Saturday, December 19, 2009

Mango Thai

Visited on Friday, December 11th with Bill and Kim

Mango Thai, denied
(Taken in September. It looks the same now, except dark, with snow, and no leaves on the trees)

Erin's Review
I can barely remember how this dinner came to be - it was some kind of collaboration between Ben and Bill that came out of meeting at our company party or something...? I have no idea, but I was glad because I've been wanting to try Mango Thai since missing out back in September when we tried with our neighbors, who have since been and RAVED about it.

I have to admit, I was a LITTLE nervous to go out to eat with Bill after reading his many scathing reviews of restaurants especially since we chose the place. Thankfully, it seemed to pass muster for him, based on his review ;) Too bad it takes us over a week to post anything, unlike him who got his review up the next day (I blame Ben).


I think I have gotten a lot pickier about restaurant service lately (like in the past 7 months or so) because there were a few things that really bugged me here - first, we sat down and never got menus or waters until I specifically asked for water later. The server had walked by our table several times too, and already brought Ben and Bill their pint glasses, so he knew we were there. That is just unacceptable. Second, after we ordered our appetizers, we had to ask to order our main dishes - after the appetizers had come, been eaten, and the plates were cleared. Our server seemed to be a nice guy, but kind of a space cadet. Third, as is normally my pet peeve in restaurants, KEEP THE WATER COMING. They were pretty slow about this, and especially at a Thai place where food is spicy (for a normal non-Bill person), this is a necessity. If it's too much work to fill the glasses by hand, bring out a pitcher for the table.

Inside Mango Thai

Now that those issues are out of my system, the rest of our experience here was really enjoyable. I loved the space - it felt very cozy, and I definitely want to sit in one of the tables near the entryway with cutouts for feet at some point. The mango spring rolls we got as an appetizer were very good - I did taste the mango, mostly because mine fell apart so I ate pieces of some pieces of mango by itself :)

Low tables with cutouts for feet

I had been coming down with a slight cold so was in the mood for soup - I got the Tom Kha Chicken Coconut soup, with no spice (there were 3 chilis next to it on the menu, but the server said they could make it not spicy for me). I've had this soup before, when my brother-in-law made it for Christmas last year. This was a HUGE portion - it came out in an enormous metal bowl with a flame to keep it hot - very nice presentation! It was way too much for me - I can never really gorge myself on soup. It was delicious though - a wonderful mix of flavors, and Ben enjoyed it again for lunch the next day. I'd definitely recommend getting this soup as a starter for the table - I'll bet you could easily get 4 small bowls out of it.

Tom Kha Chicken Coconut Soup

Tom Kha Chicken Coconut Soup

The only fiasco of the evening came when the server was going to pick up my soup to pack it up, and didn't also grab the plate it was on, which then fell back to the table, knocked over a water glass, spilled water on my camera and another woman's coat and broke. Yikes! In such a small space, it definitely caused a commotion. Obviously it was just an accident and they were very concerned about my camera, which was fine. They handled it well and got everything cleaned up quickly.

I will definitely return to Mango Thai - it is a beautiful place with delicious food. Yes, there were some service issues, but that was likely an individual situation and not indicative of the overall service at the restaurant.

Ben's Review
After trying and failing to go to Mango Thai with our neighbors over the summer (no reservations) we made plans to go with Bill and his wife a couple weeks ago, this time with reservations. Since our failed attempt, our neighbors also went to Mango Thai and reported back that the food was great and it was also a BYOB place. In preparation for this Bill and I met up downtown and went to Haskells to get several bottles of beer to share during our meal.

The first thing that you notice when walking in the door is how small this place is - even smaller than Blue Door Pub. I bet they have capacity for about 25 customers at any given time. This is why reservations are a necessity, otherwise you'll have a long wait on your hands. Bill and his wife had gotten there before us and were already seated. We were luckily seated at one of the normal tables with incredibly comfortable chairs, the amount of cushion for your ass is awesome :) Due to the small size you inevitably have to sit close to the tables next to you, not ideal but just something you have to deal with.

