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Dec 14, 2006 04:48 PM

Most Controversial food opinion MPLS/St. Paul Edition


This is a great discussion idea and I couldn't but help steal it from the Boston board.

So what is your most controversial food opinion about the Twin Cities or for that matter the Midwest.

Do you think restaurant walleye is nothing more than overrated white fish?

Wild rice is nothing special?

State Fair food is down right bad?

Lets hear those opinions that make Minnesotans cringe!

  1. I would posit that one of the most controversial aspects of MSP 'hounding is the lack of controversy. Some places are easy to aggree on - 112 Eatery for example. They're not perfect for all people all the time, but they do what they do extremely well.

    It's the places people keep putting forward without regard to an OP's request or without regard to how a place (or we as diners) change over time. It's always the same places without exception. Is True Thai really the only good Thai place in town? Is Manny's really the only torta in town? And don't get me started on Shuang Cheng.

    I think it's great that we rely on each other for recs, and it's good that we're enthusiastic - indeed passionate - about our favorite places. But we also owe it to ourselves and our fellow 'hounds to eat outside our comfort zone - either culinarily or geographically - and accept that (insert your favorite resto here) may not be the best in town, but it's the best near where you live. Or that someone else's fave may not be "authentic", but it's still good.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Loren3

      Just a general comment: most restaurant food I've had in this area has been bland. I grew up in Indianapolis, another city with bland food. In the 60s and 70s it was mostly steakhouses, fried chicken restaurants, and chains. Shapiro's Deli was the exception.

      I moved to and lived in the Southwest (NM and NV) for a long time, and while I don't demand that my food be fire breathing hot, restaurants might try putting garlic, onion and appropriate herbs and spices in their food, plus a bit of heat. Try something different, folks! Put Tabasco or Sriracha bottled hot sauces on the tables where they're suited to the food.

      1. re: paoconnell

        A couple of suggestions for glorious and abundant heat that's not overpowering or out of balance: Little Szechuan on University Ave. in St. Paul, and El Burrito Mercado on the West Side of St. Paul.

        Little Szechuan - West End
        5377 16th Street, St. Louis Park, MN 55416

        El Burrito Mercado
        175 Cesar Chavez St, St Paul, MN 55107

      2. re: Loren3

        I just have never understood what the big deal is about the Tavern's fish. It just didn't do it for me.

      3. Hm, not sure how controversial this really is but I have never had good pizza in MSP. Sure, Nea is good for something different, and I like their salads, but I've never left anywhere thinking, "man, that hit the spot for pizza." Most of the places from which people get pizza I find inpalatable.

        I'm also from NY if that helps anyone understand what I consider good pizza.

        And also, I would never choose to go back to LBV despite their good service. The food was extremely disappointing.

        2 Replies
        1. re: katebauer

          great pizza is the pizza you grow up with. i'll never find my kind of pizza here, but i learned to accept & like some of the closer options (punch).

          1. re: katebauer


            You might want to give Broders deli another try for their pizza. I'm from northern NJ so we probably share the same pizza tastes. I've found Broders to be the closest to "home." I think I heard somewhere that the Broder family originally comes from NY, which I would believe given their cookie imports.

          2. I disagree w/ Loren3 – we do have enough controversy on some issues (I’m for one don’t go to True Thai given that I have similar options nearby, and better service), and most postings DO read the request (few don't, and we should point those out: "he asked for special occasion, don't send him to MGM!")

            Loren3, not sure i get your point: “we rely on each other for recs, (...) but we also owe it to ourselves and our fellow 'hounds to eat outside our comfort zone (...) and accept that ... may not be the best in town...” uh, yeah, most of us DO that: go to CH for recs and finds, check what this-or-that place is all about. Sometimes we agree with the post that led us there, sometimes we’re shocked that someone could have honestly have recommended such food (and we say so, of course). But we keep coming back to CH, ‘cause the gains far outweigh the losses. And we are all smart enough to know those are all personal opinions, so no one is thinking “my place is the best in town”, they are just thinking “of the places I know, this is my favorite”.

