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[MSP] One-dish wonders

I've noticed (I think—I realize I’m still relatively new) a tendency on this Midwest board (more so than the San Francisco board, for instance,) to categorize restaurants as either "chow-worthy" or "not chow-worthy."

However, in San Francisco, while there were one or two exceptionally rare restaurants that many considered the entire menu to be chow-worthy, it was more common for people to recommend just one dish at a particular establishment--restaurant X for the house-made tofu, and anything made with it; taco truck Y for the tacos al pastor, but not the chicken or any other tacos; little shop Z for the red bean or green tea ice cream, but no other flavors.

I think it's rare when every item on a menu is chow-worthy, and I think we might be doing chow-selves a disservice when we disregard a restaurant just because the whole menu doesn't shine. Are there dishes you recommend at Twin Cities establishments that, in your opinion, rise above all other menu items or are a surprise to you? Maybe it's even seasonal, like a Friday fish fry during Lent? After all, there's usually some reason a restauranteur goes into business, Like the Mom or Dad that everyone to whom everyone says, "Your popovers/panang curry/sauces are so good you should open a restaurant."

For instance, Alice's (I think it was, forgive me if I'm mis-attributing) fries at the Black Sea on Snelling in St. Paul, come to mind although, I wouldn't say that she considered the rest of the Black Sea un-chow-worthy, just that she thought the fries were exceptional.

Anything else you'd cross town for?


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  1. This is a great idea TDQ. And thanks for the shout out.
    I can think of a lot of places that have a few top-notch dishes, but I can't think of any that have only 1. I guess Shuang Cheng has a great spicy squid dish. China Jen, while I love it, has some shortcomings, and I go there for about 5 dishes: Kung Pao chicken, soup dumplings, cold sesame noodles, Dun Dun noodles, spicy wontons.
    I wonder why the TC tend more toward the whole experience and are not as tolerant of one dish wonders. Is it the lack of public transportation here which makes a trip across town more of a trip, not to mention high gas prices? Is it the related higher level of sprawl? Is it that this is a bit more of a family place than, say, NYC or SanFran, and you have to be able to please more people? I am just wondering aloud.

    1 Reply
    1. re: AliceS

      Alice, those are good recommendations!

      And your speculation about "why" is interesting, assuming my observation is even true. Actually, I was initially thinking it was more because people in the "bigger" (for want of a better word) chow cities have many choices and have come to expect that they can be ultra picky. When you have lots of Mexican restaurants, for instance the way SF does, you learn can afford to be choosy. But when you only have one or two of a kind, say just a couple of Turkish restaurants, then perhaps you have more of a tendency to think well, it's our ONLY Turkish restaurant, or, well, I think this Turkish restaurant is better overall than that one... I was thinking it's just a way of thinking about chow once you've reached a critical mass in a certain kind of cuisine. The more choices you realize you have, the more you decide to be selective, right down to the individual dish. Eventually, that kind of thinking just become a frame of mind.

      For instance, I like the Cajun Lucy at The Groveland Tap in St. Paul (came up in another thread yesterday). Really, the Groveland Tap is a neighborhood bar, and as neighborhood bars go, I think it's a cut above the rest. But there are many neighborhood bars to choose from in the Twin Cities. Would I cross town (or the river) to go to the Groveland Tap? Perhaps not, except that I really like that Cajun Lucy.

      I really really like the cherry and peach cones at Connie's Creamy cone. I think it's just cherry or peach syrup mixed into to regular soft serve ice cream, but, still, it's enough for me to go out of my way for, even though there are lots of exceptional ice cream places in the Twin Cities.


    2. I too think distance has quite a bit to do with it. I also think that unique-ness in a variety of ways plays a part in how we deem a place chow-worthy.

      And since we don't have the quantity of restaurants I think we hold onto our favorites with a fiece stubbornness. How many Jucy Lucy discussions are really needed to steer an out of towner to your personal pick? Don't get me wrong, I have my favorites too that I'd be heartbroken to see fold but I don't see them as interesting to other and I could very well be wrong about that.

      For me there are a couple places I go to just for one thing. Campiello's truffle cake is one such item that turns me into the cartoon character Snuffles (who when he got his treat would float up into the air). It just makes me so dang happy!

      And if I had to eat just one food for the rest of my life it'd be Pepito's bean lupitas with sour cream, guac, salsa and a bowl of chips (which are needed as condiment delivery vehicles so it really is just one food in a cheat-y sort of way).

      Would I send people to those places just for those particular items? Probably not.