I felt a little self conscious about bringing in a medium sized cooler with our beers while everyone looked at me, but I quickly stashed the cooler under the table and put Bill in charge of doling out the beers when we needed refills. It was a struggle to keep up with Bill on the beer front, he was always cracking the next bottle when I still had half a pint left!


We ordered the mango spring rolls as an appetizer and they tasted good, but I could barely taste any mango in them. The presentation was gorgeous, as was the presentation of all the food we had.

Spring rolls

To appease Scott ("all you ever get at Thai places is pad thai") I got the pad kee mow which is still a noodle based dish, but it doesn't have egg or peanuts, instead it's got garlic, chili and also came with a side of rice. I wasn't used to having rice mixed in with a noodle dish, but it tasted great and seemed to go together nicely. The portions at Mango Thai are smaller than a typical Thai place, which just means there aren't leftovers for lunch the next day and you still go home completely stuffed.


Pad Kee Mow

Bill has taken to calling me the "spice pussy" because of my perceived lack of tolerance for ultra spicy food like him. Even still, at the "medium" level of heat I had to add more red pepper to my dish to make it hot enough, even after the server claimed they made their food hotter than most Thai restaurants (btw, what Thai place DOESN'T say that??). Having heard of how Bill orders his Thai, "as hot as you can make it", I was interested to see if he was for real, and he was. He got it as hot as they could make it and still had to dump about a cup of some sort of chili paste into his dish to make it hot enough for him. The server was shocked. He had never seen them use as much spice as they did in his meal, and he STILL added more :) Needless to say, I think Bill was proud of himself.

We hung out for a bit after finishing as we had bought four 22oz bottles of beer and I had a ways to go on my last pint. All of our beers were great except the last one, the Rogue Santa's Private Reserve, it was drinkable but a little fruity as I recall. Between all the food and the heavy beers I was full to the point of pain. We had a great time hanging out with Bill and his wife, and you can never go wrong with Thai food, as far as I'm concerned.

  • Service: Our server was OK. He overstated the spiciness level of the food, but a nice guy.
  • Food: My pad kee mow was delicious and the spring rolls were good.
  • Drinks: No alcohol, but you can bring your own, which is awesome. You can drink exactly what you want and pay liquor store prices for it, perfect.
  • Ambiance: It was a small place so you have to be OK with ceding some of your personal space, but it was a fun place to be at on a Friday night.
  • Price: The prices are great, entrees in the $10-$15 range. The appetizers are overpriced by comparison, ranging from $6-$9 for much less food.
  • Convenience: Mango Thai is on Selby, around the corner from Muddy Pig. There is only on-street parking which can be bad in that area but we managed to get a spot that was pretty close. I think there are several bus lines that go down Selby as well.
Mango Thai
610 Selby Ave
St. Paul

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Visited on Monday, December 7th


Ben's Review
To celebrate our last baby class on Monday night, Erin wanted to go out for dinner beforehand. We'd had a lot of Asian food lately so she wanted something different. Trying to find a place to go that was not Asian and relatively close to the hospital turned out to be more challenging than I would have guessed. We eventually settled on Pepitos in south Minneapolis that had some good reviews as being a friendly neighborhood Mexican restaurant.

Our class started at 6:30 so we got to the restaurant around 5pm to ensure that we'd have enough time to eat and make it to the hospital. Predictably, Pepitos was nearly empty when we arrived so getting a table was not an issue. The interior of Pepitos looks like you would expect a forty year old Mexican restaurant to look, with fiesta colors on the walls and dim lighting (the dim lighting in many restaurants always frustrates Erin's picture taking).

Inside Pepitos

I quickly scanned the beer list after we got seated and noticed that the beer list was not extensive and was on the pricey side. Also, the happy hour is only in the lounge so the deals did not apply for us. I decided on the tall (25 oz) Summit for ~$6.25 only because it was a better cost-per-ounce than the pint. Our server came back with the disappointing news that they were out of Summit, so I downgraded to a pint of Newcastle (not being a huge Newcastle fan). This turned out to be a good decision later on.

