Hurts So Good

Frogtown's new Little Szechuan excels with the numbing, tingling, burning joys of authentic chili-pepper-laden cooking from Chengdu

In short: You gotta get in there. As is customary in Chinese restaurants, the place really pulls out all the stops for weekend lunches, which is when you'll find all kinds of specials made with celebration-appropriate ingredients, like pork feet and large whole fish. If you want some of the best Chinese food Minnesota's ever had, get in there with a big group for a Saturday lunch. Even more happily, however, Little Szechuan, unlike most Minnesota Chinese restaurants, doesn't set out second-best fare on weeknights, and, to gild the lily, they offer a full beer and wine list, and servers who know the menu in and out.

Beef short ribs so sweet, so savory, so crisp that you end up in one of those carnivorous frenzies of trying to eat the whole plate of them at once. Or at least I did.
Jana Freiband
Beef short ribs so sweet, so savory, so crisp that you end up in one of those carnivorous frenzies of trying to eat the whole plate of them at once. Or at least I did.

Oh, and I almost forgot something: The restaurant itself looks like someplace you'd want to visit: The walls are as red as the lips of a starlet, and the black, twisting light fixtures take Italy as their design lodestar, not Frogtown. On one of my many joyful visits, I said a quiet "thank you" to the brief candle of an Asian-fusion restaurant that filled this big room between Dale and the state Capitol with lots of style and sass, and then promptly vanished. St. Paul needed a real Szechuan restaurant far more than it needed a place that puts cilantro on top of the lobster bisque—in fact, Minneapolis needed it too, as the close proximity of I-94 means that lots of Mill City residents are leaping the imaginary barbed wire that separates them from the brick belle of the east. You don't believe it? It's true, I've seen it. I guess every era has its miracles: Sometimes the unlikely-looking guy on the next bench is actually a millionaire taking in the night air, and sometimes the new Szechuan joint is just what you need to perk up a winter with adventure, joy, and fire.

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