      8 Replies
      1. re: MplsM ary

        M ary, Campiello's and their truffle cake seems to have flown under my chow radar to this point. It seems like I'll have to seek it out. Is this the right info for it?

        1320 W. Lake Street
        (612) 825-2222
        6411 Shady Oak Road
        Eden Prairie
        (612) 941-6868

        On the topic of Pepito's, I am addicted to their salsa,which, I believe, they make themselves. I don't know why, exactly, but I can't get enough of it. It's just the right texture for me, not too watery, not too chunky, and the right combo of smokiness and spicyness.


        I agree you might not necessarily send someone to Pepito's just for the bean lupitas, or the salsa, unless they specifically mentioned they were looking for just that, but I do think when Pepito's comes up for discussion, it's worth acknowledging that there are one or two chow-worthy things on their menu.

        Sometimes, I am sad when I see someone dismiss a restaurant outright because not every item on the menu is chow-worthy.

        As someone who is new to Jucy Lucy's, I do think it's worth recommending to out-of-towners who are interested in food in the "burger" genre simply because it's unique to the Twin Cities. When I visit a new city, I like to eat the foods that are unique to that area. But I might not expect someone to drive all the way over to St. Paul to the Nook (where my personal favorite jucy lucy is), when they are going to be in Minneapolis and Matt's may do.


        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          Yes, that Campiello. It could be the way I order this dessert, too. We've probably had a wine with dinner and my oenophile friend almost always chooses an approprite, often subtle wine. I go for the big, bold, yowza reds and so I'll order a glass of whatever fits that category and my friend orders some French press coffee. In combination it is what i like to call a 'Chocolate Speedball.'

          I totally agree with your assessment of Pepito's salsa. When I make it I will do chunky but I adore their seed-ridden, spicy, smooth salsa.

          Should someone come up with a vegetarian Jucy Lucy I will gladly join the Chowhound fray next go-round.

          1. re: MplsM ary

            The truffle cake is worth the visit. When the scallops are on the menu don't miss them, they come with a sweet potato puree that makes you want to lick the plate.

            1. re: MplsM ary

              Birchwood Cafe has had a veggie Lucy recently, a black bean
              burger with gouda or fontina inside, I believe.

              1. re: faith

                Finally, thank you! I've been driving myself crazy trying to remember which restaurant I read offered a veggie lucy. They don't mention it on the menu on their website. The menu is really just an example, anyway.


                How is it? Have you tried it?


          2. re: MplsM ary

            Distance also brings up an interesting counterpoint. A few weeks ago, an out of towner asked for recs near the airport. I suggested a couple of places within a few minutes of the airport, but was dissed for it because neither of them would be considered one of the top five of their kind in Minneapolis. Frankly, I thought that criticism sounded UN-chowhoundish. Admittedly, I would not drive across town for the green papaya salad or duck curry at Ketana's. But if I'm near the airport with limited time, they have darn yummy green papaya salad and duck curry. If you live somewhere and have the luxury of time, maybe it's worth driving to Chiang Mai Thai for their fried cashews and interesting wine selection. But that's not always the best option.

            I think the onus is on us (pardon the almost pun) to find the one or two most chowhoundy things on anyone's menu, either for that across-town trip that is worth the drive, or for the local dash because you don't have the time.

            1. re: Loren3

              You bring up an excellent aspect of this discussion -- sometimes we cycle & cycle on the same few recommendations without actually meeting the OP's needs. Sometimes the most respectful help is that which acknowledges the limits they present.

              If the person seeks good outdoor seating, or a spot near the airport, or someplace that can serve a group of 8 on a budget, then you're absolutely right that we locals have choices to make in posting our replies.

              If we know of a place that meets all their needs but has only a few delicious options, by all means post it and say which menu items are worthwhile.

              If we know of a place that doesn't meet all of their immediate needs but is a wonderful option for folks who seek the same food without the same constraints, identify that as such ... although I totally agree that not every thread should turn into a discussion of the best Twin Cities Thai.

              If we don't have a recommendation that meets their needs, there's no law that says we have to answer every single thread in order to be worthy today. In fact, that gets less & less helpful as it dilutes the ability to find a solid answer to the OP's question. My opinion only, of course!

              1. re: KTFoley

                I like your thinking on this, KTFoley! :)


          3. Being a huge east coast buffalo wing fan I will go to Sweeneys (dale ave st paul) for wings and only wings (and beer.) Sometimes I tell friends that & they didn't even realize Sweeneys served food.

            Crossed the river to Matt's for a JL - ok. Won't be going back for something that I can order closer..... (Nook, Groveland)

            Is Yarussos chow worthy? Great Dagos & Great baked ziti/moscotolli. (Payne in St Paul)

            What about Roosters BBQ/Takeout - best fried chicken. (Randolf, in St Paul)

            Can't think of anything else that fits the question.....But a good question for future thought.

