Good Ethnic Food at a Reasonable Price in Twin Cities?
I am a Chicago refugee that is very frustrated with the dining scene in the twin cities. I am hoping I can get some help from the good people on this board. I’ll start by saying I’m guilty of living the suburban life and am not in touch with the city at all. That said, I’m not bothered by driving far to get a good meal. Since we have a young child we like to take with us, I’m not looking for a very high end restaurant where only couples would be welcome/comfortable. We do often go out to restaurants with entrée’ prices exceeding $20.00 so I’m not looking for a burger joint either.
I’ve read the menu’s for many of the restaurants that are touted on this website like: WA Frost, Pazaluna, Luna Rosa, Heartland, A Rebours, etc.
As I read about other’s comments on the above places I find many say they like a place with the caveat that it doesn’t have anything remarkable or special. I’m not a food snob but I don’t like to go out for average food, especially food I can make myself at home like steaks, prime rib, ribs, and other typical American fare. My last whine about the food in the cities is the price. The places above are all very expensive relatively speaking. They don’t have very impressive menus and many people are saying they are not that remarkable but they are charging far more than better restaurants in other cities like Chicago. Ie. $20+ for chicken? $28 for duck? $34 for a fish dish?
I want to like it here very badly but the food scene is killing it for me. Can anyone please recommend great restaurants for: Italian, Mexican, Chinese and roast duck that isn’t so much about the place to be seen (price) but the quality of the food?
I would not necessarily recommend El Burrito Mercado as the best in the twin cities....I think that there are other options for Mexican food. I really like the new taqueria, La Concha in Richfield--their tacos are great and really like their tingas de pollo (chicken with tinga sauce, num!)---their seafood soup is to die for, but ambience is a bit lacking.
I would really also recommend Manana in St Paul for pupusas--- food from El Salvador, really fabulous! The ambience isn't wonderful, but amazing food. They have several great salsas there!
If you don't mind the informal atmosphere, go to the Midtown Global Market, as others have mentioned. The Safari Express has some pretty ok curries if you aren't looking for spicer cuisine. Also there are plenty of other options. La Loma's tamales are pretty good and you can purchase in some of the grocery stores around the metro.
I recommend Mai Village. Yes, the decor is getting dingy (kind of sad, really), but I love their tofu noodle salad (forgive me for not knowing the Vietnamese) so much that I still recommend this place to everyone.
I just went to Tanpopo Noodle Shop for the first time tonight, and it was really delicious. The broth was so flavorful that I wondered if they make it with beef or something, but the waitress assured me it's typical dashi. I'll definitely return, and I can already say I heartily recommend it.
(By the way, this forum is amazing. I'm so glad I stumbled upon it!)
I'm amazed no one thought to mention Mayslack's. The roast beef may not be haute cuisine and the place may look like a tap room in Jefferson Park (a neighborhood on Chicago's northwest side, for those who don't know) ... but it SLAYS!
I like mine with horseradish ... mmmmmmmmmmm.
I recommend cruising University in St. Paul. there are several restaurants touting Asian cuisine. I have yet to eat at Mai Village I hear so much about on here, due to also hearing conflicting advice regarding the establishment. The Village Wok on the U of M campus has excellent cuisine and they stay open late. There is an excellent Mexican spot in Eagan off 35E and Yankee Doodle (very reasonably priced) I want to say it is El Loro, although I know there are several different El Loros' I do not care for.
I completely agree. The best ethnic food (at very reasonable prices) is where they people live from the country of origin. You'll see lots of Thai and Vietnamese Americans eating at places along this strip. There is also an excellent Jamaican place there as well.
One thing that I've noticed, is that as places become "discovered" by the general public here, the food becomes gradually more bland and the prices increase. I've seen some one very authentic Mexican places become Taco Bell by another name once they were made known outside the city (television ads, catering fliers, etc).
Thanks for all the great replies. One reply was dead on IMHO that I am used to having more numbers and variety of restaurants in the suburbs in Chicago compared to the TC area. Since I am not familiar with the City an often spend most of the week out of town for work I thought I would ask for assistance on this board. Thanks for all the great ideas.
I found some of the replies to be rather defensive. I didn't intend to offend anyone or take any shots at the Twin Cities. In reply to one reply, I apologize for use of the word refugee, it was indeed a poor choice of words. I also admitted that I'm not a city person but am willing to travel for good food but several took at shot at me for living in the suburbs. Why do city people take shots at the suburbs? My hobby during the summer months is fishing. As such I have to have my boat at home. This is not an option in the city so therefore we live in the suburbs.
