Laab Gai and Surly Hell at Sen Yai Sen Lek

Joe Hatch-Surisook & Nicole Pappas Stanoch of Sen Yai Sen Lek // Photo by Natalie Champa Jennings

Joe Hatch-Surisook & Nicole Pappas Stanoch of Sen Yai Sen Lek // Photo by Natalie Champa Jennings

She’s spent years migrating among local brewery circles—a family tradition of sorts. “Bars and that culture have always been a part of my life. My great-grandpa was Stand Up Frank, so I grew up with my dad still working there,” she says, referring to the notorious near-North dive bar of the same name that closed in 2009.

Her art studies in NYC were followed by five years managing a small wine and cheese bar. She developed such close relationships with her vendors that she still flies back to consult on wine lists for new restaurants. She’s developing a similarly tight network around SYSL, though the cuisine pulls its weight in that affair.

“Omar [Ansari of Surly] and his wife are regulars here. Northgate [Brewing co-founder], Adam [Sjogren], he’s in here all the time,” she says. “That’s the other cool thing, our food’s so good it brings them in anyway. So as our regulars start making these great beers, they just bring them here. It’s so cool that they want to come here, and get involved and get on tap.”

SYSL was Northgate’s first account, after Pappas Stanoch spied the Wall’s End brown ale at Grumpy’s NE the day after it was released. She noted how the touch of caramel sweetness in a light, malty brown would fit perfectly with SYSL’s menu. She was at first unaware it had been brewed by one of her regulars.


Northgate’s summer release, an orange-ginger wheat beer called Bliss, is set to debut at SYSL and sounds tailor-made for Thai. Pappas Stanoch already knows how well citrusy beer works among their menu items, thanks to their history with Flat Earth Brewing in St. Paul.

In 2008, when both were still burgeoning companies, SYSL began buying Angry Planet IPA, but were willing to engage Flat Earth’s now well-known eagerness for infusions. The result is that SYSL carries an exclusive Flat Earth bottling: Xanadu, an orange-infused version of their popular Cygnus X-1 porter. It’s a refreshing version, well suited a long snacking session like in Killer Paring #1.

Related Post: Deschutes Chainbreaker White IPA Review

The Xanadu also illustrates a challenge for SYSL—featuring new and relevant Minnesota beers in a climate where hop-forward beers predominate. Hops are a particular challenge with Thai cuisine. Our meals at SYSL found pronounced hop bitterness running the risk of amplifying heat while mitigating sweetness. It was a reminder exactly why the Thai beers Chang and Singha are so malty.

But SYSL is versatile, and there are richer, less spiced dishes that prove good partners. On tap recently, we found that Lift Bridge’s Hop Dish IPA clashed bitterly with some dishes, but offered complementary seasoning to a milder beef Penang curry.

SYSL was also among Surly’s very early account holders, and their brews have regularly occupied one of the three taps since those early days (think more Bender than Furious with this food). “What’s also great is since they’ve kind of expanded the beers that they’re carrying annually, I’ve been getting a lot of the Hell,” says Pappas Stanoch. “I love that beer, it’s so good and it’s perfect with our food.”

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  1. bfmartucci says

    The Naam Prik Ong isn’t half bad either. If it’s chilly outside and you’re feeling extra hungry, it pairs well with a cup of the tom yum soup.

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