            8 Replies
            1. re: St Paul Susie

              Sweeney's serves food? ;-)


              According to their website, their fabulous flamingo wings are famous!

              Lots of fun ideas, Susie! I've been curious about Rooster's for awhile, but I always seem to be passing by it when I'm trying to get somewhere on time and no time to stop. Sounds like it's worth a stop when I'm in a fried chicken mood!

              Rooster's BBQ Deli 979 Randolph Ave, St. Paul; 651.222.0969



              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                My Rooster's experience:

                Dara (City Pages restaurant reviewer) wrote a column w/in the last year about the best places to get whole chicken for a quick dinner. Y'know, like the chicken in the plastic casket you can get off the warmer @ Cub -- except good.

                Roosters was one of the 3-4 places she recommended. Since it is 2 blocks off my homeward commuting route, I stopped in and got a whole smoked/roasted chicken. I was very disappointed -- the smoke tasted like it came out of a bottle.

                Nonetheless, I will have to visit again to try the fried chicken. I sometimes wonder if I've hit a place too soon after a good rec and they're struggling with the surge in business. Surely it will be better than the KFC in my neighborhood! ;)

                1. re: kcmarshall

                  Mpls St. Paul Magazine published a special "best barbecue of the Twin Cities" in March 2005 and gave Rooster's high marks for the ribs and fried chicken, but called the roasted chicken "dreadful." I don't think you're alone in your opinion, sadly.


                  It would seem we're definitely one-dish wonder territory with the fried chicken.


                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    I agree witht e Roosters chicken review(the bad one). I saw Dara's article also and tried all the places in her review. Although I disliked Roosters bbq chicken, I really liked their "St Louis" pulled pork sandwich. "St. Louis" means that they put the cole slaw right on the bun.

                    You may want to try Rotisseria in Uptown. This was also reviewed by Dara in the same review as Roosters. Here's the link to the article: http://citypages.com/databank/26/1268...

                    If you go there, make sure they give you some of their homemade hot sauce. I don't know what it's called - but it's good - and their chicken is delicious and unique.

                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      reply to bluesman 13 because there's no reply link on his post for weird software nesting limitations:

                      Okay, that Rotisseria in Uptown sounds amazing. Thank you for the link! I will have to go there. I was especially intrigued by your mention of the homemade sauce, and, now upon read the link, the fact that it's Peruvian. I wonder how many other "Peruvian" restaurants we have in the Cities? (Although, this one only serves roasted chicken and related sides!)


                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        Yep, this is a reply to TDQ's question about Peruvian restaurants.

                        We have 2 -- Rotisseria and Macchu Picchu.

                        Rotisseria serves just the peruvian-style chicken, and many of the restaurants who serve it in Peru specialize in just this dish. Last time I went I was disappointed not to find all three sauces that are usually served: a purplish one made with cured olives, a yellowish one made with garlic and aji, and a green one made with cilantro.

                        Macchu Picchu is on the northwest corner of Lake & Lyndale, about two doors up. It serves classic Peruvian dishes like lomo saltado (beef stir-fried with onions, tomatoes and french fries), escabeche (chicken in a creamy sauce made of garlic, peanuts and aji peppers), papas a la huancaina (potatoes in a regional peruvian style.)

                        Last time I was there, they also served peruvian soda (Inca Cola -- sugary enough to be a dental sin) and possibly some peruvian beers (Cusquena, for example, which is nostalgic for me but otherwise a lot like Bud lite).

                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                          TDQ's reply to KTFoley re: Machu Picchu (Inca Kola)

                          Wow, Inca Kola! Now, there's something I haven't thought to seek out. Inca Kola is bright yellow, sugary sweet (as you say), and tastes like bubble gum. My firm belief that it's an acquired taste that I haven't yet acquired. A dear friend of mine who had an Andean upbringing can't get enough of the stuff whenever he can find it. It's good to know I'll be able to lead him to some when he next visits!


                          I don't exactly crave Inka Cola, but, do you know if they serve empanadas/pastelillos at Machu Piccu? I love those little football, savory shaped pastries.


                      2. re: The Dairy Queen

                        We finally made it to Roosters. This is definitely a take-out joint, though they do have two small booths. And an Atari game and TV for while you wait. I loved the collection of roosters--cookie jars, S&P shakers, etc. We saw them carrying in the cole slaw and the fries in restaurant supply packaging , so we know those aren't made from scratch...