My suggestions are mostly in the NE/SE Minneapolis area, so if you're in town for a show/opening/game/event etc...
I like kate's list format, so I am copying it:
Sabor Latino (Ecuadorian)
Chiapas (Central Mexican)
Holy Land ("Middle Eastern")
Blue Nile (Ethiopian)
Bombay 2 Deli (South and North Indian)
Pho 79 (Vietnamese)
Kramarczuk's for lunch (Eastern European)
Gasthof Zur Gemutlichkeit (German)
As a funny side-note, I took a friend of the opposite sex to Blue Nile (neither of us had been there before). We got there and the place was so crazily romantic that the whole thing was far too awkward. lol
The food was actually quite good, though I really wanted to eat the dishes with rice instead if inerja (don't think I spelled that right).
I agree completely with the suggestion for Kramarczuks. Very authentic and very reasonably priced. Again, I had a friend who grew up in Poland with me, and they loved it.
The Blue Nile is also excellent, and frequented by large group of African faculty and students from the U. I believe they still have music and dancing some nights.
So, I see multiple references in this thread El Burrito Mercado, which also gets mentioned in almost every thread about Mexican food in the Cities. I've not been back in about a year, but stopped going because I was never estatic with the meals I had there. I thought the grocery was great (I liked thir house-made beans you can buy and bring home to warm up and serve--not that it's so hard to make your own, but theirs are really good) and the bakery was great, but out of the 1/2 dozen times I ordered something to eat from the cafeteria-style counter, I was underwhelmed. Nothing really specifically wrong that I can remember now, but I just wasn't thrilled. I usually went in the evenings, though, went on a Saturday or Sunday once. I can't remember the dishes I tried (one time I ordered a chile relleno, I remember that), but nothing wow'ed me. Since everyone keeps mentioning it, it makes me think I am really missing something. Are there some dishes there that are their stand-outs that I've just not hit on? Is day-time better than evenings? Are there some secrets to ordering that I've not caught on to? Am I just not appreciating some subtlety?
What are your favorite dishes and why? And, is there a "best" time to order them?
Dara's blurb in City Pages (which, I can't help but notice says it was written in 1999) says to try the stews, and that the salsas are homemade. Any stew in particular people recommend?
You're right, Savage isn't a hotbed of excellent dining, but ya get what you pay for! (Or where you choose to live... :-) But even Chicago has suburbs with little good ethnic food, right? (I'm thinking of when I was stuck in Lisle on a business trip years ago.)
You've take the right first step - this is a great place to start your research. I second all of the recommendations above.
And there are definitely some possibilities way out in those outer suburbs. Me, I'm not an expert in the SW suburbs, but here are some of the threads I've bookmarked in case I ever get out that way.
Try exploring Eagan, Mendota Heights, and Lilydale - it's just a quick jaunt up highway 13 or 35E.
MSPD has kept updated with info on Eagan and other places south of the river:
Note especially his mention of the Sambol Indian and Sri Lanka restaurant; I'd love to hear what you think of it.
I hear that the Mediterranean Cruise, near Hwy 13 & Cedar Ave, is pretty good, according to recent Chowhound posts:
Lilydale is home of the great Buon Giorno deli - go there for great sandwiches, cheese, salami, and ready-to-bake pizza fixings.
In St. Paul, El Burrito Mercado is a great, casual place to go with kids. It's a cafeteria in a Mexican supermarket (a side room offers sit-down-and-order dining), and is a fun field trip with little ones. If you're lucky, someone will be selling tamales out of a mini-van in the parking lot.
In Prior Lake, Perron's Sul Lago is supposed to be nice, but I haven't been there.
Oh, and a Mexican friend told me, a while back, that his favorite Mexican restaurant was in Savage, but I don't remember the name - it might be El Loro, or it might not. (Sorry!) Check it out - if they have menudo on the menu, it's worth a try.
Have fun exploring!
Thanks, Anne, for adding some geographical perspective. I was thinking that some of MSPD's posts might be helpful, too, (by the way, where has MSPD been? I miss his insight!), but my understanding of the geography of the suburbs is still a little shaky, so, I decided I'd better not go there. Good thing we have someone who knows the Twin Cities so well, and the chow in it, to chime in here!
