The Little Mekong Night Market is the new sparkling jewel of the summer. Nestled near the Western Green Line light rail station in St. Paul, the market is a feast for your senses, filled with delicious street food, local purveyors, arts, crafts, entertainment, and family-friendly activities.
The Hot Dish was there on a warm Saturday night in July to scope out this new summer market, put on by Little Mekong, the St. Paul Asian business and cultural district. We sampled many of the tasty food offerings including Hmong and Lao pork sausages, sticky rice, chili-spiked mango spears, shaved coconut snow, Mexican roasted corn, bubble tea, rhubarb elderberry popsicles, and custard buns.
Where it is: 400 block of University Ave near the Green Line station at the intersection of University and Western Avenues in St. Paul.
Day of the week/hours: Saturdays, August 16 and September 6; and Sunday, September 21 during the St. Paul Open Streets event.
Vendors of note: Wung Lee Supermarket, Lao Thai Restaurant, Lilly Bean's Ice Desserts, St. Pops, Bymore Mexican Roasted Corn, Silhouette Bakery, Fierce Ferments, and Tii Cup.
Market features: The street food at the market is a real standout. The freshness, flavors, and variety made it hard to stop eating.
Wung Lee Supermarket, known for their meats, had quite the line for their delicious Hmong sausage and sticky rice plate with hot chili sauce.
Lao Thai Restaurant had a fantastic fusion Lao Brat, spiced with lemongrass and ginger and topped with mango corn salsa.
Authentic Mexican roasted corn, covered in mayonnaise, Cotija cheese, and chili powder from local wholesaler Bymore was also a huge hit.
Fans topped off the night with icy treats including organic, hand-made popsicles from St. Pops and tropical shaved snow from Lilly Bean's Ice Desserts.
The market also offers a huge array of family activities. Kids and adults alike can print their own postcards with four hand-operated printing presses from Streetcomer Letter Press, engraved with the Mekong and Mississippi Rivers. Volunteers teach you to fold giant origami swans, build tiny sail boats, and write poetry with Rivers of Poetry.
Market vibe: The vibe is eclectic and vibrant with an authentic Asian flair and a carnival atmosphere. The diverse neighborhood turned out when we visited, as did many kids and families from all over the Twin Cities. The beautiful Chicks on Sticks stilt walkers greeted market-goers from on high, while the main stage hosted a full lineup of entertainment including a local talent open mic, Asian dance troops, bands, solo performers, hip-hop artists, a house DJ, and film screenings.
Last thought: Keep your eye on this market because it's going to grow and grow fast. The quality of the food, the festive atmosphere, and the myriad of activities make this celebration in the Little Mekong district one of our favorite hangouts of the summer. With the easy access from the Green Line light rail, you and your family should make this your next outing.
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