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[MSP] Nepalese comes to downtown Highland Park (St. Paul!)

I've been watching this little restaurant on Ford Parkway (in the strip mall next to LeeAnn Chin's) as it has been making its transition from Village Bistro (which I found thoroughly uninteresting) to Highland Cafe and Bakery. They are now up and running as Highland Cafe & Bakery, even though they still have the temporary, vinyl banner out front. I popped in just to get the lay of the land. When the gal realized I wasn't there to eat, she brought me a take-out menu that looked pretty ordinary on the surface, featuring typical American standards: burgers, salads, grilled sandwiches, turkey dinners, meatloaf, etc. Breakfast served all day. But then I noticed that their chilis and soups are made from scratch. Salads and breakfasts come with house-made bread/toast. Burgers served on homemade buns... They have an extensive array of baked goods, again, apparently all made from scratch. (In house? I wasn't sure.)

Unfortunately, I was so distracted by the handwritten sign at the hostess desk mentioning NEPALESE food, with momos being the special of the day, that I could barely hear what the woman was saying. Blah blah blah MOMOS blah blah blah MOMOS. Apparently, their chef is Nepalese! They have a separate Nepalese menu, which they start serving from at about 3pm daily. I understand there was a write-up about this chef in the Villager, so, if anyone forgot to recycle theirs and still has a copy sitting around, I would love to know more. Alas, the free neighborhood newspaper doesn't publish its archives online.

http://www.highlandcafeandbakery.com/

I haven't tried it out, yet, but rest assured, I will soon. I thought I'd give y'all a head's up, though, in case someone might have a chance to try it before me and report back.

EDIT: oh, yes, on their take-out menu, they mention that they cater events, too.

~TDQ

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  1. More info: the article is not in the Villager, but in the July 2007 edition of the sister publication, "Avenues." According to the article, Highland Cafe and Bakery is owned by two folks who used to work at Key's Cafe on Raymond. In addition to baking all of their own breads and desserts in-house, they roast their own meats and make their own meatballs, sauces, and mashed potatoes from scratch. The Nepalese menu will feature momos, samosas, and curries.

    In the photo that accompanies the article, the owner is holding up a tray of cinnamon rolls. Gosh, I hope they are using Key's caramel roll recipe--I love those!

    If this place isn't great, I'm going to be crushed.

    ~TDQ

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    Highland Cafe and Bakery
    2012 Ford Pkwy, Saint Paul, MN 55116

    5 Replies
    1. re: The Dairy Queen

      awaiting the report about the food. fingers crossed!

      Can you have Cinn/carmel rolls in the same meal as a samosas?

      1. re: St Paul Susie

        HA! Yes, I think you could have cinnamon rolls and samosas in the same meal, although, I'm not sure it would be advisable. But, this is the beauty of a place like this for a chowhound. Say you're feeling houndy, but your partner is not, you can go to Highland Cafe and each be completely in your bliss zone.

        We went. Overall, I give the place a thumbs up, though it was not a perfect dining experience. The service was a little scatterbrained, though very friendly. No liquor license. We didn't see any kids, but it seemed like it would be super family friendly. They offer a kids menu.

        First, this place has been open (apparently) since about mid-May, so, all this time I thought they were "in transition," they were actually open for business. When we went, the place was pretty deserted--I think everyone leaves town on these holiday weekends.

        The Nepali menu is limited: momos (meat or veggie), samosas, one other appetizer (I think, but I can't remember what), two kinds of curries, (creamy chicken or a veggie one), and mango lassi. They have the Nepali menu on display on the counter right as you walk in, but they didn't hand one to us when we sat down--just the regular "American" menu. When I asked for it, they couldn't find it, so just gave me the display menu. I get the impression they don't sell off the Nepali menu very often. When I asked what was in the meat momos, I think the waiter wasn't sure (he said beef and chicken.)

        I ordered the mango lassi, the meat momos (10 to an order--I shared them with my dining companion as an appetizer), and the creamy chicken curry. I'm no expert on Nepali cuisine, so, all I can tell you what I thought from a personal perspective. Also, this was way too much food, but I wanted to try it all.

        Mango lassi--I liked it--it was tangy and just a wee bit tart, unlike most lassi I've had, which are usually too sweet.

        Momos--my first impression was that they were too small. I thought the skins were a little thicker and doughier than I'm used to compared to say, say, dim sum wrappers on har gow. Perhaps thicker and doughier is the norm for momos. The momos were piping hot, served with a dish of cold, smokey dip. I was initially put off that the dip was cold, but something magical happened in the way the momos and dip interacted. I tried to experiment: bite of momo sans dip then, bite of momo with dip. It was just incredible the way the flavors worked together. I wanted to eat that dip with a spoon it was so good, though I couldn't tell you what was in it (alas, I'm not one of those super-tasters.) I would guess lentils, but it was pretty watery. I still think the veggie momos at Everest Cafe edge these out, but I prefer Highland Cafe's meat momos to Everest's meat momos (which are pork+turkey, I think). I might have to try Everest's veggie momos again to be sure as it's been awhile.

