Due to high demand to schedule a return visit, We created a 2nd opportunity to visit Hmong Village over lunch. A couple of us went yesterday. While waiting for others to show up, we were able to observe staff (vendors? building crew?) very diligently separating out recyclables from trash and bagging it up to be stored in the back-of-house. While getting reusable bowls for in-house dining is still a challenge for any meal that's not strictly broth-based (pho or curry noodle soup, for example) to be served in a reusable bowl. We do understand that vendors likely wash dishes by hand so we do understand why.
We again saw a lot of recyclable plastic being used, and the cost of sustainable (plastic or compostable) clamshell containers is not much more than polystyrene clamshell containers. And if you were to go on Yelp and read the reviews of the food vendors, so many people comment how cheap the meals are, especially compared to the portion sizes and wonderful flavors. That indicates to us that people would be willing to pay more if the cost of a meal were to go up because of fluctuating food prices or because of other overhead costs like sustainable to-go containers.
We also found out that there is (limited) organics recycling occurring at Hmong Village! One of our co-founders was able to meet with Thomas Herr, one of the managers there. He's very interested in learning more about Biz Recycling grant opportunities and other ways that the Village, and each individual vendor can reduce waste and save money.
All in all, we think that the Hmong Village is again of some other establishments in terms of being able to be successful at switching to sustainable to-go containers, especially if the city ordinance is updated to reflect recyclable or compostable to-go containers will be allowed to be used (which generally means no polystyrene or black plastic). We will still host another outing later this spring and continue to encourage our followers, friends and family to visit Hmong Village for tasty, authentic, and affordable Hmong dishes, produce, baked goods, bubble tea, and much more.
We'd heard that our city council members' concerns included impact to very small businesses, like vendors in Hmong Village. Despite emailing twice and calling 3 times, we are unable to arrange a meeting with building manager/owner Thomas Herr. So we decided to have a late lunch and check out the market and food court ourselves. We were pleasantly surprised to see that nearly every vendor had sustainable (recyclable) plastic products!! And for in-house dining, they have reusable bowls. They don't always use them, even as requested.
While plastic "clamshell" containers may be more expensive than polystyrene ones, they "close and lock" better than polystyrene. Plus, their customers have choices to recycle or compost their to-go containers, instead of forcing consumers to only throw away non-recyclable (polystyrene) packaging. All in all, it was an informative, vibrant, and VERY yummy visit! We all vowed we'd be back and bring others with us!
If you go:
Facebook: "Like" Hmong Village on Facebook
If you visit: 1001 Johnson Parkway, Saint Paul, MN 55106
Hours: 9am-8pm, 7 days a week
Getting there: Please consider taking the bus, carpooling, or biking. Parking is limited and often not available.