                        We ordered the 8 piece FLAVOR-CRISP chicken bucket with fries--$11.00 The wait was about 20 minutes. This chicken was deep/pressure-cooker fried, rather than pan fried, which is a bit of a different experience. I thought it was a bit salty, but otherwise a good experience. Also, I recommend ordering ahead and just swinging by to pick up as the oily smell stays in your hair and clothes after even only a 20 minute wait.

                        Next time, I'll skip the fries--they were hot, but the restaurant supply kind and I think maybe the oil was old or something. (Apparently, I didn't heed the "one dish" wonder part...)

                        A recommend if you like the "broasted" chicken and like your food salty.

                        But, was I supposed to get the Whole Barbecue Chicken --5
                        Hickory Roasted? Did I order the wrong thing?

                        Link to their website, by the way:


                    2. //east coast buffalo wing

                      St. Paul Susie you just turned my dinner plans upside down! It's been ages since I had a buffalo wing anywhere near how they do them in upstate New York. Gotta go check this out.


                      1 Reply
                      1. re: KTFoley

                        KTF - hopefully you enjoyed - I'm a wet wing gal and love theirs. But its not upstate NY or anything.

                      2. I actually to go a lot of places that only have one (or a few) good dishes. I hesitate to recommend them to others in case they don't order the same things.

                        A few that come to mind:

                        Vescio's in Dinkytown - Love the sausage dip, hate the pasta. And I confess a secret love for the retro, iceberg-only salad with Ma Vescio's dressing.

                        Famous Dave's - I kinda like the chopped pork sandwich. I avoid the sides like the plague (some say the beans are edible, but I don't like 'em).

                        Chiapas - A wonderful little place with great carnitas and guisados and special soups, but really awful rice (topped with colby cheese?!?) and mediocre beans. As an aside, I especially love this place because the cooks are often singing - loudly - in the kitchen, which makes up for the rice.

                        Byerly's fast-food sushi - It's better than McDonald's or BK, anyway. I stick to the no-raw-fish varieties, like the tofu-skin pockets and the veggie rolls, and I love the edamame.


                        4 Replies
                        1. re: AnneInMpls

                          Anne, Lots of neat ideas, thank you! You know you're a secure chowhound when you recommend a chain, even a local one. I have to echo your sentiments about Famous Dave's chopped pork sandwiches. And I'll tell you what, if you ever need to have something very casual catered--say a backyard party in the height of summer when you can't bear to cook-- Famous Dave's does a cheerful and efficient job. For $25 fee, they will bring all the food and utensils, plates, and napkins over and set it up for you. You just have to return their chafing dishes to them a day or two later. Also, there's a Famous Dave's in the Metrodome, if you ever find yourself in need of some chow during a Twin's game.



                          I haven't heard of Chiapas! Another one for the list.

                          Chiapas - 2416 Central Ave NE Mpls



                          1. re: AnneInMpls

                            Vescio's -- I couldn't agree more about their pasta!

                            I used to work @ the U and was walking distance from Dinkytown. I hit Vescio's nearly weekly and _loved_ their Meatball Sandwich Supremo. Maybe not East-Coast quality but all good to me!

                            If 'hounds want to try out Vescio's fare w/o a trip to Dinkytown (and the parking adventures), visit their food stand at the State Fair. You're gonna be there anyway, right?


                            1. re: AnneInMpls

                              Agreed on Vescio's! One of the grandkids was my first grade-school boyfriend.

                              As corny as this may sound, I was pretty impressed by Famous Daves. I thought it stood up to much more expensive, critically lauded NYC 'cue. The portions were a bit much, though.

                              1. re: erikka

                                I agree w/famous dave's. It was more of a one-dish wonder when they ran their monthly specials - smoked turkey, smoked salmon caesar salad, etc. I miss the specials.

                            2. Wow...this one really challenges the memory. I tried to jot down a quick list of my own personal one-dish wonders around town. As usual, I'm sure there are quite a few that are forgotten. In no particular order, here are some places and the one dish I would always order:

                              Great Dishes but I Wouldn't Touch Anything Else With A 10-Foot Pole Category:

                              U Garden (by the U) -- Combo Fried Rice
                              Peking Garden (by the U) -- Salt & Pepper Squid
                              Louie's Habit in Wayzata -- Hot Dog
                              Mayslack's in NE -- Roast Beef Sandwich
                              Kincaid's -- Prime Rib
                              Perkins -- Pancakes
                              Ruby Tuesday -- Salad Bar
                              Times Bar in NE -- Fondues
                              Baker's Square -- French Silk Pie

                              Items that Stand Out WAY Above The Rest of The Menu:

                              Roasted Pear, Burnsville -- Carrot Cake
                              Maverick's, Roseville -- Roast Beef
                              Buca -- Linguine w/ White Clam
                              Cap's Grill, MPLS -- Pork Chop
                              Grandview Grill, St. Paul -- Tex Mex Breakfast
                              Cossetta, St. Paul -- Pizza by the slice

                              I love the St. Paul Grill, but their hash browns with cheese, onions and bacon are a must.

