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[MSP] Chowdown report: Midtown Global Market II

What can I say: round-up a baker’s dozen of Chowhounds, give each a handful of cash, scatter them loose in a culinary playground, and you never know what tasty morsel will land on your plate for sampling! We had so much food circulating around the table that I don't think I will come close to listing it all. But, I enjoyed it!

Here's my attempt at listing all the dishes we sampled:

~Chicarron, Bymore Meats
~Amazing array of sweets (if someone can name all or some of them, please chime in but the closest approximation is that they were like many variations of baklava to my untrained eye and palate), Holy Land Deli
~Vegetarian platter (including humus, falafel, dolmas, pita, and some other things I can’t name), Holy Land Deli
~Italian hoagie sandwich, Jakeeno's Trattoria
~Inca cola, Cosecha Imports
~Meat momos, Everest Café
~Vegetarian momos, Everest Café
~Deep fried tilapia platter, La Sirena Gorda
~Curried vegetables, Safari Express
~Al pastor huaraches," topped fresh radishes and crema” (the number 3) OR topped with cheese and avocado slices (the number #6) , Taqueria Los Ocampo
~Steak huaraches," topped fresh radishes and crema” (the number 3) OR topped with cheese and avocado slices (the number #6) , ~Taqueria Los Ocampo
~Coconut cream cake, Starlight Café
~Upside down pineapple cake, Starlight Café
~Goat, from (I’m guessing, can someone please confirm?) Everest Café?
~Deep fried sambusi, Starlight Café
~Lefse, Café Finspang
~Lots of other dessert items, some chocolately, some almondy, and another that translated as “dreams”, Café Finspang

P.S. I STILL couldn't find the free parking; I hear it's on the West side of the Market, not the East? Can someone confirm this, please?

As always, it was lovely to meet everyone, including the two amazingly adventurous chowpups. Please chime in with your impressions! Thank you!

Here's my post initially suggesting the chowdown: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

~TDQ

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  1. The free parking is definately on the west side of the building - there are meters there, but they aren't enforced from 5-8PM. There was a sign by the lot, but the wind had blown it over.

    The goat was not from Everest - it was barbacoa from Bymore meats. (And, also one of my favorites at the Chowdown.)

    1. the goat was from Bymore meats (barbicoa chiva, or something close to that). Man was that good!

      I was pleasantly surprised by the hoagie from Jakeeno's, given that the pizza they had on display looked pretty sad.

      Loved the huarachas!

      Actually, was pretty pleased with everything that I tried.

      Passed on the Inca Cola - too much sugar for me.

      Free parking is on the West side of the building in the Transit lot area. Could be evenings only - didn't really look, and have only been there in the evening.

      Sounded like the ramp on the east side was free on weekends. I have never gone in on that side, so don't really know for sure.

      15 Replies
      1. re: djohnson22

        Turns out the gates were up at the East ramp; something we only discovered after we paid $3.25 for parking at the machine in the ramp. (After years on the West coast, this price didn't seem phase me, but the gals in line for the ticket machine behind us said, "Man that's expensive." when they heard it was $3.25. Also, the machine wasn't accepting charge cards, so I think people were in that uncomfortable position of having to fumble for cash or to break a $20.) The parking ticket machine that you pass as you exit the East side of the building was mysteriously unlocked, door swinging open. Next time, we'll try parking on the West side of the building.

        I too liked almost everything we tried. The Inca Cola is definitely an acquired taste; I picked up just for fun because it reminds me of a good friend who grew up in South America who buys Inca Cola everywhere he can find it. Bright yellow, sugary sweet pop with a hint of bubble gum.

        I loved the huarachas, both the #3 and the #6, particularly the al pastor. I liked them equally, but the #3 (which was the one without the avocado) was cheaper, so I'd probably pick that up next time. I can't remember who said it last night, but someone said of the huarachas, "These inspire me to make a vow to try everything made of masa."

        The bread on the hoagie was delicious. Almost like a Dutch crunch. Did anyone notice if they sell loaves of those and if they bake them themselves?

        I also loved the goat! Very tasty. And the curry veggies. Yum!

        ~TDQ

        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          They do sell the bread, although I think it was New French Bakery par-baked bread. (The bread, meats, and cheese made a pass through the pizza oven before all of the fixin's were added.)

          I think the key to that sub was that they use pretty high quality meats and cheeses. While I was waiting for the hoagie, they finished off a fresh pizza. I was expecting it to look a lot better than the ones that had sat in the case for a while - it didn't.

          They do have a few pasta dishes, I'll have to try one of them next time - those are cooked to order. Interestingly, the hoagie was only partly done to order - they had the bread with meats and cheeses wrapped in saran wrap in a refrigerator. When I ordered it, the owner unwrapped it separated the meaty half from the cheesy half, and put it through the oven. When it came out of the oven, she added the lettuce, tomatos, onions, seasonings, oil, vinegar, etc. (It should also be noted that while it was really good, it was also about $7. For only 4 bucks more, you can get the Talapia from La Sirena Gorda....)

          1. re: Danny

            Hey, does the tres leches cake no longer come with the talapia? I don't remember seeing it on our overloaded table last night.

