(Or words to that effect. It’s from Google Translate. But I figure most of my audience isn’t going to be able to correct me on this )
So I went to Mai Village last night. Mai Village was one of the little welter of ma-and-pa small businesses that, between the mid-eighties and the beginning of the Central Corridor construction, helped make University Avenue…
…well, not exactly “thrive”, but then the only thing that really thrives in Saint Paul is government. But compared to the desolate, vacant, blighted strip that the street was in the eighties, a couple of waves of Southeast Asian immigrants – Vietnamese and then H’mong, Lao and Cambodian – at least brought people, activity, commerce and life to the Avenue.
But it wasn’t the kind of business that Saint Paul’s government or the Met Council wanted – white, MPR-friendly, upper-middle-class, Caribou/Patagonia/Noodles-And-Company kinds of businesses. So they decided to drive their accursed train straight down University. This, on top of Minnesota and Saint Paul’s already-crushing regulatory burden.
Someone asked in the comment section the other day “what kind of business will make it on University?” Little service-oriented businesses that don’t need parking, maybe? Tiny hole-in-the-wall places with as little overhead as possible and fanatical little clienteles, I’d suspect. The big winners, of course, will be the big national chains – Caribou, Patagonia, NoodleCo, Chipotle – that have the financial wherewithal to ride out the construction and the political clout to score vacant space near the stations that will squat in the street every half-mile through Frogtown and the near North End.
Of course, if you’re in between those stations, you’re screwed.
Mai Village isn’t a hole in the wall – not anymore. When I first when there, of course, it was almost literally that; a nondescript little warren you entered through a door in a seedy-looking brick wall with very little fanfare directly off of Uni, with fantastic food. They made the “mistake” of investing in their business and in University avenue, back before the Central Corridor. They built a beautiful restaurant, full of Vietnamese artifacts and decor and big gorgeous windows looking out on the street, back when the street was a slowly rebuilding strip of humanity. It’s big, comfortable, serene – and I do love the food.
Today the view is of rail construction, and the Mai Village is hurting, struggling to make the payments on an investment based on pre-construction customer base with a clientele that’s been gutted by the rail construction.
So I’d like to grab dinner there one of these nights (actually I did, last night, but I’m game again); I’m craving the chicken curry, truth be told.
So I’m going to have a…well, not “MOB” event, really, but I’m going to throw this out there; I’m going to Mai Village next Thursday, September 27. Let’s say 7:00, to allow time for people to try to navigate the area. I’ll just be grabbing some more chicken curry (or maybe the ginger pork with rice noodles – I’ve been craving good Bun Heo Nuong since Vina closed). If you can show up, by all means do. It’s not a “protest”, per se, although I won’t discourage people venting about the Mogadishu-like morass that the construction has inflicted on the neighborhood, the misery of trying to get anywhere in the area, and the difficulty of parking (and I’ll give you a St. Paul-resident’s shortcut or two for those of you coming to Frogtown for the first time, later next week). And it’s not political, really – liberals’ money is just as good as anyone’s. Come on down.
If you’d be so kind as to leave an RSVP in the comments, I’ll make sure I get enough seats when I go next week. Or just show up. Either way, hope to see you there.
 It’s supposed to say “Protest! It’s What’s For Dinner!” in Vietnamese, but I have no idea. As they say in Arabic, “Insh’Google” – “If it’s Google’s will”. 
 I know, it probably doesn’t work either, just replacing the “Allah” in “Insh’allah”, “if it’s God’s will”, with Google. But then you don’t come here for grammatically correct Arabic, really, do you?