                              Even though I would never recommend it, I think Tavern on Grand and their walleye easily qualify as one-dish wonder territory.

                              As for why we have less one-dish wonder type places, I have a number of theories. Primarily though, you need a much higher population density to enable restaurants supporting themselves on a single dish. In a 5 block x 5 block area of Manhattan, you probably have 10,000 people craving soup dumplings or a Jewish-style pastrami sandwich on any given day, and 99% of those have experienced enough of them to have established a clear definition of greatness. So you get the Dumpling House, Joe's Shanghai, New Green Bo, Katz's, etc. all within walking distance from one another. In St. Paul, you probably have 100 people total who have ever had a soup dumpling or a Jewish-style pastrami sandwich. There are enough people, including citizens of faraway lands in SF, LA, NYC, DC and Chicago to support competition for market share specific to a dish.

                              Also, from the perspective of an east coast transplant, you can't throw a rock in MN without hitting 10 people who have never traveled outside of the International Falls - Madison - Des Moines - Fargo rhombus, unless you count a Sun Country charter to Cancun or Playa Del Carmen. This isn't a population with a whole lot of trans-oceanic frequent flier miles. It's much, much better than 1990 when I moved here, but we still have older generations who provide a bulk of the restaurant dollars that insist on eating walleye at Tavern on Grand, Chicken Pot Pie at the Lexington and Duck A L'Orange at Jax Cafe. This is the same reason Chipotle gets voted best Mexican food, LeeAnn Chin runs for best Chinese, and Red Lobster shows up in the best Seafood category year after year -- a lot of people who live here don't know any better.

                              11 Replies
                              1. re: MSPD

                                "a lot of people who live here don't know any better"

                                MSPD - I agree wholeheartedly with your last 2 paragraphs. I'm a transplant as well and I love it here - but a few more places to eat would never hurt!

                                1. re: MSPD

                                  Good list, MPSD, and good points, but I've just gotta defend the U Garden restaurant - it's my local Chinese joint, and they have lots of good dishes! In fact, I think they've gotten better in the last few years.

                                  OK, so it's not up to the standards of the Tea House or Jun Bo, but it's way above average for a neighborhood Chinese restaurant. As long as you stay away from the Chinese-American stuff (which is a good idea even in the top places in town), you'll do fine. I even like the buffet, which is unusual for me - the selection and quality is higher than average.

                                  My favorite dish is Orange Chicken, but they do a great steamed walleye (they now have tanks for live lobsters, crabs, and fish). The Shrimp Roll is to die for, but don't try to eat it all yourself - it's best when shared with 4 or 6 people. And if you chat with the owner, who grew up in Cambodia, he just might cook you a special Cambodian-Chinese fusion dish. I once had a fried fish covered in noodles that was as fabulous as it was unusual (to me).

                                  I'd say give U Garden another try, especially if you haven't been there for a while. (Note that they just finished expanding so they can do even more weddings - so check before you go, especially on weekends, as they might be hosting a private party.)

                                  And as far as Baker's Square, their peach pie is pretty decent, too. But I won't argue with French Silk being the best choice.


                                  1. re: AnneInMpls

                                    Good point on U Garden. Come to think of it, it has been almost two years since I've been there -- man, time flies. I used to dine there a lot...and I mean a LOT when I worked up the street about 10 years ago. I'd put back a pint of combo fried rice about twice a week, usually paired with egg rolls. More recently (four years ago), I'm sure I indulged in the buffet a couple dozen times -- weekly before a class at the U. Holding down two full-time jobs, pigging out at U Garden and the chocolate eclairs in the Hubbard Broadcasting cafeteria had a lot to do with me achieving my highest weight ever, sadly in my early 20s. Despite the really friendly staff/owners and good food, their contribution to my near-demise is probably what made me subconsciously categorize them in the "not with a 10 foot pole" list. You've set me straight.

                                    1. re: MSPD

                                      The area has gotten even "worse" now that Cupcake Bakery has opened kitty-corner from Hubbard Broadcasting. You're lucky that you're no longer in the area. Me, I have to resist those cupcakes on a daily basis!


