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Nov 25, 2006 10:58 PM

the cheap fancypants food challenge (MSP)

I'm a big fan of the Birchwood, but am struggling to find other places that serve excellent, interesting, real food at reasonable prices. We need some new places to eat. So, I issue to you the Cheap Fancypants Food Challenge. Where else should we try??

Here are some criteria:
- dinner entrees that are $14 or less.
- as the Birchwood says, good, real, food.
- service that is attentive, friendly and responsive (table service not necessary)
- creative, interesting, delicious food.
- ethnic is fine (we love the Midtown Global Market and Jasmine Deli)

What we don't want:
- pretentiousness
- fancy atmosphere - plain is fine if the food is good
- loudness - I want to be able to have a conversation
- snooty, uninformed, unhelpful or absent waitstaff

I'm looking forward to reading your brilliant suggestions!!

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  1. Here are my first thoughts from an Uptown perspective. I'm looking forward to other suggestions.

    1) duplex restaurant (between 25th and 26th Sts. on Hennepin). We had a great meal there last week. The prices were a titch higher than $14 (I think they were $16 each). Many other courses were less than that. The one downside I see from your criteria is service. It was attentive, but a little slow for us. See

    2) Emma's Restaurant and Lounge (Lyndale south of 28th Street). We've had great meals there. The atmosphere is very quiet. You should check on prices.

    3) Tum Rup Thai (Lake Street and Emerson). I think they have the best Thai in Uptown and it's a nice atmosphere. Most of the time it's not too loud although we had one time when it was very crowded and a little noisy.


      1. I'm submitting Sunsets Restaurant ( )in Wayzta and Woodbury. *Most* of their menu fits the criteria and it's just a great place to dine. It varies quite dramatically and will please just about everyone in a big group of people. My wife and I devoured our first experience there just recently and will make many trips back to enjoy the dishes "we just couldn't decide on".

        1. I had a wonderful meal with my sister in law when we dined at French Meadow for dinner. After 5:00 they have table service and the place takes on a whole different vibe: calm and quiet. Our server was knowledgeable and helpful. The food was delicious - especially the tasting flight which, though an odd concept of flights, (a butter, an olive oil, a cheese and olives served with a lovely assortment of breads) was fun. Wine is available and reasonable in price. Oh, and their soups are fantastic.

          This is a very old menu but it gives you an idea:

          1 Reply
          1. re: MplsM ary

            We ate there for breakfast and were not impressed. I was a lot happier with Sunnyside Up cafe down the block. I did go there for dinner once and had some really good tomato basil soup.

          2. I too am a big Birchwood fan, and always on the lookout for cheap tasty eats - I'm looking forward to learning from future replies to your post! Here's what I came up with:

            The place that came to mind first was Cafe Latte (on Grand Ave at Victoria in St. Paul). You'll find a menu similar to the Birchwood in that it's very soup, salad, and sandwich focused. It is a tad on the noisy side, but I'd say the same about the Birchwood. My one caution regards the service - staff are often very busy and seem sometimes to actually resent customers' presence (!). The food is reliably good though, and fairly interesting. Their website isn't very informative, but here is is anyway:

            Another place I'd recommend is Everest on Grand (again in St. Paul - on Grand Ave. a block east of Hamline Ave, just across the street from Kowalskis). Everest is a Nepali restaurant - similar to but not the same as Indian food. Often there's quite a wait for a table at peak hours, but the food is very tasty and reasonably priced. Service might be a little slow at times, but otherwise I've had good experiences. I highly recommend the chhoyla dishes (grilled spiced meats, peppers and onions), yak momos, and saag. They also have really good sweet lassi (it's very nicely spiced with cardamom). Website:

            I'm sure other ideas will come to me later, but that's what came to mind just now. Good luck!

            1 Reply
            1. re: diesel

              I've been to Everest on Grand and have never had a good experience. The first time I went I had curry, which I thought was almost unedible. The momos were good, but we had a noodle dish called chouchou which was not very good either. I really want to like it, because it's right by my house, but I just don't.