I am just agreeing with everyone else here who has, very eloquently, said that there is a real wealth of ethnic dining choices in the Twin Cities. Is it New York, Chicago, or LA? Of course not, but there's lots to try if you're willing to get out of the 'burbs once in a while and seek it out. I only wish I had the money to eat out more than once a week or so!
Like The Dairy Queen, I'm quite biased towards all the great food in St. Paul:
For tremendous pho and the best bahn mi anywhere, there's Saigon on University and Dale Streets.
Mai Village: it's not the most stunning Vietnamese food ever, but perhaps the most stunning setting in the Twin Cities.
A stiff martini and Siberian pelmeni at Moscow on the Hill on Selby are, to me, the ultimate in soul food.
On a cold winter's night, you really can't beat the Japanese soba and noodle soups at Tanpopo (in Lowertown St. Paul), or the homestyle teishoku meals.
Also in Lowertown is the underrated Supatra's. Gorgeous catfish in red curry sauce and noodle dishes.
If I had a Mexican abuela, I suspect her food would taste like the guisados at El Burrito Mercado (Cesar Chavez on the West Side of St. Paul).
St. Paul isn't as strong on Italian, but I've heard good things about Il Vesco Vino on Selby Avenue.
I'll agree with you that the suburbs, especially the outer rings suburbs like Savage, aren't really that strong on ethnic food, but I'm guessing that will change with time as more and more Southeast Asians, Latinos and Africans move out to the 'burbs from the city. But in the meantime, come to St. Paul and see the great food we have to offer.
And no, the Chamber of Commerce did not endorse this post...
I like the soba and udon at Tanpopo, too, especially this time of year. Such a lovely, quiet space as well.
And the koi pond and dark wood carvings at Mai Village are so charming. The beef dishes tend to be Mai Village's specialty, so those might be the most chowish choices on the menu. (Someday, I'm going to try that seven course beef menu of theirs!)
I've heard good things about Il Vesco Vino, too, but I wonder if it might not be pushing the upper boundaries of the price range?
re: The Dairy Queen
Just an update, since this thread has popped to the top again. I'm really starting to sour on Mai Village. My initial experiences there were good, and tended to be best when I stuck with the beef dishes or the "house specialties", but, as time goes on, my favorable impressions of both the food (which weren't "exceptional" by any means) and the setting are starting to fade. The silk chairs are really showing some wear--stains and tears, etc. I had a pho recently that was really very very average--I thought I was pretty safe with beef at M.V. but the beef they used in the pho wasn't very good.
I still love the koi pond. :)
RE: Il Vesco Vino--I still haven't made it there myself, but Dara reviewed it last week and didn't love it. The Pioneer Press reviewed it in the last couple of weeks, too, and didn't have much positive to say about it. I'd be curious to hear the impressions of any chowhounds who've gone.
Also, you mention you don't "do" restaurants in summer--I think you're missing out on some wonderful seasonal, outdoor dining options that are perfect for active people. For instance, there are two really neat restaurants in Minneapolis parks that are open only when the weather is warm:
~ Sea Salt Eatery in Minnehaha Park (Minneapolis) http://www.seasalteatery.com/
It's a perfect stop if you're visiting the falls, walking, blading, cycling, jogging, or renting one of the little fringed-surreys.
~Tin Fish Eatery off Lake Calhoun http://www.thetinfish.net/LakeCalhounMenu.htm
Again, a lovely stop if you're swimming or canoeing or walking/jogging/cycling around Lake Calhoun.
~Also, for the old timey "drive-in" experience, pizza burgers , hot dago, and anything red sauce: Dairy-ette Drive-in, 1440 Minnehaha Ave E, St. Paul.
Here's a link to a thread "Cyclist-friendly Chow" that is full of wonderful ideas for active people who want to be outside while the weather is nice.
Might I suggest that you, perhaps, stop thinking of yourself as a refugee, but rather, a transplant? Presumably you weren't driven from Chicago to escape some terrible persecution, but, instead, moved here to pursue some advantage, whether it be a slower pace of life, proximity to family, lower cost of living, or employment or educational opportunity. Life is full of trade-offs; embrace the choices you've made and get out there and start exploring your new community.