                                      1. re: AnneInMpls

                                        yes, I agree, have you tried the carrot cupcake? IMHO it's
                                        better than any carrot cake I've had around. Way too much
                                        cream cheese frosting, but we must endure these things. Those cupcakes are what I requested for my birthday party

                                        1. re: AnneInMpls

                                          Reply to faith, above (because of the goofy limit on reply nesting):

                                          Oh, dear! I didn't need to know about the carrot cupcakes at Cupcake. I'm already addicted to the Lemon Blueberry cupcakes and the Classic Chocolate cupcakes.

                                          I love that all the cupcakes have too much frosting - there's nothing worse than running out of frosting before you have finished the cupcake!


                                    2. re: MSPD

                                      Oh, bah. I just tapped out a lengthy reply here but clicked a wrong key and all my glorious words disappeared in a cloud of pixels. Here are some links for MSPD's (and one of Anne's) thought-provoking/surprising recommendations:

                                      U Garden (by the U), Minneapolis

                                      Peking Garden Restaurant, 2324 University Ave SE,Mpls,612-623-3989

                                      Louie's Habit, Colonial Square, 1179 E. Wayzata Blvd., Wayzata, 952-249-7700

                                      Mayslacks, Minneapolis

                                      Kincaids, St. Paul
                                      (I didn't realize Kincaid's was part of a chain!


                                      Times Bar and Café, Minneapolis

                                      Roasted Pear, Burnsville

                                      Maverick's Roast Beef 651-488-1788 1746 Lexington Ave N, Roseville

                                      Cap’s Grill, 5000 Hiawatha Ave, Minneapolis (612) 722-2277

                                      GRANDVIEW GRILLE, 1818 GRAND AVE. ST. PAUL (651) 698-2346

                                      Cosetta 211 W. 7th St., St. Paul 651-222-3476
                                      I love the Italian shop in Cosetta!

                                      Tavern on Grand, St. Paul

                                      Cupcake Bakery, 3338 University Avenue SE, Minneapolis


                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                        Thanks for posting all these addresses and web sites! 'Tis a noble deed you do - especially since you had to do it twice.


                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                          Mayslack's had a garlic laden roast beef sandwich that filled a dinner plate. Maybe they still have it but sadly it will never be the same as in the days when Stan Mayslack would personally serve you and you had better have both hands under your plate when he piled it on our he would send you back to the end of the line with a scowl. That lunchtime line back in the 70's was looong. The Soup Nazi had nothing compared to Stan Mayslack.

                                        2. re: MSPD

                                          A little tough on us Minnesota natives. I eat walleye and love it at Tavern on Grand. But I do get around and devour catfish, cod, and po boys. Have you had a pasty at the peak for a snack after climbing the tallest mountain in Great Britain? Have you drank home made chicha with the natives in Bolivia? And ate alpaca and guinea pig in Peru? Reindeer steak in Alaska? That's just the past few years of my Anthony Bourdain imitations.

                                          But right now I concentrate on deep fried breaded pork tenderloin sandwiches. You can't get a really good one in Minnesota and they don't exist in the east. ;)

                                          1. re: MSPD

                                            According to the Pioneer Press, it looks like Peking Garden is being displaced by the new stadium and will (eventually--they don't have a date) be relocating to Midway Center (where Great Lake Buffet) on University Avenue in St. Paul.



                                          2. OK, I finally thought of 2 places which, while basically adequate, are nothing to write home about, except for their one standout dish:
                                            The Sample Room for their tuna, which is perfectly seared and served with a lovely sauce. I often recommend this place for party-type things, because their food is overall good and the ambience is nice, but I wouldn't trek there for anything but the tuna.
                                            St. Clair Broiler for their Cobb Sandwich; you heard me, Cobb SANDWICH. Actually, it's a Paz thing, he loves them, it is basically a turkey (or maybe chicken?) club with bacon bits, bleu and cheddar cheese, and avocado, or something like that.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: AliceS

                                              I've been looking for SOMETHING to order at St. Clair Broiled. Than you for the recommendation.


                                              The Sample Room
                                              2124 Marshall St NE
                                              Minneapolis, MN 55418
                                              (612) 789-0333


                                            2. Another I haven't been to, but have heard good things about is Mac's Fish and Chips on Larpenteur in Roseville. (If you can't figure out their specialty, I can't help ya. ;) )

                                              For quick takeout Sushi, that beats Byerly's check out Sushi of Tokyo in Plymouth ( http://www.sushioftokyo.com ). Not the greatest sushi of all time, but there's something to be said for made to order Nigiri at $3.00 for 2 pieces. (At about 7:00PM the pre-packed stuff in their cooler goes for 40% off


                                              Another one-dish wonder is Aesop's Table ( http://www.aesopstable.com ) on Dale in St. Paul. The Porker is a gigantic (1/2 pound) pulled pork sandwich. I've tried much of the rest of the menu, and haven't had anything that made me want to have it again - the closest was the porkerwurst: same seasonings as The Porker, but in sausage form - that was more interesting than crave-worthy.,

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: Danny

                                                I've been curious about Mac's Fish & Chips for a while. One of these days, I'll stop in.

