Welcome to Thomas-Dale (Frogtown)
Thomas-Dale, colloquially known as Frogtown (although it is more than just Frogtown), is rich with diversity. Many Vietnamese and Hmong people have made it their home, and there are people of African descent, Latinos, and people of other ethnic backgrounds as well. The streets are chock-full with things to do, see, and eat! It's a neighborhood with modest houses and hard-working people. There are African stores that operate halal markets, Mexican carnicerias, and other traditional food markets.
Asiantown is a subset of Frogtown (though the two are often synonymous in many people's minds), and if you have a hankering for anything Asian, you'll be sure to find it here. As you may imagine, there are all kinds of Asian restaurants, ranging from Cambodian to Laotian to Chinese to Thai. You'll find something for every palate here.
Then and Now
Thomas-Dale was settled in the late 1880s when downtown St. Paul started expanding outwards. The people who worked on the railroads needed somewhere to live, so Thomas-Dale became that neighborhood. The first wave of immigrants were German, Polish, Scandinavian, and Irish, and they built affordable homes to fit their working class lifestyles. They relied heavily on the streetcars for transportation back in those days.
This neighborhood went through a renewal, so many of these houses are no longer there, but the strong working ethic remains. The streetcars are also not a main mode of transportation (obviously), but now they rely on the METRO transit instead.
Burlington Railroad tracks to the north, 35E to the east, University Avenue to the south, and Lexington Parkway to the west.
Summit-University, Cathedral Hill, Midway, South Como, South of Maryland, Downtown.
Here are some crime statistics for the Thomas-Dale (Frogtown) neighborhood.
Frogtown Park and Farm (946 Minnehaha Ave. W, 651-600-3414) is more a farm than a park, and it's a great place to take a family to learn the basics of farming. They do have a playground to play on, and it's a nice place to relax after watching a demonstration on farming. They are a certified organic urban demonstration farm, and they are always thrilled to impart knowledge.
Ryan Park (618 Avon St. N, 651-632-5111) is a small neighborhood park that offers a moment of respite during a busy day. It has two playgrounds and a picnic area, and the park participates in the Roaming Rec program which is a free summer youth program. It has several activities including arts and crafts, games, and other activities at several locations around the city.
Augustine's Bar & Bakery (1668 Selby Ave., 651-447-3729) is a neighborhood pub who offers fresh and delicious food while people hang out. They have over 40 craft beers, and they have wine if you prefer that. In their bakery, they have baked goods that they make daily, including scones (both sweet and savory), ricotta cream cheese kolache, and several different kinds of croissants. As for their other food, they believe in using seasonal ingredients from local farms. Try the harissa potato hash for breakfast, the short rib Benedict for brunch, or the kofta kabobs for lunch or dinner. No matter what time you go, they'll be something tasty to eat and drink.
Bangkok Thai Deli (333 University Ave. W, 651-224-4300) looks unassuming, but serves food that is satisfying and tasty. From the stuffed chicken wings as an appetizer to the kuai-jub, doodee noodle, and creamy tom-yum hot pot for the entree, and much more, there is a variety of dishes to choose from.
Big Daddy's Old Fashioned Barbeque (625 University Ave. W, 651-222-2516) has been serving up BBQ to the neighborhood for thirty years, and it's some of the best in town. They have kept in business with the help of a supportive community, and they are committed to giving back to their neighborhood. They are partial to Southern-style BBQ, and they offer everything from rib tips to full racks to whole chickens. They have all the usual sides as well, and all their food is lip-smacking good.
Demera (823 University Ave. W, 651-224-6224) is an Ethiopian restaurant that serves tasty traditional fare along with Ethiopian beers. Try the wot (beef stew) or the lentils, and pair it with a tasty beverage. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable, and they're always willing to explain what the dishes are for the uninitiated.
El Bravo Mexican (538 Rice St., 651-291-0363) is a cozy restaurant with great service and delicious home-cooked Mexican food. They keep it simple, from tacos to tostadas, but everything is fresh and tasty. They also have American fare like burgers and fries, but you might as well go for the burrito if you're here.
Hickory Hut (647 University Ave. W, 651-224-9464) is an unassuming-looking restaurant that offers BBQ that's bold and flavorful. They've won accolades for their chicken wings, and they believe in service with a smile (and sides!). They have ribs galore, catfish fillet, and you've got to try the sweet potato pie for dessert. You can order online.
King Thai Asian Cuisine (2625 University Ave., 651-291-4684)is a spacious restaurant with a modern style. They specialize in traditional Thai, Vietnamese, and Hmong cuisine. You can start with the crispy pork intestine if you're feeling adventurous, then try the pho, the panang curry, or the Hmong sweet pork. They also have platters for parties, and you can order online.
Kolap Restaurant (601 Dale St. N, 651-336-6108) is a Cambodian restaurant that has been noted in The NYT for its sour soup. It's an underrated gem with a friendly staff and authentic fare. The decor is unassuming, but the food is bursting with flavor in every bite. Bring your adventurous stomach with you if you want to try the pak lou or the poush chrouk bom-pong. If you want something a bit more familiar, they have pho, fried rice, and spring rolls.
