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[MSP] Aribel's: Guyanan in Richfield

d
Danny Sep 10, 2007 07:20 PM

This past weekend, we tried Aribel's Restaurant (1120 E 66th St in Richfield). What a Chow find, if there was a prototypical Chowhound place, this would be it. It is a former Mexican restaurant that the owners are slowly remodeling tucked away in an otherwise non-descript area (although that may change when the nearby SuperTarget and Home Depot open). To call the atmosphere odd would be nice. (Some of the old Mexican decor is there, I swear the tables and chairs date to the early 1980s. At least they've repainted - apparently the previous owner of the place painted EVERYTHING black.)

We were really, really impressed. We were the only customers there on Sunday afternoon, and had a nice chat with the owner and his wife. They're very proud of their country, and their food. Guyana is part of South America, but more closely identifies itsself with the caribbean. They also have a large population of Indian and Chinese descent. Thus, the food is a fusion of all three: Caribbean, Chinese, and Indian.

We started off with an appetizer of fried dough made with chickpeas, and served with a homemade tamarind sauce. (On the menu, look for the appetizer that comes with 10 pieces) They sort of reminded us of hush puppies, but much lighter. They were a great carrier for the tamarind sauce which was sweet and tangy. I later found myself dipping anything I could find into that sauce - it was that good.

TCL ordered the vegetable lo mein. Take your typical American-Chinese Lo Mein, but replace the overwhelming soy sauce flavor with Indian spices. Add in a lot more vegetables (we were told that even the meaty versions have many more vegetables than the chinese version) and you have Guyanan Lo Mein. It was available with quite a few meats - next time, I think I'm going to have to have the Jerk Chicken Lo Mein (How's that for fusion?.)

I had the Chicken Curry. This was large chunks of bone-in chicken breast simmered in a caribbean curry broth (with a bit of Indian flavors as well). The chicken was perfectly cooked, and TCL and I soaked up the broth with our side order of their bread. (Again, I forget the name. It was a flatbread that was filled with ground chickpeas.)

The owner has worked in restaurants since he was a child. First in Guyana, then in New York, and finally here. He reccommended that we try their Beef Pepperpot, Cookup rice, or any of their fish dishes (they always have red snapper, and he said to ask if they have grey snapper). He imports his fish from Guyana (via New York) and his. He also promised to have a video about Guyana for us to watch, rather than the Indian music videos they usually play. (Saturday nights, they turn the place into a dance club that draws a diverse audience, mostly Indian, but also many from the caribbean, as they often feature live reggae.)

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Aribel's Restaurant
1120 E 66th St, Minneapolis, MN 55423

  1. p
    PHP Apr 9, 2009 12:53 AM

    Aribel's is gone now, but does anyone know if they moved somewhere else? I ate there a few times, and would love to go back..

    1. t
      tvdxer Dec 4, 2007 08:04 AM

      Aribel's is an interesting place. I was there about a month ago. I wrote a report, but I'm too lazy to link to it right now.

      But I will say I ordered "bara" and chicken curry. The "bara" is a true Guyanese dish, actually more of an appetizer or side (as it was marked on the menu; about $3.00 I think for 8 or 10 pieces). Basically, they're kind of like fried string beans, though that description isn't sufficient. They come with a really good sauce.

      The chicken curry was nothing like I was expecting, based on my many previous experiences with Indian chicken curry. Basically, they bring out a big plate of white rice and another bowl with whole pieces of (non-boneless) chicken and sauce in it. I wouldn't say it's bad, but it was a bit difficult to eat, more because of the fact the pieces were so big and it was awkward setting up a plate than that they weren't boneless. Next time I'll order something else, maybe the "rice cook-up" which sounded good (but wasn't described on the menu; I asked the waiter what it was) and was cheap at $6.50 or the chicken lo mein everybody seems to be raving about. The waiter said the restaurant serves pretty much everything Guyanese.

      Service was attentive and talkative (I was dining solo). When I was there, very loud soca music was playing and there were about six other diners there, four at one table and two at the other. The four were just drinking beer (?) and "hanging out", and I think the same was the case with the two. It'd be a real tragedy if we lost this restaurant. One problem is that it might be a bit out of the way for "ethnic dining". Most of the restaurants serving less common cuisines seem to be located in either Minneapolis or St. Paul proper. I wonder if the Guyanese are concentrated out in the 'burbs, as some ethnic groups are (Indians and Russians?), or if the price was right for that location.