Many of us are transplants from other "food" cities like San Francisco and New York and manage to keep ourselves fed. Realize that the culinary strengths of the place you left may not be the same as the culinary strengths here and open yourself up to new possibilities. The Cities are full of "transplants"-- actual refugees--from places like Somalia and Laos. I don't know if you realize that St. Paul has the largest concentration of urban Hmong in the United States (I think in the world, actually, outside of Asia.) You can get some terrific South East Asian food here. I understand Minneapolis has the largest Somali community in the North America.
In addition to Chowhound, you might want to start reading Dara Moskowitz's column in the alternative weekly City Pages (new editions hit the stands on Wednesdays). She's a two-time winner (and several-time nominee) of the James Beard award for food writing. She's got a great chowsense and has her finger on the pulse of Twin Cities dining, particularly the mom and pop ethnic places. City Pages has a pretty good search engine if you just want to read her old reviews.
Also, Kathie Jenkins' little blurb in the Pioneer Press on Thursdays called, I think, "Small Bites" has tipped us (well, AliceS, our pioneer) off to several recent new board favorites, including most recently Little Szechuan and Cafe BonXai.
I know El Burrito Mercado in St. Paul is the board favorite for Mexican food--I think it's a terrific little market for Mexican grocery items and I love the bakery, but otherwise, I prefer Mercado Central on Lake Street in Minneapolis and some of the other Mexican shops along Lake Street.
My latest favorites for Mexican are the seafood dishes from La Sirena Gorda (try the whole, deep fried tilapia dish—gorgeous! I think it’s $11-$12), the al pastor huaraches from Taqueria Los Ocampo, and the goat (barbacoa chiva, I think it's called) from Bymore Meats, all located in Midtown Global Market on Lake Street in Minneapolis. MGMkt is very family friendly--but super informal, cafeteria style. (Only two restaurants in MGMkt have table service—Chang Bang, which is brand new Asian Fusion and I haven’t tried, and A La Salsa. I had a lovely chicken mole with tamales at A La Salsa recently.) There has been some extensive discussion about MGMkt on this board if you search on it. Here’s their website:
Also, have you heard of Eat Street in Minneapolis? It's the stretch of Nicollet from the convention center (Grant Street) to 29th (near the Minneapolis Institute of arts.) There are zillions of ethnic places along Eat Street, many of them board favorites, including one of my favs, Pho Quang. If I were you, I’d just pile my family in the car and start exploring.
I tend to be very biased toward St. Paul, but here are some others I like:
For Chinese, I adore Little Szechuan on University Avenue in St. Paul. (Nice setting, too.) It's new, so I'm still exploring the menu. I've enjoyed the green beans with special sauce and this fish and tofu in spicy broth dish I can't remember the name of right now. Also, China Jen just off of Snelling near'ish to County Road B in Roseville. (Unimaginative setting. I especially like the scallion pancakes there, but, again, if you search the Board here you’ll find some good discussion.)
I heard that Jun Bo (off of 494 in Richfield) was supposed to have duck, although, I haven't noticed it in the times I've been there or tried it myself. Also, Shuang Hur (a grocery) on Nicollet in Minneapolis is supposed to have good roast duck. While Jun Bo is one of the better spots in the Twin Cities for dim sum (the chefs supposedly hail from Hong Kong, Vancouver and San Francisco), many on this board say Mandarin Kitchen in Bloomington is better, though the waits are long. Jun Bo is great if you don’t want to wait because it’s huge. There are some great dishes there, some misses. A small gathering of us chowhounds ate there and posted our impressions here in a “chowdown report” thread you can search on if you want to read more.
Both Jun Bo and Little Szechuan have two menus--make sure you get the authentic one (at Jun Bo, it's the one with the red dot and at Little Szechuan, it's the black menu.) By the way, at Jun Bo, you're probably better off not ordering off the menu at all and just picking what you like off the carts, but, especially the special dishes the servers bring out on trays hot out of the kitchen--those tend to be the more interesting dishes.
I like Saigon Star in Roseville for pho. Also, if you like bahn mi, Saigon on University at Dale in St. Paul.
For Italian, boy, that’s a tough call. I’ll leave it to others to recommend, except for DeGidio’s on West 7th in St. Paul for the politically incorrectly named hot dago sandwich or, in summers, the Dairy-ette, also in St. Paul on Minnehaha, for the hot dago. I also like the Italian grocery/deli counter Buon Giorno in Lilydale.
