One of the most interesting tangents during this month’s panel discussion on “Who Owns Asian Cuisine?” was Lat14 owner Ann Ahmed talking about her start in the business, at Lemon Grass Thai Cuisine in Brooklyn Park. The restaurant was, as she told it, deliberately accessible—food framed as Thai (rather than Lao) to welcome in as broad a customer base as possible.
We’ve had the deeply flavored and mostly excellent fare at Lat14; wanting to work the opposite end of Ahmed’s biography, we went to Lemon Grass and got one of the most accessible options on a generally accessible menu: the lunch special. We paid $10 for a set lunch including an order of Flamin’ Chicken (a chicken curry), a pork egg roll, a cream cheese wonton, white rice, and a small salad.
Here’s the deal: This is one of the best lunch specials in the metro. (It might honestly be the best, but trying all of the hundreds of lunch specials in the region would be a job for a three-person team with a five-figure budget.)
The cream cheese wonton was crisp and light, and the egg roll was dense, packed full, and beautifully flaky. The small salad was surprisingly spicy and flavorful, and the curry was mellow, texturally balanced, and packing a pleasant lingering heat. While the food was accessible (and affordable without being suspiciously cheap), it had a culinary point of view and was made with real care. It’s no wonder that more than a decade after its opening, Lemon Grass Thai is still jammed with customers during a weekday lunch hour.
THE DISH: Lunch Special (with chicken), $10
THE PLACE: Lemon Grass Thai Cuisine, 8600 Edinburgh Centre Dr., Brooklyn Park
THE REASON: Ten bucks is a great price for a precision-tuned, all-you-could-want lunch special