            ~TDQ

            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              I don't think the tres leches cake ever came with the tilapia;it just seemed like it since we had both in our first chowdown. Also, I recently tried the tamales at La Loma and must say the La Loma at Mercado Central makes better
              tamales; unless you're looking for pretty spicy ones, in which case Global Midtown La Loma wins out. I was surprised they weren't all the same since they seem so consistent at
              Mercado Central.

              1. re: faith

                Interesting about the La Loma tamales being better at Mercado Central. Do you think they actually make the tamales onsite at both MGMkt and MC? I was assuming they didn't make them at either location, but offsite somewhere and just brought them in and put them in the steamer trays.

                ~TDQ

                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  I suppose I should try the Global La Loma one more time before
                  deciding on their tamales. And yes, I also would have figured
                  that they all were made at one spot; maybe someone had a
                  heavy hand with the chilis that day. Also the cornmeal was
                  kind of soft, not firm as I have had at Mercado Central.

                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    Their main kitchen is over at 38th and Cedar. Sorry I missed this chowdown - sounds like you guys had a great time!

                    TK

                2. re: The Dairy Queen

                  A piece of Tres Leches cake was included at the first chowdown (and was then supplimented by a second piece from the Mexican Bakery)

                  We didn't get it this time, nor did I get it the last time I ordered one (although that time I did get a free fancypants iced tea).

                  My guess is that they sometimes offer a tilapia "special" with ane extra thrown in.

                  1. re: Danny

                    One can never have too much fancypants iced tea, I say. What made this particular iced tea so fancypants?

                    ~TDQ

                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      It was probably the fancy hibiscus iced tea that the owner
                      brought over with my meal after I had said I didn't
                      need a drink. It was quite beautiful(red) and delicious,
                      not sugary, nicely fruity. I felt quite pampered by the
                      experience...

                      1. re: faith

                        Faith, I was asking Danny about his fancypants tea the last time he went to MGMkt (which, I assume, was a time he went on his own, not a chowdown.) Did you also get some fancypants tea from La Sirena Gorda on one of your visits to MGMkt? Was that at the first MGMkt Chowdown or some other time on your own. The hibiscus sounds lovely--I'm always on the lookout for iced tea that doesn't have a lot of sugar.

                        ~TDQ

                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                          Your Highness-
                          Sorry I was unclear, yes I was talking about my own
                          recent trip to Sirena Gorda, and assumed my tea was the
                          same as Danny's.

                          1. re: faith

                            Gotcha! Well, as I said, I'm always looking for alternatives to the bottled drinks at MGMkt, so I shall seek that tea out next time I'm there.

                            Thank you!

                            ~TDQ

                            1. re: faith

                              You assume correctly. My fancypants tea was the hibiscus tea.

                    2. re: The Dairy Queen

                      The Tilapia did not include dessert, but I had a special one night at La Sirena Gorda recently that did include tres leches.

              2. One more thing: since everyone was on their own to buy beverages, I didn't list them in the summary above. If you wouldn't mind chiming in on any beverages you had that were extraordinarily good, bad or otherwise, that would be great. I picked up some bottled Mexican pop (tamarind and mango) at Cosecha Imports, but, later, when I was picking up the al pastor huaraches from Taqueria Los Ocampo, I noticed they had horchata. Does anyone know about that? Is it fresh or from a mix? That sort of thing.

                Also, I think someone last night order bubble tea from Pham's Deli. I'd be curious to hear about that!

                Thank you!

                ~TDQ

                2 Replies
                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  I had the mango lassi from Everest Cafe. Found it amazingly spicy - hints of nutmeg and cinnamon (and possibly cardamom). A bit too rich for me - well, the 12oz serving anyway. Some chowhounders mentioned that at the previous outing, the sample cups were just the perfect size.

                  The Danish Kringla (elsewhere, I have seen it spelled kringle) from Cafe Finspang was awesome. Buttery, flaky pastry with a deliciously fatty custard filling.

                  I second all the shout outs for the sambusi: served piping hot from Starlight Cafe, it's hard to beat.

                  Dairy King

                  1. re: Dairy King

                    DK, great to see you here on the board!

                    I thought the kringla was fantastic. And those sambusi, I don't know what it is about them that makes them so appealing, but when served piping hot, they really hit the spot.

                    Sounds like there's a growing consensus that mango lassi is best shared. :) Do you remember if comes in a size smaller than 12oz?

                    ~TDQ

                2. Here's what I tried that was new to me

                  I loved the goat and chicarron from Bymore Meats. The goat was lip smacking good.

                  Inca cola smells *exactly* like Bazooka bubble gum (right down to the undertone of dusty cornstarch). Kind of tasted like that too. It was a fun experience, but I wouldn't get it to satisfy my thirst

                  The deep fried tilapia platter from La Sirena Gorda was all that it has been made out to be. Deeply flavorful fish. I'll be getting this again.

                  The huaraches were fantastic. The al pastor probably edged out the steak filling by a bit. My favorite part was the luscious corn flavor from the masa. I'll second the vow of trying everything made with masa.

