake as me! The secret Korean menu is not to be missed. The cha jang mein (noodles with bean sauce) features homemade, toothsome noodles in a mild black bean sauce. The dish is served with a side of tangy homemade kimchi that was excellent. The gan poung beef (fried beef with garlic sauce) included thinly sliced beef, breaded and fried, with paper-thin slices of garlic and jalapeno. Everything in this dish was well-balanced and fresh—no heavy breading or syrupy sauces here. All dishes come with a bowl of soup. Our kids chose egg drop while my husband and I opted for comforting hot and sour soup that was perfectly tangy with a good amount of heat.
No. 1 New China
364 Bernard St. W. / No1NewChinaWSP.com
No. 1 New China has long been our go-to takeout spot. My kids love the steamed dumplings—pork and vegetables tucked into a thick and chewy dough then steamed (they also have them fried). I always order the Singapore noodles, a heaping pile of thin rice noodles, shrimp, chicken, and pork, stir fried with green onion and scrambled egg and dusted in bright yellow curry. It’s hot and we usually order it even hotter. No. 1 also features a large menu of usual Chinese favorites, and dishes like beef and broccoli and chicken with black bean sauce always come with large bites of fresh vegetables stir fried just right—not too crisp or too soggy.
1720 S. Robert St.
Update (Sept. 15, 2020): Pho Saigon has closed and is being replaced by Mela Thai Cuisine.
Whenever I get a tickle in my throat, I turn to the magic elixir that is pho. Something about the long-simmered bone broth full of aromatics and a hint of anise always kicks a cold for me. And thankfully, we have a solid pho choice right here in West St. Paul—Pho Saigon, located at the end of the Hobby Lobby strip mall. Pho Saigon has several pho options, Vietnamese soups, and vermicelli salads. The beef came with thinly sliced raw beef to cook in the flavorful broth. I topped it with all the extras they gave me—cilantro, basil, green onion, jalapenos, bean sprouts, and lime juice. On the side, I enjoyed one of the best egg rolls I had in this restaurant roundup, stuffed with meat and veggies and dipped in a sweet and tangy hoisin sauce.
1307 S. Robert St. / OrderThaiPepper.com
Thai Pepper is the restaurant we’ve been missing in West St. Paul, and I implore you to check it out now so it will break its location’s curse. This tiny little shop recently opened in the old Top Dog spot on the corner of Logan and Robert Street (which was once a drive-thru coffee place and then sat unoccupied for years). Drive-thru Thai sounds weird, but it’s great! Order delivery if you don’t feel like maneuvering through their strange lot, or call ahead and pick up your order from the drive thru. Their menu is limited to a handful of curries, salads, and entrees, but each one is authentic, fresh, and spicy! If you want a Minnesota-level of heat, you may need to order “no spice.” The panang and green curries were rich coconut-based curries packed with flavor and heat. The pad Thai is solid, and the tom yum soup one of the best ones I’ve ever tried. The zesty soup is bursting with lemongrass, lime juice, and chilies. We also enjoyed the pad prik king, a stir-fry of crisp, thin green beans and tender beef. As soon as we were putting away the leftovers, I was already thinking about what I wanted to order next time.
1895 S. Robert St. / TokyoSushiMN.com
While not a takeout spot, I still wanted to try the new Tokyo Sushi on a night we were itching to get out of the house. Tokyo Sushi, located in the Southview Square shopping center, is clean and modern, with dark furniture and lots of gray-washed wood and tile. When we arrived for dinner, we were told most people opted for the all-you-can-eat Sushi for $25.99, so we did that. Children pay their ages, which is nice since I wasn’t sure how much they would eat beyond a couple of California rolls. Everything we ordered was fresh and appetizing. We got a few standard items, like California and Philly rolls, tempura shrimp, and gyoza. The fun part came in trying the special items, like the Emperor roll, which had shreds of snow crab wrapped in crispy soybean paper and was drizzled with a sweet and airy mango sauce; a spicy dragon roll; and a Mexican roll (tuna with jalapeno). We also loved the sushi pizza, a ball of sushi rice stuffed with fish and vegetables, deep-fried and topped with spicy mayo.
Asian in West St. Paul
Once again, just like in my Taco Tour of West St. Paul, I discovered new favorites and places I had never tried. If you’re looking to pick up some food after a long day, West St. Paul has a number of great choices.
If you still can’t get enough Asian food and want a wide variety of choices, check out one of the two Asian Buffets on Robert Street. Great Moon Buffet offers a wide selection of Chinese dishes, including Mongolian barbecue. Prices range from $12-17, depending on the time of day. Tokyo 23 in the Signal Hills shopping center boasts Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese cuisine, and includes a sushi bar, hibachi grill and a make-your-own soup bar. Prices are similar to Great Moon, starting around $13.
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