Minneapolis / St. Paul Report
I was in Minneapolis on June 9th and 10th (last weekend).
The first place I ate at was Safari Restaurant, a Somali place, on Nicollet Ave. Driving down from Duluth, I found the restaurant immediately. Entering, I found the clientele was probably more "white" than most other city Somali restaurants, which along with its location on Eat Street seems to indicate that Safari is trying to reach a more general audience. I ordered the Chicken Suqqar with basmati rice and a pop from the kind waiter. About five minutes later I received a generic green salad, included free with the meal. Being a salad-hater, I had them bring it back, and they offered me Mango Juice in exchange, which came quite a bit later. The chicken suqqar came about ten minutes after ordering, and was very good. Even better than the actual suqqar was the rice with it, which was probably close to the best I've ever had. The green hot sauce with it (I asked the waiter the name, and he said something quickly in Somali, and then "green sauce") was also very good and reminds me of Mexican "salsa verde". They gave me extra rice for free even though the suqqar was almost gone. The bill came to around $10, not bad at all for a nice lunch.
After visiting the Minneapolis Institute of Art and Minehaha Falls park, I went to Singapore! restaurant, which I had read was the country's only Ethiopian - Malaysian fusion place. Unfortunately, when I arrived to its location, almost hidden in a residential neighborhood, and received the menu, I discovered that there were no longer any Ethiopian or "Afro-Asian" dishes. The waiter (also nice) told me that the Ethiopian chef had left some time ago. Oh well. I ordered roti paratha, expecting them to bring me a single "pancake" as they did when I ordered roti canai at 118 Bagus Malaysia in New York. What they actually brought me was about four pancakes. Delicious, but too many. Eating them all, I was nearly too full to enjoy the good Captain's Curry afterwards. When I remarked on the portion of the roti, the waiter told me it was an appetizer but made for four or so people.
The following day I went to the much-discussed Foodsmart cafeteria on University Ave. Walking around the very Asian grocery store, a rather surly or confused worker told me where the cafeteria was upon asking her, and I went there, finding a fairly large room (suitable for large group meetings) with many tables and a small food line. There was no buffet as there apparently once was, but rather you have to pay for each dish separately. However, it's not very expensive at all. I got Hmong Sausage ($1.95 I think), a dish that was a mix of mushrooms, beef, and tofu ($3.95 or $4.95, fairly large), and rice. Total was about $9. I went to sit at a table, and found it very difficult to eat my meal without a plate. So I ate a bit of it, went back to my car, had a bit more there, and most of it went to waste. The Hmong Sausage tasted like any other sausage I've ever had, though the accompanying sauce was good, and the beef / mushroom / tofu combo wasn't too great. Overall, I would have been more satisfied and happy if I would have known which dishes were Hmong and which were not (because I was on a search for Hmong food). This could have been accomplished simply by putting the names in front of them, because the Hmong script is very recognizable. But oh well.
Thanks for the great report! You really did your research before your visit.
I agree that the rice and green sauce at Safari are even better than the tasty chicken suqqar. (I've never been to the stand-alone restaurant, but I love their booth at the Midtown Global Market.) I could eat that green sauce like a soup!
Va Lor is a nice intro to Hmong-Cambodian food (more Hmong than Cambodian, I think), because they have a picture menu on the wall behind the counter. It's a tiny, bare-bones place, but the owners speak great English and are very friendly and helpful.
Duluth might not have any Ethiopian food, but y'all have the best pastrami on the face of the planet - the Bison Pastrami from Northern Waters Smokehaus. Like you, only the price of gas is holding me back from a weekly trip to get this wonderful stuff (which they can't ship because of some food regulation).
Great report--thank you! In case you're back down this way sometime: actually, my favorite place for Hmong food in the Twin Cities of late is the food court at the Hmong Market that is not too far from the FoodSmart. The food court is a fun place to go if you're feeling very adventurous and you're not looking for a relaxing, elegant dining experience. Also, there's this new restaurant on University, Va Lor, that appears intriguing, though I haven't yet tried it.
About the chow at the Food Court at the Sprawling Hmong Market:
re: The Dairy Queen
Yeah, I live up in Duluth (actually Hermantown, but close enough) so I can go there more or less when I want to. The only thing holding me back is gas prices...a round-trip is about $35 right now. It'd be nice if I could find a foodie among my friends to split the ride with.
I'm going to be heading down there soon again now that I have my bike ready for the season to ride the trails down there...I'll probably check out that "Sprawling Hmong Market" and a few other places.
(N.B: We need an Ethiopian restaurant here in Duluth. Can we take one of yours?)