Chips and Salsa

After munching on some delicious tortilla chips with mild and hot salsa, we were ready to order. I went with the tamale plato with pork, under the house specialties, and Erin had the nachos lupitas that were recommended to her by a co-worker. After ordering I thought we would have some time to nibble on some more chips and sip my beer, but I think our food came out 3-5 minutes later, it was shockingly fast. Fast to the point where I was skeptical about the food, like maybe it was premade. I'm not saying it WAS premade, it just seemed to come impossibly quick. This was the reason that the pint of beer was better than the 25 oz glass. I finished my food well before my beer to begin with, so nine more ounces would have just been annoying.

My tamale was good, but not great. I liked the beans and rice on the side better than the actual tamale. The tamale was a little dry and just tasted kind of bland. There was no way Erin was going to finish all of her lupitas, so I had a couple of those as well and they were delicious, much better than the tamale. The lupitas are like big nachos on pieces of flaky dough instead of tortilla chips. It's technically an appetizer but is certainly big enough for a meal. I had several bites of Erin's and she still had two leftover by the time we were done.


Since we got our food so early we even had time to head over to Turtle Bread Co. for some cheesecake. I had never been to Turtle Bread, but I thought it was a fantastic place, there is no divider between the kitchen and the seating area which gives it an interesting layout. The cheesecake was so good, but we were so full from dinner that we couldn't finish the shared slice. Great way to finish up a meal though.
  • Service: There was a bit of a language barrier between our server and us, but she was friendly and kept the water coming for Erin.
  • Food: My tamale was just OK, the lupitas were excellent.
  • Drinks: Not a good beer list and it was overpriced. They obviously have a good choice of margaritas if that's your thing.
  • Ambiance: The ambiance was nicer by the time we left as it was starting to fill up. Pepitos is family friendly and seems like a nice neighborhood place to hang out.
  • Price: While I thought the beers were overpriced, the food certainly is not. My tamale was $9 and Erin's lupitas were $7. Even with the beer this is the cheapest dinner we've had in awhile.
  • Convenience: They actually have valet parking, which is great, luckily we found a spot right outside the restaurant. Pepitos is on 48th & Chicago so there must be some public transit options as well.
Erin's Review
Pepitos has been on our list since the beginning - clearly it's been around for a long time, but neither Ben or I had eaten there before, and a few people I know recommended it when we started the blog. I had read mixed reviews online, so wasn't really expected much. We got there super early, and the ambiance was definitely lacking then, but picked up as the night went on. I don't even normally drink much, but I was definitely craving a margarita that night! Maybe because we had our last baby class to go to, and I knew that would make it more interesting ;)

Inside Pepitos

My co-worker Jen and several yelp reviewers recommended the lupitas, so I went with that without much deliberation. I love nachos anyway, so it seemed like a win-win. I got them with black beans, but there are many other topping choices available. The chips and salsa we munched on while we waited were great - I wish we had gotten some queso dip too, but I couldn't even finish my lupitas so that probably was a wise decision.

As Ben mentioned, our food came out lightning fast... yes, we were the only people eating probably, but still - a little too fast for comfort! Our food was piping hot when we got it - my plate was so hot I couldn't touch it. The lupitas came with 2 tiny (think the paper ketchup containers at McDonalds size) sides of sour cream and guacamole. I could have definitely used some more of those, I probably could have gotten more if I asked, but I just made do with what I had. I really liked the lupitas a lot - the "chips" were softer and thicker, and it was a nice change from traditional nachos. The sliced jalapenos on top gave just enough heat and flavor to the dish.

Nachos Lupitas with Black Beans

We definitely had a pleasant experience at Pepitos - we are not often in that area, but if we lived over there, I could see us going back for the affordable, fairly good food and friendly atmosphere. I definitely wouldn't make a special trip, though - to me, it didn't seem to be much different than Mexican chains such as Don Pablos, except that it is more affordable.

4820 Chicago Ave S