                                                Mac's Fish & Chips, 1330 Larpenteur Ave W St Paul


                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                  Ignore the chips, just focus on the fish, and eat it as quickly as you can.

                                                  1. re: KTFoley

                                                    HA! I just noticed this post. It seems the "fish" is the wondrous dish at Mac's. Duly noted.


                                              2. TDQ, if there was a vote for president of this board, you would have my vote, and my guess is you'd win in a landslide. Invariably, your posts make me think, "Oh, what a great idea," and, "What a great, tactful, articulate way to say that." I know it's extremely cheesy to actually say this, but I consider you a real leader among us! Thank you!

                                                Now, to answer the question posed, from my St. Paul-centric point of view:
                                                Saigon for their meatball or "Saigon specialty" banh mi
                                                Hong Kong Noodles for their Singapore style rice noodles
                                                Village Wok for their won ton noodle soup (available only on the special night-time menu)
                                                Coffee News Cafe for their fries and cakes (not cookies!)
                                                Cafe Latte for their Chipotle bean chili and German chocolate cake
                                                LaCucaracha for their Gina's Yucatan tostadas (although you can make a pretty good approximation of these at home)
                                                Grand Shanghai for their steamed dumplings
                                                Trieu Chau for their pho and eggrolls (the best in town, if you ask me)

                                                I'm sure there are more but they escape me and my lunch break's over... now.

                                                1. Diesel, thank you for your very kind words. I have much to learn from all of you. I am impressed and amazed by the cumulative knowledge on this forum every day. :)

                                                  Back to your wonderful recommendations, many of which I hadn't known about until now! What finds!

                                                  Saigon Restaurant
                                                  601 University Ave W
                                                  St Paul

                                                  Hong Kong Noodles
                                                  901 Washington Ave SE
                                                  Minneapolis, Minnesota 55414

                                                  Village Wok
                                                  610 Washington Avenue SE, Mpls 55414

                                                  Coffee News Cafe 1662 Grand Ave. St. Paul 651-698-3324
                                                  (I love the atmosphere in this place. A wonderful place to sit with a book!)

                                                  (I love German chocolate cake! And Cafe Latte's is gorgeous!


                                                  La Cucaracha 36 Dale St S (at Grand Ave) St Paul, 55102 - (651) 221-9682
                                                  (I've been looking for something to adore on this menu--they are so earnest at La Cucaracha. I will have to try Gina's Yucatan tostadas.)

                                                  Grand Shanghai
                                                  1328 Grand Ave
                                                  St Paul, MN 55105
                                                  (651) 698-1901

                                                  Trieu Chau Restaurant
                                                  500 University Ave W
                                                  St Paul, MN 55103
                                                  (651) 222-6148


                                                  1. New to posting on the board. Couldn't resist this topic because it's usually how I end up recommending restaurants- based on one dish I love. Here's a very condensed version of some of my favorites:

                                                    Jasmine Deli for the chicken rice noodle soup, especially each large piece of sauteed garlic, add lots of jalapeno when you feel a cold coming on.

                                                    Azia for the Spanker soup- coconut milk, asparagus, mushroom, cranberries and your choice of protein.

                                                    My-T-Fine Cafe for the homemade roast turkey/horseradish aioli/lettuce, tomato, thinly sliced red onion on cranberry wild rice bread.

                                                    Patrick's French Bakery for their quiche and salad- amazingly light and flavorful quiche, tasty dressing on salad with mixed greens

                                                    Chino Latino for the Coconut Curry Shrimp

                                                    Quang for any Bun/vermicelli salad (chased with strawberry limeade)

                                                    Cafe Latte for Chicken Caesar Pasta

                                                    Natural Escape in Richfield for their amazing chicken sandwich

                                                    More to come...

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: d2991f

                                                      Welcome to the board "d". Excellent list, though I'm not sure I would classify most of those venues as one-dish wonders. I could blindfold myself and play pin-the-fork-on-the-menu at My-T-Fine, Patrick's, Cafe Latte, Chino Latino and Natural Escape and be thrilled with whatever ended up on the plate. The menus are pretty solid from top to bottom at those places.