If you want to get superadventurous, you can go scout out the Hmong Market on a Saturday or Sunday. There might be better places in the Twin Cities for Southeast Asian cuisine, but the Hmong market is the real deal and it's all under one roof. It's in St. Paul, on Como near Marion.
I read in the Star Tribune about a year ago that they were building an indoor market in South Minneapolis they dubbed "The Mall of Somalia" but I haven't heard what became of that. Someday, I'm going to explore that, too. :)
re: The Dairy Queen
I am blushing, that was such a sweet shout out, thanks TDQ.
To stay on topic, there is another place I wanted to mention before but forgot: Satay2Go in Apple Valley. It is meant to resemble a SE Asian hawker stand and features several SE and S Asian dishes.
Also Peninsula on Eat St for Malaysian.
re: The Dairy Queen
TDQ - this is a very classy and excellent reply! My initial thoughts were more around the "Where the heck is Savage?" and if you want good food think about that before you live in an obscure suburb...
I also want to throw a shout out there for Tum Rup Thai in Uptown. The more I eat at other Thai restaurant, the more I crave this one which is reasonably priced and has a convenient parking lot in back. And the atmosphere is 20 times nicer than True Thai.
Another transplant from Chicago here :) been here 6 months, and have cried many a tear over the loss of La Pasadita tacos and OpArt Thai...thanks all for the suggestions! It's hard to start fresh, and I tend to forget all the "bad" food I had in Chicago while finding my favorites. I'm finding a ton of places to add to my "must try" list through Chowhound.
I, too, am a recent transplant from Chicago. After a little over a year here, I've come to really appreciate the dining options in the Cities. As the previous posters stated, you just need to read through the many threads to discover the gems. Here are some things I've observed:
In comparing the dining scene in MSP and Chicago, I find that the "ethnic" options are not too dissimilar. Of course, the sheer numbers of restaurants of fewer here. That's to be expected in a smaller metro area. In the city of Chicago, there are tons of small ethnic eateries. Even the suburbs are dotted with them. Here, you've got to seek them out. No, there's no Chinatown or Pilsen or Devon Ave. But make the trip to Mercado Central or Midtown Global Market or Central Ave. in Northeast or University Ave. in St. Paul, and you won't be disappointed.
You mention some of the fine dining destinations. It's in this area that I actually do miss Chicago. I finally made it to La Belle Vie last month. Don't get me wrong...it was good. But it's not Alinea, or even Charlie Trotter's. What can I say, Grant Achatz has ruined me for experiencing high-end dining anywhere else! :>)
I'm in Minneapolis, and don't know exactly where Savage is. But if you hop on the expressway (sorry, we call them "freeways" here :>) you can certainly get to these inexpensive ethnic eateries. Can you get to Richfield? I've been to Jun Bo a couple of times. Having eaten dim sum in the chinatowns of Chicago, San Francisco, and London, I'm very happy with what Jun Bo puts out.
That brings me to one of the things I really appreciate about the Twin Cities. You can get across town in a matter of minutes. Unlike Chicagoland, where you sometimes have to block out half a day to make your dining trip, here the travel time and traffic are much more managable (even during rush hour). The dining gems are easily within reach!
I will say that I agree on the high prices at some of the restaurants here. But I also find that the portions are usually proportionately larger, too. That's actually my only complaint about Minnesota dining. I'd rather have smaller portions -- at correspondingly lower prices.
But that only sometimes pertains to the ethnic eateries. Drive into the cities, and you'll find all inexpensive food you could want. A couple of tacos. Or a bowl of pho. Everything you could want is here.
I'm originally from Boston - and I had the same mindset.
I agree with the above posters... & their recommendations...
I'd also add
King & I for Thai - downtown MPLS behind the Hyatt
Ristorante Luci vs. Luci Ancora for Italian - they have a 4 course tasting menu that is excellent and reasonable. Don't think I would take my kids there. (just went this week!)
Koyi - sushi (downtown mpls - off 1st ave)
Broders pasta bar - mpls - 50th and penn - pasta & pizza
I'm also trying to think of anything in your corner of the metro - but I'm at a loss.
edit - also LaGrolla - Selby Ave in St paul - excellent italian.
re: St Paul Susie
Yes, sorry about the confusion. I'm also sorry to hear Ciattis is gone. It seems nothing stays around here very long. It was packed with people as I recall. But then so was Big E's and it's gone as well. I remember having to show up early on weekends to avoid a crowd due to the tiny dining room.
