Que Nha Restaurant; culinary notes and University Avenue musings from Macalester’s civic engagement programPosted: August 6, 2012
Guest blogger: Harry Kent
Looking upon the construction cacophony of University Avenue, it is evident that the avenue is undergoing major changes, even for a street that is used to such shifts. It is exciting to daydream of what exciting initiatives will drive the avenue forward via the new light rail. However, it feels that what is currently on the avenue is being overshadowed. Recent efforts to bring attention to the plight of businesses affected by the construction disruptions have certainly helped, but, there’s more than just giving businesses a meal or two during this difficult time.
My name is Harry Kent and I am currently a senior at Macalester College, and a student employee at Macalester’s Civic Engagement Center. Prior to that time, I was a community outreach coordinator and eventually, served a brief stint as Office Manager of the University Avenue Business Association. There, I learned about the difficulties the businesses were going to face with the light rail, and I worked to warn them about the effects and to try and lighten their burden by seeking political support and funding. The biggest perspective I gained was how hard these businesses were working to maintain their livelihoods, and, how the businesses that took a chance on the dangerous environment in the 1980s helped make the light rail a relevant possibility. And yet, in my opinion, planners and politicians have been unable to give the proper respect to the sacrifices that these businesses made, which made the light rail a viable idea in the first place. The fact that there are still scars from the era of disinvestment makes their contribution just as valuable. And yet, the businesses have continued to fight and prosper during difficult times.
That is why, at the Civic Engagement Center, I have worked to formulate a contribution that honors the history of the Avenue, and the work of these businesspeople. Every Thursday this summer, the Civic Engagement Center has invited Macalester College community members to lunch on University Avenue at an independent restaurant to show our support of the work of these businesses. We have the lunches to educate the Macalester community of the difficulties the businesses have been facing, and to encourage them to make return visits, or sample other restaurants. We don’t dine to simply lament over the difficulties these businesses face. Our goal is to demonstrate and to act on our desire to support some of the hardest-working businesses in the Twin Cities. The avenue has attracted fantastic interpretations of Thai, Vietnamese, Eritrean, and Chinese cuisines. Other excellent and affordable restaurants sprinkle the avenue. And, of course, how could I forget to mention The Best Steak House.
This past week, we visited Que Nha Vietnamese Restaurant, a pleasant cafe located in the Brownstone Model Cities building. The dining room is brightly colored and adorned with intricate pictures and silk dresses.
The dining room is brightly colored and adorned with intricate pictures and silk dresses. The food options are just as vibrant, as the menu is dotted with unique options, along with comforting favorites.
Our gang of nine opted most often for the bun dishes, the rice noodle salads that quench the thirst for cool in the summertime heat. Student worker Danait said it was the perfect mix of light fare that filled her up. Political Science professor Adrienne Christensen chose to liven up the visit to one of her favorite restaurants, opting for a sizzling rice beef hot pot. The rice charred evenly and smoothly on the cast-iron pot, and the meat weighed in well in the rice’s flavor. I opted for a similar option, as I sampled goat for the first time at a Vietnamese restaurant with the goat hotpot. Chocked full of Napa cabbage slices, and accompanied with a plate of egg noodles, the goat gave the broth a thicker accentuation of dark, meat flavor, and the meat itself was tender and rich to eat.
The wait for the food was a bit longer than preferred, but, we soon learned the other primary waitress called in sick, so, we were grateful for the valiant efforts of the solo waitress. She was grateful for our patronage and implored us to come back, and I see no reason why we wouldn’t fulfill her request.
So, we are helping businesses and they provide us great food. The best part of this project is you never can tell who really gets the better end of the bargain.
Que Nha Restaurant
849 University Avenue
If you would like to know more about the Macalester Civic Engagement Center, you can visit their website.