The student news of St. Paul Academy and Summit School

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The student news of St. Paul Academy and Summit School

The Rubicon

The student news of St. Paul Academy and Summit School

The Rubicon

[AROUND TOWN] Stop by Pho Mai for a quick bite

Located in Dinkytown, the birthplace of Pho Mai brings Vietnamese cuisine, a welcoming community and a haven for college students. I have been going to Pho Mai since the peak of the pandemic, and the restaurant has never left me hungry.

Pho Mai opened in 2020 and expanded to the Asia Mall in Eden Prairie and Canterbury Park in Shakopee in 2022 and 2023. Owners Mai and Michael are University of Minnesota alumni and opened Pho Mai to focus on popular Vietnamese dishes such as phở, cơm tấm and bánh mì. The restaurant gained inspiration from MT Noodles in Brooklyn Park, which was opened by Mai’s mother.

The restaurant is a couple minutes away from the university’s main campus and has a cozy atmosphere. Visitors entering the restaurant are immediately greeted by pots of leafy plants, a bright red tiled wall that encompasses the restaurant’s open kitchen, rows of black tables with trays of sriracha and hoison sauce, and a display filled with Vietnamese coffee, pandan cake and bottled drinks. During my visit, I had the opportunity to interview Cong, an employee who has been working at Pho Mai for two years, about his experience with the restaurant.

Aside from the food, customers are drawn into Pho Mai by its welcoming community.

— Carys Hsiung

Cong started off by introducing the menu and talking about Pho Mai’s specialty dishes. “The beef [and potatoes] is more popular among [people who aren’t familiar with the cuisine],” he said. “The house special phở (Phở Dặc Biệt, phở with lean beef, meatball, brisket, tendon, flank and tripe) is the best one. Everything on the menu marked with ‘house special’ is the best of our menu.” He added, “The house special phở is my favorite.”

Aside from the restaurant’s popular dishes (phở, cơm tấm and bánh mì), they also serve miscellaneous noodle, rice and meat-based dishes. This visit, my mom and I ordered Cơm Đặc Biệt: a dish with rice, grilled pork, shredded pork, fried beancurd filled with shrimp, an egg filled with ground meat, bún and green onions, cucumbers and carrots and topped off with a mountain of green onions. The pork was bouncy and perfectly cooked, and the raw vegetables complemented the cooked sides very well. We also ordered shrimp and pork spring rolls that were delicious once dipped in the savory peanut sauce and Phở Tài: phở with lean beef. The phở was filled with onions, green onions and a flavorful broth.

Overall, the food is decently priced given the larger portions, with prices ranging from $10 for appetizers to $15 for main courses. There are also lunch specials for $13 from 11-3 on weekdays.

Aside from the food, customers are drawn into Pho Mai by its welcoming community. “Customers at this restaurant are usually college students and young people, so we like to interact with them,” Cong said.

Cong described Pho Mai in a couple of words: “Smell good,” he replied while laughing. If you’re looking to grab a quick bite and are craving Vietnamese food, Pho Mai is the restaurant for you.

Pho Mai can be found at 319 14th Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.

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About the Contributor
Carys Hsiung
Carys Hsiung, Staff Writer
Hi! I’m Carys Hsiung. I use she/her/hers pronouns, and I’m a Staff Writer for The Rubicon and RubicOnline this semester. At school, I’m involved in debate and orchestra. I also love listening to K-pop, drawing, and playing the piano. I can be reached at [email protected].

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