Why do apparently popular and thriving restaurants move and or disappear here so much ? Is it the rents or just other factors ? Just the nature of the business
these days ?
I know many favorites had to move downtown due to construction. Keys, Jitters, and that entire strip which used to be adjacent to Peavey Plaza. When I lived
downtown I really enjoyed those places.
I'm originally from New York also and at first glance the Twin Cities don't have much. However, when you actually get out and about and start readings websites, weekly papers, etc. you'll find that there are many good restaurants.
We primarily eat at ethnic restaurants, 90% of which are low priced and family friendly. Off the top of my head our favorites are:
Holy Land (middle eastern)
Little Szechuan (Chinese)
Jasmine Deli (Vietnamese)
Pho Tau Bay (Vietnamese)
Midtown Global Market (assorted)
Khyber Pass (Afghani)
India Palace (Indian)
True Thai (Thai)
I could go on but I'll agree with AliceS that most of these restaurants have been discussed in depth in previous posts.
AliceS - Thanks for the reply. I live in Savage (South Burbs) where there isn't much to offer. I have been here for about a year and a half but we don't do the restaurants in the summer because there's too much outdoors stuff to do. I have read many pages of this forum prior to posting and found many repeats that are very pricey (see original post) but not many of the names you shared.
I will try to say this without being snippy, but basically if you look through this board for Minnesota posts you will find the answer to that very question.
I won't end there, because I always hate when people basically say find it yourself. I would ask how long you have been here that you are frustrated? There are a TON of options and sometimes I worry that people come here from more "cosmopolitan" cities like Chicago or NYC (where I am from) and if they can't find what they want immediately they assume it is not here. Also, what suburb are you in?
Anyway, for Chinese there are about 10 million posts about Little Szechuan in St. Paul and Tea House in Plymouth. Both are absolutely top notch, reasonably priced and kid friendly.
For Mexican, there is a section of St. Paul that is heavily Mexican, and my favorite is El Burrito Mercado. In Mpls, East Lake has a lot of good options, especially at Midtown Global Market, Mercado Central and Manny's Tortas.
For Italian Luci Ancora seems to be a board favorite.
Don't overlook SE Asian around here. Vietnamese is huge, particularly Saigon and Mai Village on University.
Also, dim sum is great here, particularly Jun Bo in Richfield.
I found almost everything I had at Jun Bo about a couple of weeks ago not to my taste. I am part of a group who prefer dim sum made delicately, i.e. wrappings that are made as thin as possible (especially for the Shanghai bun, har gow, all the different "funs"), and the use of young baby kai lan steamed until just al dente and remaining a vibrant green and crispy. The many steamed dim sum plates that we ordered had thick glutinous wrappings with very little filling and the steamed kai lan came looking brownish and dissolved to mush in the mouth. Moreover, most had stalks close to an inch in diameter. It's not what I am used to for dim sum.
re: Dairy King
Where do you go for dim sum in the Twin Cities DK? Jun Bo is better than the other places I've tried for dim sum in the Cities (i.e., much better than Mai Village), but I haven't made it to Mandarin KItchen yet. I agree, though, that Jun Bo's dim sum isn't exceptional: it would be considered only average in SF or NYC, in spite of the fact that I've heard the chefs were brought from SF, Hong Kong and Vancouver.
I don't remember the kai lan at Jun Bo being mushy and brown! Ew--I would have just sent that back.. It was definitely bright green the time or two we tried it and I remember that it was much more slender and tender than what I've been used to elsewhere. I remember being pleasantly surprised. I wonder if they are having a hard time sourcing it this time of year.
I bascially just find out where people representing the cusine I want happen to live within the city. That has worked everyplace I've lived and worked, particularly in NYC and Chicago. If you want "steaks" in Philly, go to South Philly to a predominantly Italian neighborhood. Look where the locals are eating and the rest is history.
One restaurant I've not seen mentioned here, is Puerta Azul. A really great place for Puerto Rican food, owned and operated by a couple born in San Juan. Excellent
date spot but I would get there early. Not a very large dining room.
Also Big E's on Nicollet Avenue in downtown Minneapolis. Exactly the same food I had in New Orleans (Jambalya, whiskey beans, corn bread, and other trimmings). And they have all the appropriate sauces necessary to kick up properly.
