Between Christmas and New Years, I was in Anaheim, California for work. It was a pretty exhausting trip, and I got home at about 1am early Friday morning. After sleeping in and lounging around the house all day, my friend Chelsea came over to return my car that she'd been using while she was in town (oh, and to hang out with me too I suppose). We sat around for awhile, but after a few hours, the hunger pangs couldn't be ignored. I had eaten out for a week straight, so really was in no mood to go out again, but the food in the house didn't really lend itself to a meal that could be easily prepared. We sat around for a good long time avoiding the decision, until I decided that what I was really sick of was greasy unhealthy food. Vietnamese seemed like a great option where I could have something reasonably healthy that was not like the food I had been eating the whole week. Plus, it is always pretty affordable, which is crucial right after all the holiday spending.
I was very surprised when we got to Mai Village - I expected it to be kind of a dive, but it was very nice. It is a pretty large space too, and was fairly crowded last Friday, despite the frigid temps outside. We were seated right away, and I faced more indecision as I tried to figure out what to order. Initially I was thinking of some sort of soup, and what I wanted was the soup that Kate had when we went to Ngon. I didn't see anything that sounded exactly like that, so I finally made the split second decision to get the shrimp noodle salad when the waitress was taking our order.
The salad was actually quite good, but could have benefited from 2-3 more shrimp. My meal was about 30% more expensive than Ben's, but yet I got about 50% less meat. I know shrimp is more expensive than chicken but ... a few more would have been nice. Other than that, the salad was tasty and was a great light meal after all of the heavy food I had eaten on my trip. I had a few bites of Chelsea's beef and broccoli which tasted pretty standard.
I enjoyed Mai Village - it is beautifully decorated, and the service was good. I did like Ngon more, I think because our server there was great and I liked the food slightly better than at Mai Village. Both places would be great for dates and are probably a little more upscale feeling than others on University. I do want to try many more of the Vietnamese places in the area before going back to either Ngon or Mai Village. If you have any recommendations (that aren't already on the list) please comment!
After MUCH deliberation about what to do for dinner (should we stay in? should we order pizza for delivery? Chinese? go out?) Erin made the call that she wanted Vietnamese food. I had heard about Mai Village several times, and it was nearby, so off we went with our friend Chelsea who was in town for the holidays.
On the way to Mai Village I think we probably passed about six other Vietnamese places that should probably be on our list, we'll have to find all the ones along University and check them out. I dropped Erin and Chelsea off at the door and then went in search of a parking spot, realizing afterward that there is a parking lot out back :) I found a spot on the street that was just as close, so no big deal this time.
Right as you walk into Mai Village you are greeted with a small wooden bridge that crosses a pond filled with what look like very exotic fish. I loved the interior of the rest of the restaurant as well. I don't know if this is authentic Vietnamese decorating, but it looks cool regardless; just look at the pictures and you'll see what I mean.
I found Erin and Chelsea at their table as they had already been seated - no wait for us on this night! Even though there are many tables the place was nearly full, I only noticed a couple open tables. When the server came over to take our drink orders, I asked what they had on tap. She started rattling off the list of their tap beers, starting with Summit EPA, and went through the rest of the list. I ordered a Summit EPA, the first one she had said and Erin rolled her eyes at me. I didn't want to order the Summit without hearing the rest of the list! Who knows what gem I could have missed by making a rash decision?? I love Summit, but I view it as a standard beer in Minnesota restaurants, I can get it nearly everywhere we go. Instead I like to hear the whole list and then immediately fall back to Summit if nothing else of interest comes up, as was the case at Mai Village. I got a tall Summit, which was indeed tall, it was a 22oz. glass.
For once, it didn't actually take me much time to decide what I wanted, in spite of the large menu. I hadn't had a Vietnamese noodle salad in awhile so I knew I would get that, the only decision was grilled chicken or sauteed chicken. Tonight, it was the sauteed chicken and it was a good choice.
They serve the noodle salads in comically large bowls, but it's nice because you can mix your salad together without worrying about spilling anything. After a splash of fish sauce my noodle salad was fantastic, as I would expect from any Vietnamese place. I've decided that I want to try making a chicken noodle salad at home. It really can't be that hard, there are rice noodles, chopped cucumber, grated carrot, sauteed chicken, and fish sauce. We might even have all those ingredients in the kitchen right now. I figure if I can have enough noodle salads at home, I'll be more inclined to try more adventurous dishes at the next Vietnamese place we try. Until then, noodle salads it is!
- Service: Great service, no complaints for our simple meal.
- Food: I loved my noodle salad, Erin wished she had gotten more shrimp :(.
- Drinks: They have a lot of beer on tap, but Summit was the most interesting, I thought. Pretty sure they have a full bar.
- Ambiance: The interior decorating and the pond with the fish make this a fun place to eat.
- Price: Prices were great, I think my noodle salad was $8-$9. I don't recall what the beer cost, but our bill was right around $20 before tip.
- Convenience: Parking out back and a couple bus routes on University make it pretty easy to get to.
Mai Village (no working website that I could find)
394 University Ave W
St. Paul, MN