                                                      1. re: d2991f

                                                        I'm going to add a link to the Natural Escape thread that was inspired by d2991f's post. A treasure trove of info you are!


                                                        I'll add in links to some of d2991f's recommendations later, but I'll just come back in and add them as edits in here so as not to clog up the thread so it doesn't get unwieldy.


                                                      2. Welcome d2991f! I'm running out the door and will come back and post more later, but you've mentioned some places I've not heard of, Patrick's, Natural Escape, My-T-Fine Cafe ... Very interesting!


                                                        1. As a Minnesota transplantee to the SF Bay area, I'd add one thing to the original discussion, from my perspective. When I lived in the Twin Cities, we considered driving more than 20 minutes to a place to be a long trip. I lived in south Mpls and had a hard time convincing friends to drive 'all the way' to north Mpls (to Emily's, to be specific). Here, on the other hand, 20 minutes is just the default average time you expect for any 'close' trip.

                                                          But I do think the density of choices, as others pointed out, is more of the cause.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                                                            hehe Good point. I've noticed that Minneapolitans and St. Paulites alike are loathe to cross the river without a darn good reason.

                                                            It typically takes less time to cross from one of the Twins to the other than it takes to cross San Francisco. About half if you consider the parking situation in SF. It's all perspective, I guess.


                                                          2. This extreme local focus was a major mystery to my husband and me when we moved here and it has been hard to get St. Paulites - even chefs! - over to sample restaurants, stores, bakeries in Minneapolis. Although my experience has been more that direction, I'm sure it runs the other way as well.

                                                            5 Replies
                                                            1. re: teamkitty

                                                              Try living in Burnsville for a while. You'll quickly be willing to cross rivers, bridges...maybe even a natural disaster zone to get good food.

                                                              1. re: MSPD

                                                                I hear you! My husband works in Eagan and it's the same thing - except for that very cool South Asian market off Yankee Doodle near Denmark.

                                                                1. re: teamkitty

                                                                  South Asian market?!? I'm also cursed to work in that part of Eagan -- I've driven, walked, biked that intersection and the surrounding territory for three years now. What/where exactly is this place?

                                                                  EDIT: Duh. Never mind -- I just went over there. Funny thing is, along the Highway 13 corridor from Eagan to Savage, there are several very good Asian markets. The granddaddy of them all is the "Groceries of the Orient" I posted about a little while ago, just west of 35W on 13.

                                                                  1. re: MSPD

                                                                    Did you find what you liked? It's best when they get the vegetables in - I've seen stuff there that I haven't seen in other Asian shops. Also, oddly enough, the frozen naan and garlic naan - NOT the Pillsbury brand - are excellent.

                                                                    1. re: MSPD

                                                                      No, I didn't find anything -- they don't open until noon! I'll look into the naan sometime soon. I had totally forgotten about that place even though I've eaten at Sambol three doors down a gazillion times (though not recently).

                                                              2. As for "ODW", I would nominate the apricot kolaches (Kolaché) at Jerabek's New Bohemian in St. Paul. They sell out pretty quickly; I've made a special trip there in late afternoon and been disappointed. I don't really like anything else on the menu - coffee cake has a weird aftertaste, the lemon bars taste artificial and the pies tend to be greasy. Bonus points, however, for even having Tortiere on the menu (known to my people as "Touché Pie!"). I haven't hit their monthly garage sale and BBQ - one is coming up on the 12th of August".


                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: teamkitty

                                                                  I just recently learned about kolaches. I think I may have been to Jerabek's for the kolaches once, but I was pretty new to town and there was a 4 foot burm (is that the right word?) of snow in front, so my memory is somewhat unreliable. Yum. I'll have to go to Jerabek's and see if it's the place I'm thinking of.

                                                                  Speaking of tortiere, I heard there is a church in Minneapolis that sells them? Anyone heard of these? Any good?


                                                                2. Yep. They can be ordered from the oldest church in Minneapolis, Our Lady of Lourdes, down near Harriet Island and Riverwalk. Their website says: " Frozen Tourtieres: French Meat Pies are available at the Parish Office. Proceeds are used towards the restoration of the Church".

                                                                  Our Lady of Lourdes
                                                                  1 Lourdes pl
                                                                  Minneapolis, MN 55414
                                                                  (612) 379-2259

                                                                  My mum thought that they were ok, although they were not made with pork shoulder, which was the custom in her family. The pies were made in November in large quantities and then eaten from the back of the stove, so that the women did not have to stop with their Xmas work to feed the men and children.