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A Finnish Restaurant in the US of A? [Moved from What's My Craving? board]

After living in Helsinki for 5 years, years ago I have yet to find a Finnish restaurant in the US. I miss Karilian and liha pirrakkas, pea soup and blood panakes with muista leippa, rappu, and turnip and pear pie among others. HAS ANYONE EVER BEEN TO A FINNISH RESTAURANT IN THE US? If so where, what did you eat and how was it? Did they have Finnish beer? Laaka?
Come on you UPers!

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  1. Years ago there was a Finnish restaurant in NY. I don't know if it still exists. You might try posting on www.beatrice-ojakangas.com. B. Ojankangas has a Finnish cookbook(and many others) and is a good source on their cooking.

    1. Michigan's UP still has Finnish speaking communities, so I agree with you...there have to be at least a few restaurants, bakeries and breweries.

      1. A quick google turns up this page which might be helpful. Not suprisingly it's mostly the upper Midwest. From living many years in Wisconsin, I'd say there are restaurants not represented here.


        1 Reply
        1. re: zebcook

          Thanks, zeb, for the link (I have to look further and think of where I might go on a road trip).

          I do have to give a tip to those in the Minneapolis/St.Paul area: The Finnish Bistro is not very Finnish at all (it's just a few blocks from us - we've tried, frequently). Some of the pastries are more authentic, but focaccia and gyros? They have good food, but it's certainly not traditional.

        2. There's one in Houghton, called the Suomi restaurant. As I recall it's a breakfast-and-lunch place, with Finnish pancakes and the like. At least that's when I've eaten there; maybe they have dinner, too. If you're up there, I'd also ask at Suomi University in the twin town of Hancock, which has street signs in Finnish and English. Finnish as Hancock is, I've looked around and not seen a Finnish restaurant there. But maybe they have Finnish night in the dining halls or something.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Jim M

            I was at the Suomi Restaurant maybe two years ago and it's mostly a breakfast/lunch place with only a couple Finnish specialties. But it's an incredibly friendly place and it feels like the 1950s or even the 1940s in there.

          2. Passadumkeg,
            Thanks, you made my day. (I used to live in Finland, too, for a looooong time :-).
            First I thought you were joking, though, since so many non-Finns just do not get those (very) traditional food items & flavors.

            And, as you know, modern Finnish restaurants today, being part of the "Nordic Food" movement, do not offer these traditional items on their menus. But you do get them in traditional and/or theme restaurants -and some of them, like the black bread and karjalanpiirakka, can be found in cafes, or even served among the splendid breakfast spreads that some of the better hotels offer. And in grocery stores, of course.

            One of the food items I miss most is also on your list: the "MUSTA LEIPĂ„" (black bread), which (for those, who have not hade the pleasure of visiting Finland) is a dark, "sour" rye bread, gorgeously moist, with a crisp crust. The best ones are baked with the help of a dough "root". (OHHHHH my g-d, that's the best bread in the world.) Top it with cheese and sliced tomatoes and you are in heaven. (or with some good pickled herring, oh boy...). I'm clearly getting started here... let's calm down for a bit..... I have tried to hunt this bread down over here, but no luck. I have even tried the Russian version, but their black bread just does not compare to the Finnish black bread. Sigh.

            The "Carelian Pie" (Karjalan piirakka) is also very good. The dough is -again- baked with rye, and the moist center consists of deliciously cooked rice. Top it with a hard boiled egg mashed with some butter (& maybe some tiny pieces of scallion), and you have a brunch that will keep you going for a long time. Yum. Wash it down with Finnish (strong) coffee, and you are in business. Here is a link to a recipe. It is in Finnish, but has photos of the baking process and the end product, so it's sort of fun: http://kurssit.eu/piirakat/

            The rapu (Cray fish) in Finland is the best I have tasted in the whole world. I have tried to go to a few Cray fish events hosted by Swedish restaurants in NY, but the problem is that no matter how good your recipe is, if the Cray fish itself is not from Finland (or, I guess, Sweden), it's just not as good. The (fresh) Finnish Cray fish is bigger and tastier than any of its American counter parts. (And I am not even thinking about the super tiny ones you get in New Orleans).

