Shopping and Dining: On’s Thai Kitchen and Ax Man
There are many great restaurants on University Avenue in St. Paul that are no doubt being strained by the construction of the Central Corridor light rail. So recently when I had a day off of work and met a St. Paulite friend for lunch, we wandered on our bikes down to University Ave to randomly check one of them out. Biking on University in construction was both exhilarating and frightening. At times, the four lane road was our own. Then suddenly a construction lane disappeared and we were on the wrong side of the orange cones in the middle of traffic brazenly claiming our space. In the end I would guess it was less stressful than negotiating the cones in a car. We started on Victoria and ended up just east of Snelling at On’s, probably because both of us have a penchant for Ax Man surplus which abruptly ended our search. My dad is somewhat of a tinker and I have great memories of us kids wandering the Ax Man aisles sticking our hands in bins of tiny light bulbs or doll eyeballs while he found the perfect screws or casters to finish a project in his wood shop. On this trip I found the remnants of a product line from a local artist in the 90s that exhalted happy girliness and snatched up several purse sized compacts that say “Hello Gorgeous” on the inside. And I got two Northwest Airlines covered miso bowls. Score!
Since shopping at a surplus store on an empty stomach seemed like a bad idea, we went to On’s first. On’s is next to a sex shop and has poorly lettered signs taped to the window that say “No Public Restrooms” and another indicating they don’t have a patio. However, the dining area is inviting with warm ochre tones and a long wide window facing the street. We ordered mango and papaya salad, respectively- it was 90 degrees out after all. Both salads were large portions of shredded fruits drenched in flavorful citrus and fish sauce dressing and topped with fresh roasted peanuts and cilantro. My friend commented his mango had the texture of noodles- which I consider a good thing. The papaya salad was a little more flavorful and balanced than the mango. If you go, I would suggest splitting a salad and a rice dish. I felt like my lips were puckered for awhile afterward. Not long after we wandered in to Ax Man, my friend found me to say he was going to run next door to the bathroom. Since we’d both just gone as we were leaving the restaurant, it was clear there was some kind of intestinal issue at hand. And suddenly I, too, felt a rumbling. On his return, he said that Ax Man always makes him a little queasy. Trying not to think about the plentiful digestive enzymes in papaya and the dusty chemical atmosphere of Ax Man, I mapped out a route back home that passed several gas stations just in case. In the end both of us were fine. We had an afternoon of delicious Thai food and wandered around a heaven of wonderful oddities on one of the last hot sunny afternoons of summer.