Lao Thai Restaurant (501 University Ave. W, 651-224-5026) has been providing authentic Laotian and Thai food to the community since 1996. They are committed to using local products for their cuisine, including shopping at the Unidale Farmers Market during the summer. They have pho, papaya salads, and all sorts of curries. They have plenty of vegetarian options as well. Finish off your meal with mango sticky rice for a satisfying finale.
Los Ocampo (615 University Ave. W, 651-340-5311) is a Mexican restaurant, and they pride themselves on their homemade masa cakes. They have several locations throughout the Twin Cities, and they make traditional Mexican fare from scratch. If you want to try something a little different, try the mariscada picosa, the tlacoyo, or the sabores. They also have burritos, enchiladas, and tostados. For dessert, try the platanos fritos for something sweet and fried.
Ngon Vietnamese Bistro (799 University Ave. W, 651-222-3301) serves Traditional Vietnamese cuisine and has strong ties with local farms. Try the lobster pho or the pork belly & egg, and you won't be disappointed. They are serious about their brews and cocktails as well, so try a bang time or an aviation a Vientiane while you dine. They have plenty of gluten-free and vegetarian/vegan options as well.
On's Kitchen (1613 University Ave. W, 651-644-1444) serves authentic Thai food that is spicy, full of flavor, and hearty. It's a small restaurant, and the ever-present line speaks to the quality of the food. The stuffed crab cakes are an appetizer, but they can be a meal in and of themselves. Try the pla lad prik, the mango chicken, or the wonton soup. There are vegetarian options as well, and there's something to please everyone's palate.
Pho Ca Dao (439 University Ave. W, 651-222-4615) is a cozy restaurant that concentrates on serving delicious pho. Whether it's with tripe or pork or chicken, it'll be quick, hearty, and satisfying. Be sure to bring cash, however, as that's all they accept as payment.
Silhouette Bakery & Bistro (383 University Ave. W, 651-348-7661) prides itself on the beauty of their food as well as the tastiness. They serve several Asian creations, including Japanese buns, mochi, and Korean beef & kimchee (in a taco or in a bowl). They have macaroons, tarts, and cakes, and it's a feast for the eyes as well as the tongue. They have some vegetarian options, too.
Thai Cafe (371 University Ave. W, 651-225-8231) is a casual and cozy Thai cafe that focuses on simple and satisfying traditional Thai food in a relaxed atmosphere. They are known for their sour pork ribs, their whole fishes such as the steamed sour fish, and try the sticky rice sangaya for dessert. Have a bubble tea to go with your meal or fresh young coconut.
Trung Nam French Bakery (739 University Ave. W, 651-229-0887) has a passion for both classic French breads and traditional Vietnamese fare. The service is cheerful, and the breaks are hot, fluffy, and delicious. They've been serving the community since 1989, and they offer a wide array, ranging from banh mi to croissants. Have a Trung Nam coffee while you're there.
Village Ethiopian & Asian Restaurant (315 University Ave. W, 651-788-9152) is a hot blend of Ethiopian and Malaysian food in possibly the only such restaurant in Minnesota. Whether you're looking for curry chicken or Yummy Noodles, you'll find it here.
Anh's Hairstylists (397 University Ave. W, 651-224-7196) is a casual and comfortable shop that really knows Asian hair, which is notoriously difficult to cut. It's reasonably-priced, and you'll walk away confident that you look your best. Just be sure to schedule your cut well in advance.
Fuerst Art & Printing Inc (293 Como Ave., #7, 651-489-8144) was founded in 1980 and bought their first printing press in 1982. They have grown and adapted with the times, and now they offer a full slate of services that include digital options. They are committed to giving their customers a top-notch quality printing job, including logo creation, digital scanning, foil stamping, and so much more.
Grooming House (603 University Ave. W, 651-340-0391) is a local barbershop with a casual atmosphere and a friendly staff. Whether you're looking for a fade, a shave, or to get a line enhancement, this is the place for you. They also do facials and shampoos, and they sell grooming butter.
HmongTown Marketplace (217 Como Ave., 651-487-3700) started in 2004 with the desire to create a bustling Hmong town center near the capital. Now, it's the place for Hmong people to gather and to show off their culture. There are many different vendors, including a tea shop, a pharmacy, and, of course a lot of food. Laarb, barbecue, and so much more.
Hmong Village (1001 Johnson Pkwy., 651-771-7886) opened in 2010 following the success of HmongTown Marketplace. It appeals to the younger Hmong crowd, and it features a lot of fusion cuisine, such as caramel apple pie boba tea. There is plenty to try here, and you'll probably have to come back several times to get to them all.
River of Goods (946 W Pierce Butler Rte., 888-647-4990) is passionate about finding treasures from around the world and using them as inspiration for their own products. They are the largest importers of Tiffany-style lighting, and they sell furniture and home decor as well. Their products are bright, cheery, and evocative.