I'm not sure that strategy of seeking out neighborhoods devoted almost singularly to certain ethnicities is going to work as effectively in the Twin Cities as it does in other Metro Areas. While it is true that there are neighborhoods with higher concentrations of recent immigrants than others, I find the Twin Cities neighborhoods to be more blended than those in other metro areas. There isn't a "Chinatown" or a "Koreatown" or "Japantown" here...the neighborhoods are pretty diverse. In fact, the merchants along University Avenue in St. Paul tried to get a section of University declared to be a special neighborhood and the best they could come up with was "International Street" or something along those lines. (Here's a post that references an article in the Pioneer Press on that topic: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/31830...)
If you're looking for "ethnic" restaurants in the Twin Cities, "Eat Street" in Minneapolis, portions of Lake Street in Minneapolis, and University Avenue in St. Paul tend to have the highest concentrations of those kinds of eateries, but none of those are exclusively focused on one particular cuisine over another. University Avenue, and the portion of Snelling within a few blocks of where it intersects University, for instance, has Hmong, Szechuan, Vietnamese, Thai, Turkish, Ethiopian, Korean, Caribbean, Cambodian, Ghanan restaurants, among others, practically stacked on top of each other. Certainly within blocks of each other.
re: The Dairy Queen
One of the problems I have with "Eat Street", is the level to which it has been publicized. I've seen the prices steadily rise, the portions decline, and authenticity be completely lost by some of the restaurants.
My favorite Mexican place there (Taco Morelos) evolved from an establishment primarily serving Hispanic families to one primarily serving visitors from the suburbs, Uptown, and elsewhere. Along with this came increasingly more bland food at a much higher cost, smaller portions, and as you might expect, the local Hispanic population avoids it now. Properly prepared Mexican food (authentic) requires little seasoning in terms of the level of heat perceived. You find this at Mercado Central (possibly the next victim of it's own success ?) and others who continue to serve patrons who prefer this.
Taco Morelos is basically Taco Bell in a nicer dining room setting at this point. I hope the other places on Eat Street can maintain their indentities more effectively.
re: The Dairy Queen
re: The Dairy Queen
We agree completely on University Avenue, it's a favorite place.
I did have some great German food at The Black Forest. It seems to have preserved it's authenticity regardless of how popular it has become. A nice thing to see anywhere here, and particularly on Eat Street.
Eat Street also has some interesting markets with great prices on woks, ceramics, and basic ingredients for oriental cuisine.
Be extremely careful parking in any of the store lots. They enforce their rules with parking boots and I know people caught by this. One friend parked in a lot near a market, visited an adjoining business for one component of the dish they were making, then returned to the market owning the lot. When they left, they had a boot on their car, and it cost them $150 in cash on the spot to have it removed.
City Council (Minneapolis) has investigated some of the practices regarding parking in this area of town and found several "scams" being run. They haven't taken action yet to try to stop it. So just be aware that the signs are strictly (if not overly so) enforced.
Taylorroot, I agree about the decline of Tacos Morelos - I used to love their tortas, but after they remodeled, the food turned into chain-style blandness.
Have you tried Pancho Villa at 2539 Nicollet? I haven't (I keep going to Mexican taquerias on E. Lake Street), but I hear it's pretty good.
Another Eat Street place that doesn't show signs of blandification or too much success is Pho Tau Bay (Vietnamese). But I haven't been there for at least 6 months - I hope they haven't remodeled recently! I also hope that they have enough success to stay open...
Thanks for the tip about Pancho Villa. I'll have to try it when time permits.
I travel a great deal, so sometimes I'll find a great restaurant here and not visit for a period of time (usually distracted with something new). All too often I find the places closed or under new management. I imagine this is a function of the high rents here in many areas. It's happening even in NYC in prime areas of Manhatten. Chains and owners with better funding come in and force out the long term tenants. I'd rather not see an Olive Garden in NYC where a "mom and pop" Italian place once existed which was unique.
I've been to Pho and it's pretty good. Again, thanks for the Mexican tip.
re: The Dairy Queen
Eat Street has the three of the best restaurants of their genre right next to each other.
Seafood Palace - Sophisticated Cantonese cuisine -- the squab is to die for.
Pho 79 - By far the best pho in the Twin Cities, and I've tried every one of them.
Pancho Villa - Whole Red Snapper cooked 6 different ways, and Mexican Coca-Cola made with sugar, not high fructose corn syrup.
Gotta pity the folks in the 'burbs.