                  The deep fried sambusi from Starlight Café were also fantastic. Lots of spice with an undercurrent of heat. And these were made fresh for us so they were perfectly hot and crispy. Yum.

                  I had my first taste of lefse and liked it. I started to wonder what it would taste like warmed or pan fried, but that's probably off the path of traditional.

                  Sadly, I had to skip the hoagie. I was just too stuffed.

                  The desserts from Café Finspang were a lot of fun to shop for and eat. Though they were pretty messy to divide since many of them were made of meringue. The Sara Bernhart will be a repeat. It was a sugar cookie with chocolate meringue coated in chocolate. Very decadent.

                  I had so much fun and loved putting faces to names. I can't wait for the next outing.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Uisge

                    "I had my first taste of lefse and liked it. I started to wonder what it would taste like warmed or pan fried, but that's probably off the path of traditional."

                    yep.. that sort of talk would elicit fist-fights in some quarters. Lefse is meant to be (only) eaten with butter and, if you like, jam or sugar rolled up. (according to the stout traditionalists). :-)

                  2. Uisage--your post makes me want to go back and try it all again.

                    I agree the huaraches al pastor edged out the carne asada.

                    The Sara Bernhart was just gorgeous. Also, while you were busily ordering sweets from Cafe Finspang, I noticed they not only had lefse, but also lutefisk! Now I know I can send visitors who want to try everything Minnesotan to MGMkt! And, they can get lefse & lutefisk from one side of the aisle and turn around and get maple syrup, hand-harvested wild rice, and blueberry syrup from the other. (Birchberry.) They can even wander around the corner and buy something lovely from the Hmong man. Sadly, there's no Hmong food, just beautiful dolls and embroidery and such.

                    Were you the one who tried the bubble tea last night? If so, can you comment on that at all?

                    ~TDQ

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      Just a note, the lutefisk sign at Finspang listed a price for a package ... from which I intuit that the purchaser would need to take it home and cook it.

                      Which probably a wise decision on Finspang's part.

                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        Sure - I got a bubble tea from Phim's. It was sweet and slushy. I got the green tea flavor, which is usually not as strikingly sweet as the fruity flavors. They went light on the bubbles (I prefer lots). I'd get it again, for certain, but I still like Bravo's best.

                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                          I got an almond bubble tea. The fellow combined powdered flavoring, milk and ice cubes in a blender, then tipped a quarter-cup of bubbles into the bottom of a plastic glass before pouring the ice-milk over the top.

                          The bubbles were more chewy than I expected, the drink more tame.

                          It's be one of those things I'll use to convince myself that I have just had dessert ... though there was also a good share of sweet stuff on my plate last night!

                          Favorites: Barbacoa chivo, because it clearly had a crust but was still just right in the tender/toothsome category. Sambusi, with a wonderful mix of garlic and coriander to enhance the ground beef filling. My very first al pastor. Tilapia, though it is just not possible to eat dish that with a plastic fork. Chicarron, if only because this sort of gathering is the only only only place where I would have tried, as Doug called it, "deep fried pork fat." Steamed momos that were as good as those at Everest on Grand. The first taste of the surprisingly hot green sauce that came with the vegetarian special from Safari Cafe, over the coconut rice.

                          Items that were not so strong: Holy Land's pickled vegetables were missing something, as though they were just brined in salt water. Couldn't get excited about that spinach pie. Must not have gotten the right taste of the pineapple upside-down cake -- it was okay, but not rapturous.

                          PARKING!?! What the heck. The gates of the east-side parking ramp are up after 8:00 -- no way to know that until after you've had your credit card refused & need to feed cash to the machine. Don't want to tempt fate by assuming that late-night parking in the ramp is free.

                          1. re: KTFoley

                            Darn! I was waiting for the upsidedown ode to pineapple cake. I suppose I could be satisfied with ode to barbacoa chivo or ode to al pastor.

                            I would say that the Holy Land vegetarian platter was the weakest dish of the evening. I thought the humous was so smooth and bland that it seemed to me to be sans both texture and taste. I must have missed the pickled vegetables, unless you're talking about what was tucked in that sort've flatbread thing, which, sadly, didn't do much for me. However, Holy Land Deli's vegetarian platter did change the course of my life last night in that someone was introduced to falafel --and liked it! Woo hoo! That means we can go out for falafel now.

                            ~TDQ

                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                              I feel sheepish admitting that it didn't make my socks roll up and down. This is especially true since the ones who tasted it last time around were so enthusiastic, everything else from Starlight was a highlight, and it each chowdown so far has featured this fruit.

                              It could be that by the time we tried it I was just. too. full.

                              Next time, maybe the empanada de piña from the Mexican bakery in the corner?

                              1. re: KTFoley

                                That's right! We were meant to have the empanada de piña from the Mexican bakery on the corner--the one that had the tres leches cake that The Chowish Lurker liked so much! Well, that will be for III. (Honestly, I don't remember the pineapple cake from MGMkt I.)

                                ~TDQ

                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                  right... because we didn't get the pineapple upside down cake at MGMkt I. I don't recall what kind of pineapply thing we may have had on that particular chowdown.