            I am not aware of a Finnish restaurant in the North East area. The closest you can come is to go to a Swedish restaurant, but they do not serve the items you lust for. I used to eat at Ulrika's (now closed) on 60th Street in Manhattan, and some of their food (especially the fish dishes) reminded me of Finnish cuisine. Surprisingly, it seems that the Swedish X-mas food, while very similar to that in Finland, does not offer nearly as many vegetable side dishes as the Finnish X-mas food. The Finnish X-mas table is filled with vegetable dishes & root casseroles (like rutabaga or carrot) and other greens and veggies.

            Anyway, that's that, for going down the memory lane of delicious Finnish treats. As for beer, the only restaurant (in New York) where I have seen Finnish beer, is Gramercy Tavern. They used to have a Sinebrykoff porter on the list. It is really delicious, dark, chocolaty, full. We found the same stuff at the store BeerKraft on 5th Ave in Brooklyn. Never heard of "Laaka" . Maybe you meant Lappi (Lapin Kulta), or Lahden (Lahden Sininen) beers?

            Oh, by the way: the Finns organize this yearly X-mas party at the Estonia House in Manhattan. They serve some Finnish foods. And also sell some.
            We were not that impressed though and were very bothered by the cigarette smoke (private space, so they get away with it) and stopped going.

            1 Reply
            1. re: FoodWine

              As for those blood pancakes (veri lettu), did you top them with lingonberry jam or butter? I am a lingonberry girl, myself :-)

            2. Jeez... third convo today about Finnish food. Weird. Not in Michigan, but if you find yourself in Thunder Bay, the Finlandia Club on Bay St houses a restaurant, The Hoito, which does (or use to do) all the old traditional dishes, and do them very well.

              3 Replies
              1. re: hungry_pangolin

                hpangolin: Is the restaurant still in operation? I was there last about 8 years ago and was so happy to have a maksalaatikko that I didn't have to make myself! We're in Minnesota, and could easily justify a road trip to Thunder Bay for some (not very well represented in the US) food.

                to the OP and FoodWine, I too lived in Helsinki for a long stretch. Dearly miss the traditional foods... and the lakka. My household (we're Finnish) still makes a lot of Finnish food - I think it's one of those cuisines that remains in the home kitchen. Sadly.

                1. re: cayjohan

                  I just did a websearch, and The Hoito seems be be still in operation. Telephone is 807.345.6323, if you want to confirm.

              2. Dear Fellow Finnophiles, thanks for all the responses. Now I know I gotta go west young man, go west. Thunderbay, Houlton and Hancock Here I come. Gotta hit Decorah, Ia too so I can see road signs in Norwegian.
                Vb, I have had Ojankangas' cookbook for year and a few others too.
                Food Wine, with lingonberry jam, Lakka is cloudberry liquor, the Scandanavian Foundation on Park Ave. in the upper 50's has a cafe w/ extremely reasonable and authentic Scan. lunches. We get Koff porter here in Maine too. There is a great Finnish music group in NYC named Kaiku, check 'em out.
                And if in New England, Fitchberg, Ma. has a Finnish bakery, Thomaston, Me a Finnish Heritafe Ass. and Monson, Me. The Finnish Farmer Soc. w/ monthly dances during the summer.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Passadumkeg

                  Go to northern MI in August. Weather will be good, lakes will be beautiful. Make sure to see Taquahmenon Falls, it's the anti-Niagara (in a state park, no touristy chatchke stores)

                  1. re: Passadumkeg

                    Ohh, LAKKA... I was thinking about beers, and got way off track.
                    Lakka berries are soo god on top of vanilla ice cream. And SO healthy.
                    Passadumkeg, you really got me to think about (and miss) lots of different Finnish tastes. Hmm... maybe I should take a little vacation over there.... (it's been 4 years).

                    Yes, I have been to Scandinavia House, a couple of times for lunch. It was OK, not great.

                    1. re: FoodWine

                      It's not in the U.S., but the Hoito restaurant in Thunder Bay, Ontario has a large menu of Finnish foods.

                      I don't know how close it is to Finnish beer, but the lCBO in Ontario now has beer from Estonia.

                      1. re: ekammin

                        Yes, the Estonian beer is Saku, and it is close to Finnish beer. The general taste in the north is toward pilsners and lagers, with some few exceptions. That Estonian beer is similar to Lapin Kulta, or the somewhat lesser (IMHO) Sinninen.