            Ok, that said, my contribution to Paz: MSP prices are ridiculous – and the food rarely matches the tag (and don't get me started on the drinks/wine). The only food that is worth the $ is ethnic (usually cheap but NO ambiance) or a handful (5-6?) of upscale places. All the other places seem to be riding the price wave, like a collusion/ price fixing conspiracy.

            1. Im really new to this board, but Id like to share my opinion :).

              Well, Im Thai, and I think Thai food can be a bit controversial in Twin Cities. All I can say about Thai food in the area is that there is NO real authentic Thai food restaurants in Twin Cities.

              I think that most ppl on this board think that True Thai is the best, but just to let you all know, the head cook there is Laos. I have also heard a lot of ppl (maybe not on this board and mostly American) give really good compliments to Chiang Mai Thai. Though I have to agree that the atmosphere there is really nice, I have to say that the food there is abysmal, and the head cook there is Vietnamese.

              A couple of Thai restaurants I know that have Thai cooks are Chai, Thai Bazil, and Mae Khong.

              Well, maybe real authentic Thai food is not a solution for most of the ppl in town, since most of the ppl are more familiar with Americanized Thai Food anyway :).

              6 Replies
              1. re: moomon

                I'm curious - could you tell us what how the Thai food here differs (ingredient availability, for example)? I would love to know what a Thai national has to say, since I love cooking Thai food at home and love to learn. It's a beautiful cuisine.

                I do take issue with your pointing out that a chef at a Thai restaurant is not Thai, but *something else* ethnically, and thereby using that fact as an argument against the authenticity of the food. I don't have to be an African-American southerner to make really good collards. I don't have to be from Nice to make a wonderful salade Nicoise. If we were all just cooking to, and from, our ethnicity, the world would be a much less interesting table of delights.

                I don't want to take you to task too stridently, but I'd be curious to hear the reasons for your opinion. A lot of us may learn something new, and thank you for your insights.

                1. re: cayjohan

                  Well, Im not a great cook myself, but when we, Thai, cook, we dont really measure the ingredients by cups, teaspoons, and tablespoons or whatever like most of the ppl here do it :). We tend to pour a little bit of this sauce and that sauce, taste and then put some more of this and that until the food tastes pretty good. So .. I would have to say that it's more like familiarity. I think it's true for everyone here. When you are growing up with certain kinds of food, then you know how that food is supposed to taste like.

                  I have to point some aspects out here why Thai food in MN is not authentic.
                  1. There are a whole lot of ingredients that we cannot find in MN.
                  2. Most Thai restaurants here have to Americanized their food according to the taste that American ppl like.

                  .. Those two aspects will then make Thai restaurants that have Thai cooks arent that authentic.

                  3. From my opinion that most of the head cooks in Thai restaurants here are not Thai .. they were initially told or taught how to cook Thai food by Thai chef. However, since Laos and Vietnamese are not Thai, they are not familiar with Thai food. The authenticity that they originally learned tends to change with time. They cannot really adjust or adapt if the taste of the food shifts a little. They just make the food as they were told. .... like .. how many spoons of this sauce and that sauce.

                  Well, again .. as I wrote earlier in my comment, real and authentic might not actually be the answer. It's actually the matter of how you like the taste of that food. You might not like real and authentic Thai food at all if you have actually tried one.

                  If you had Thai food for the first time at restaurant 'A', and you really loved the taste of the food there. Then you might not like Thai food at restaurant 'B', which actually is more authentic, because you might have already stick with the taste of Thai food at restaurant 'A'. :)

                  I think it's true for all kinds of food, not just Thai.

                  1. re: moomon

                    With the possible exception of bakers who require a degree of exactness, everyone who ever had a parent or grandparent who was a decent traditional cook tells the same story about how the kitchen lore learned by watching mama is disappearing.

