When Macy Lee traveled in Thailand with her daughter in 2017, she fell for the food — especially dessert.
“I love decadence,” she said. The cafes, with their locally grown coffees and over-the-top confections, were a highlight of the trip.
One standout among many was the honey toast: thick buttered bread, griddled, topped with ice cream, and drizzled with honey.
“There was something about it being toasty and soft and chewy on the inside,” Lee said. She realized then, “I have to find a way to bring this back to America.”
She went back to Thailand the next year and toured the country’s cafes, taking notes.
The result of her research is Thirty-Six Cafe, which opened at 949 Grand Av. in St. Paul last month. That honey toast is on the menu of this cafe with a serious sweet tooth. So are other “brick toast” creations topped with matcha butter or chocolate candy. (There is a savory section, too, with three different versions of avocado toast.)
But the real star, the dish that has been keeping Lee and co-owner and sister-in-law Soua Vang slammed since they opened, is the soufflé pancakes.
Custardy, fluffy cakes made by separating the egg whites and yolks before putting them back together, can reach up to 2 inches in thickness. They’re real lookers, and mouthwatering Instagram photos from some early guests have led to something of a rush on them.
The pancakes take about 15 minutes to make, and Vang, who runs the kitchen, has been churning out plate after plate of them to patient customers. Lee says some have waited up to two hours for their order.
“We went viral overnight,” she said.
The decor of the cafe is eye-catching, too. Flowers are everywhere — on the wall, around the mirrors, hanging from the chandelier. And there are splashes and splashes of pink, from the chairs to the rose tea lattes.
“You don’t see a floral pink chic cafe that is Instagrammable, in combination with brunch food,” Lee said about why hers is taking off.
“We wanted a space that ladies can come hang out,” Lee said, “and it’s attracted everyone.”