SuSu Studio (765 N Milton St., 612-420-0521) has been offering Modest style fashion (M-Style) since 2016 to women who want to be both modest and fashionable. They believe the two are not mutually exclusive, and this is the place to shop if you believe the same.
Billy's Victorian (859 Thomas Ave., 651-293-0608) started as a grocery store and was turned into a bar in the 1930s. It's a casual neighborhood bar where everybody knows everybody else. It's a chill place to go when you just want a beer, some booya, and to play bocce ball or bumper pool.
Half Time Rec (1013 Front Ave., 651-488-8245) is known as the bar featured in Grumpy Old Men and as a great place to take out-of-towners. It's also quite the party on St. Patrick's Day because it's an Irish bar, and you'll want to lift a pint or two while you're here. Give the green chile French fries a go before you try your hand at some bocce ball.
Nickel Joint Sports (501 Blair Ave., 651-489-9858) is one of the oldest bars in St. Paul. They have been serving the Frogtown community since 1905 with a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. They have added micro and craft beers to their beer selection, and they have fun events scheduled, including the Winter Beanbag League.
Willard's Liquors (738 Thomas Ave. W, 651-224-3155) is believed to be the second oldest bar in St. Paul. It's a simple, no-frills bar that serves pizza and beer at a very reasonable price. You can shoot pool while you eat and drink, or you can just relax to the music.
Community Arts & Recreation
Center for Hmong Arts and Talent (995 University Ave. W, Studio 220, 651-603-6971) started as Pom Siab Moob Theatre in 1990, the first Hmong theater company in the world. They became CHAT in 1998 in order to expand their horizons beyond theater to nurture different types of Hmong artists. Thus, they became the first multidisciplinary Hmong arts organization in America (and they are still the only). Now, they support and encourage Hmong artists to develop their talents and to express themselves and their inner truths. They also focus on social justice through arts.
Moving Line Studio (884 Charles Ave., 651-494-8192) offers art classes to people of all ages and abilities. There are individual classes as well as group classes, but no matter what, there is plenty of one-on-one attention for every student. The owner is passionate about art, and she's eager to share that passion with others.
Scheffer Recreational Center (237 Thomas Ave. W, 651-298-5820) offers educational programming such as Robotics & Engineering, Youth Apparel Design, and Community Recreation Night. They also have after school events, athletics for adults and youth, field rentals, and much more.
Little Mekong Night Market (422 University Ave. W, 651-222-7798) offers an experience steeped in Southeast Asian culture that is unlike any other. Only offered a few days every summer/fall, it evokes the night markets of Southeast Asia in all their splendor. They held their first night market in 2013, and they are proud to celebrate their 5th anniversary this year. From arts to performances to other activities, underlying it all is the delicious food. Laotian, Vietnamese, and Thai, just to name a few. You'll want to try it all.
There are several bus routes that go through Frogtown, including 33, 34, and the most-used 16. Search at Metro Transit for all the routes.
Frogtown is also serviced by the METRO Green Line.
AGAPE (1037 University Ave. W, 651-744-7970) stands for Adolescent Girls And Parenting Education, and they are passionate about proving pregnant teens/teen mothers with a secondary education. They are part of the Saint Paul Public School District 625. They have been committed to their mission since they started in 1958, and they provide child care so their students can attend classes without worry. They have a variety of classes, ranging from art to math to parenting, and they provide support for ELL and students with learning disabilities.
Jackson Magnet Elementary School (437 Emund Ave. W, 651-293-8650) is a dual-language immersion school that was established in 2006 to provide pre-K-5th grade students education in both Hmong and English. They focus on strong social skills as well as education, and they believe that cultural diversity is a benefit when it comes to teaching and learning. They have plenty of day trips for experiential learning along with classes in science, music, African American cultural enrichment, and Hmong studies.
St. Paul City School--Preschool Program (260 Edmund Ave. W, 651-225-9177) believes that learning starts early, and it's best to have a variety of hands-on experiences for their youngest learners. They know that creative playing is a great way to learn, and they have two large play (and learning) rooms filled with toys, books, and adventures for this purpose.
St. Paul City School--Primary School (260 Edmund Ave. W, 651-225-9177) is a primary school that serves students K-5th grade. They have many enrichment classes for various disciplines including art, media, music, and physical education. They also supportive of ELL students and have programs , and they believe in community and culture being a big part of learning as well.
St. Paul City School--Middle School (643 Virginia St., 651-225-9177) is a middle school for students in 6th through 8th grade. They make sure their students are preparing for college by having their basics (math, writing, and reading) covered and by adding to them with enrichment classes. They have plenty of electives as well including College Readiness. They strongly support ELL, too.
Saint Agnes School (530 Lafond Ave., 651-925-8703) is a private Catholic school for students K-12th grade. They were established in 1888 and have been providing a quality education ever since. They were recently named one of the top 50 Catholic schools in America. They offer a wide variety of honor classes as well as academics, and they adhere to the belief that spiritual beliefs should be the bedrock of an outstanding education.