        The creamy chicken curry, which was smooth and golden, was served in a dish with basmati rice on the side. By this point, I was way too full, but had a couple of bites anyway. I thought this dish was glorious and rich and made me wonder who turned the thermostat up, even though it didn't seem spicy hot. It was even fantastic later at home as a leftover--I would expect a dish like this to separate into a puddle of oil and whatever else, but this stayed nice and creamy. I was out of basmati rice, so (I know this sounds wrong) I put it over some wild rice and it was fantastic. So, tip to those of you with leftovers.

        My dining companion ordered the roast pork dinner, which came with mashed potatoes (lumpy like they should be), gravy, and dressing (nice and moist!), and corn. It also came with two thick slices of house-baked wheat bread. I'd say this meal was pretty comparable to what you'd get at McGovern's or Key's. Pretty solid.

        The one real shame is that the bakery case is too small to house all the baked goods they have. They list them all on the white board, but it would be so much better if you could choose from the display case. Nevertheless, what we saw looked good. We'll probably be back this weekend to try some baked goods. Downtown Highland Park does seem to be lacking a good bakery, and this may just fit the bill.

        I hope business picks up for this place, because it has some real strengths.

        ~TDQ

        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          as an aside...it's kind of cute that you refer to the area as "downtown" highland park

          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            CC - i thought the same thing!

            TDQ - thanks for the excellent (as always) report. I'll attempt to try breakfast there soon.....

            1. re: St Paul Susie

              I've now had their breakfast, too. I had the corned beef hash and carmel roll. I enjoyed them both--the hash was nice because it wasn't excessively greasy. The carmel roll was quite the sugar attack, as it should be, I guess, served nice and warm. The bread for the toast looked housemade and they served it with a bit of rhubarb jelly. And they bring a big carafe of coffee to the table for you to whittle away at.

              Also, not completely relevant to breakfast, but it looks like they've tucked the Nepali menu inside the "regular" menu.

              ~TDQ

      2. Have you tried Everest on Grand? The momos are pretty good!

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        Everest On Grand
        1278 Grand Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55105

        4 Replies
        1. re: i_love_luhanka

          Yes, in the seventh paragraph of this very long post http://www.chowhound.com/topics/41744... I say that Everest's vegetarian momo's are my favorite, then Highland Cafe's meat momos, then Everest's meat momos. I don't discern a significant difference between the momos at Everest on Grand vs. Everest Cafe (in MGMkt.) Same people. Though, it doesn't always mean the quality of food is the same, but in this case, I think it is.

          ~TDQ

          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            Finally I made it to the Highland Cafe for breakfast.

            Chowhubby, chowkids and I are all giving it 2 thumbs up! .

            service was excellent & very friendly

            booths spacious, rooms large, no wait

            I had the spinach/greek omelet - spinach, tomatos, onions, mushrooms, sunflower seeds & feta. I had the homemade wheat toast which was great.

            Hubby had a breakfast sandwich on wheat with eggs, cheese & sausage. his came with hash browns - his sandwich was great & huge, the hash browns were fine - neither of us are big fans of hash browns.

            Kids had pancakes with bacon - both excellent - the bacon was out of this world.

            Coffee was on the weak side.

            We certainly plan on going again - the carmel rolls looked great and the non-breakfast side of the menu looked great as well.

            Great place to bring kids - even though I only saw one other kid there.

            Susan

            1. re: St Paul Susie

              Oh, I'm glad you liked it. I do think that they execute basic breakfast quite well. Here are a few breakfast photos, including one of a caramel roll (served with just a *little bit* of butter there), and a couple of egg dishes that show the house-made jelly and toast. I notice they offer jars of the jelly for sale. I guess it's strawberry-raspberry.

              ~TDQ

               
               
               
              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                Highland Cafe and Bakery (not to be confused with the Highland Grill) should remove the word "Bakery" from it's name. We were greeted with "what would you like to drink?" before we were even seated. The momos and the curry were good. Then I ordered cherry pie. It was awful, raw bottom crust, very hard dark brown rim crust, and flavorless filling that must have come from a can and had no assistance to hide the fact. I informed the cashier as we were paying and she said she couldn't believe it because everyone else likes their cherry pie. I repeated what was wrong with it and she just couldn't seem to understand and wanted to argue with me. Honestly, that pie had no defense. The service is weird, very loud voiced hostess and butt scratching waiter. I suspect the chef doesn't really like food.