414 1/2 Cedar Av. S.
It was after 7:00 in the evening and I hadn't eaten. If you know me at all, then you know that this constitutes a true Food Emergency, and it requires drastic measures. We were at Cedar Riverside, having just shopped for camping gear at Midwest Mountaineering. Gone is the place with the gyros that replaced the Cedar Riverside Cafe when the demographics of the neighborhood changed. Of course, Hard Times is there, but having never eaten there and having heard that it's the dirtiest restaurant in the county, I didn't want to try it out in this time of urgent need. There's also a small, dirty looking Chinese place nearby, but I wasn't resigned to dirty yet. Just as I was about to accept that I might be eating hot dogs at that other truly filthy place, I saw a small, well-maintained awning across the street. At first I feared that it was a tea shop (the name was Chai, after all), but then I noticed the second word, and realized that there was clean food to be had in the neighborhood after all.
I stepped inside and discovered that there is one spotless restaurant at Cedar Riverside. Even the knick-knacks were dusted. At first, I thought maybe it was a brand-new place, but the waiter claimed that it has been there for years. How had I never seen it right across the street from Depth of Field? What was it doing in this predominantly Somali neighborhood? Who remembers to dust decorative elephants? Perhaps someone who remembers to wash the table after you eat. A good sign. I ordered the Pad Kee Mow noodle dish (for $8), and I asked for it hot. My companion had Seafood Herbs which has shrimp and scallops and shitake mushrooms and still costs just $12.
When the food arrived, I learned many other good things about Chai's. It's not just clean. The $8 noodles are delicately presented on a folded banana leaf. They really are hot, but underneath the heat they have a delicious flavor of their own. The Seafood Herbs have a completely different, but equally delicious flavor and come with their own delicate presentation. I felt like an intrepid explorer who had stumbled upon some sort of gold mine of flavor hidden behind a little awning in one of the lowest rent parts of the city. I felt like the Queen for eating perfect food off of such a pretty plate. I felt like a bargain hunter for paying so little for such bounty. Mostly I felt like shouting it to the world. Hey! Everybody! Eat at Chai's! You'll love it. However, bear in mind, once again, that there aren't that many tables. I'm going to get crabby if I have to wait in line for those noodles.
I know it's not breakfast, but it is fresh delicious Thai food for cheap. Who can fault me for wanting to share it with the world?