                    We live in a country where everyone's family is from someplace else, so this is like saying the sky is blue.

                    1. re: moomon

                      What do you think of Rum Mit Thai in St. Paul? I'm Asian, but not Thai, and I really enjoy their cuisine.

                  2. re: moomon

                    I grew up in NY and my favorite Thai place was Sripraphai. While I have not found a place in MN that is as good, I think Krua Thai is the best here. There are a few dishes at True Thai that I like a lot, ok, one, the drunken noodles, but overall I think Krua is the best approximation.

                    1. re: AliceS


                      I do like some dishes at both True Thai and Krua Thai as well, but some of my Thai friends sait that the food at Krua Thai is a bit too sweet though.

                      Have you tried Thai food at Thai Bazil yet. It's not that far from Krua Thai. I went there a couple of times and had the fried whole tilapia with fresh tomato sauce with basil. I have to say that that dish is the closest thing for the Thai food in Midwest to the food back home that Ive had after three and a half year thru school in Madison, and now almost two years thru school here in U of M. :)

                  3. Here is my contribution

                    Cup cakes are not a pastry and cakes that can be made out of a box are not worthy of a display case. As someone who lived in both Europe and the Middle East I have to say that the state of bakeries and desserts in the twin cities are abysmal. Put any one of them in any street of Paris and it would not see a costumer even if it was the only one standing. Partially to blame are people on this list that call attention to bakeries around town as a culinary highlight of the twin cities.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: uptowner

                      I'm curious... what bakeries around town bake cakes from boxes?

                      While your statement about Paris is certainly true, that's not really a fair comparison, is it? I mean, there are very few places in the world where the bakeries could hold their own against Parisian patisseries.

                      For the record, I think Lucia's or possibly Rustica come the closest to Paris in the TC. I actually tried to A/B the canelles at Lucia's to ones from "Paul" in Paris (with two days separation between the taste tests, for obvious reasons) and Lucia's came out ahead. (But those were just the canelles.)

                      1. re: Chris Mitra

                        "CAN be made out of a box"... and my most recent experience refers to the cakes at Yum.

                        I do agree that from all the places around town, Lucia's and selectively Rustica are the best (deliberately not mentioning Cup Cake). But that is far from making it a reason for pilgrimage.

                        As you may know "Paul" is a chain much like Panera or Caribou and still better than most or all.

                        Anyways I just wanted to bring realism to the discussion in the spirit of this thread.

                      2. re: uptowner

                        I think that's something that I have heard a lot of recently about every type of food in MSP... "well the Thai food isn't as good as in London" ... "the pastry isn't as good as Paris" ... "the gyros aren't as good as if you flew to %$@!ing Greece and slaughtered a lamb yourself and got your Grecian grandma to make one for you" ... "i can name SEVERAL hole-in-the-wall places in NEW YORK CITY which have better bagels"....

                        GIVE ME A BREAK!

                        i think this kind of talk shows a couple things:
                        A. the food is good, if we have to go to the very top to say we've had better
                        B. people on chowhound are, in general, desperate to name-drop

                        1. re: poivre

                          I agree, you'll be a very sad person if you spend your life in MSP and are constantly feeling like the food is subpar. However, I believe the real problem is that the majority of people in MSP could care less that their food is less than. Moving here 4 years ago was a culture shock, I'd never been in a city where so few people had travelled internationally, or even to San Francisco, NY, etc. and those people had no interest in travelling. As an example, we got married in NYC a few months ago and 1/2 our Minnesotan friends and family didn't come, many due to fear of the unknown versus financial hardship. Minnesotans seem to be so protective of what they have they don't even want to know what else is out there - and that leads to restaurants that serve medicore food thriving. While there is clearly a subset of people that seek out good food, so many don't that it's the great restaurants that are failing and the ones that cater to bland tastes that succeed.

                          (I'm aware this is a slight exageration to prove my point. I just wanted to show that demanding better because we know better exists is a good thing!)