      2 Replies
      1. re: tvdxer
        t
        trhymers Dec 18, 2007 12:07 PM

        they are having one of their parties on sat night. dec 22nd.

        1. re: trhymers
          u
          Ummm Apr 9, 2008 06:07 PM

          this sounds like an interesting place! will have to try next time i'm up there. hope it's still good!

      2. s
        soupkitten Nov 28, 2007 08:28 AM

        we finally made it too: the appetizer everyone's talking about is spelled: poulourie; pronounced: poo-loo-ree. i made sure to make sure!

        we had the poulourie, jerk chicken (the appetizer, where you just get the bone-in chicken for $7, without noodles etc), and beef pepper pot, and a dal puri (flatbread made of chickpea flour), and a newcastle and a red stripe-- $30 before tip. we had enough leftovers for another light meal at home.

        the food was great. really enjoyed the guyanan version of jerk chicken, with generous spice-and-pepper laden sauce, not toned down by any tomato product like you sometimes see. it may take me a while to grow balls enough to order "jerk chicken lo mein" but on the other hand all the food was terrific & i might have to do that next, after i try the fish. the beef pepper pot was well flavored and very tender. i enjoyed the dal puri wrapped around rice with the delicious sauce from the beef between bites of meat.

        a cd was playing with many reggae covers of old sam cooke songs etc. we were thoroughly entertained but that is our own weirdness. would go back to aribel's in a heartbeat, and whenever we find ourselves in the area, and we briefly talked about renting the whole place out for a party w/buffet, maybe some time. we were the only ones there besides two guys drinking beers and making cellphone calls-- passing the time it seemed.

        2 Replies
        1. re: soupkitten
          r
          reannd Nov 28, 2007 10:22 AM

          the lo mein addition wasn't much to worry about.. just brown noodles.. not really hot or anything, just subtly tasty. the chicken is def the highlight of the deal. the fried rice had a better flavor.. almost cinnamony, im guessing high doses of garam masala.

          the snapper curry is much more of an adventure (ask for veggies as it's really fishy, but in a good way.. the aftertaste is crazygood). next time i am going to go w.fish stew to see the difference.. but the pepper pot is probably the most unique.

          1. re: reannd
            t
            trhymers Dec 3, 2007 06:44 AM

            i was back on sat. for our once a week to-go. Leon was mention that soon they are going to add afew new items to the menu. jerk and coconut shrimp are two of them.

        2. r
          reannd Nov 24, 2007 06:04 PM

          All right, it's been at least a week or two since anyone brought this back up. Our family finally went to try Aribel's for lunch today. All we can say is holy crap. Seriously, go here, eat a lot.. be full, and happy that you just had some kick-ass food before the place closes (like everyone else mentioned, we were the ONLY customers in the place). .. or be happy you kept them in business.

          We enjoyed: Shrimp fried rice (my dad orders at every restaurant as sort of his trademark.. he said this is the BEST shrimp fried rice he has ever ever had (and he has had a lot).. but it may not be fair because it was SO different and good); beef pepper pot (I normally do not enjoy eating beef.. but this was NOT normal beef.. the owner/chef/only guy working explained it was flavored with molasses.. yum!); jerk chicken lo mein (also, very fresh and different taste), and the snapper curry (what an interesting, tasty (saltyfish) flavor) with extra veggies by request. Everything was so unique and tasty as can be... and very very reasonably priced.

          Please go, and enjoy.

          4 Replies
          1. re: reannd
            mnitchals Nov 25, 2007 08:31 PM

            I also finally made it there last week. I was most impressed with the jerk chicken lo mein. It's not little pieces of chicken in a lo mein but rather a full brest of jerk chicken on top of the lo mein. This is seriously great food and it seems to be an authentic fusion cuisine. Yes mine was the only table in the joint at the time. I noticed that one poster even included Aribel's on their msp trip report. I noticed that there were signs up for a disco on thanksgiving night. Maybe they do a decent business on special nights for their own ethnic community. We need to get Dara to write about this place.

            1. re: mnitchals
              t
              trhymers Nov 26, 2007 12:12 PM

              i think the event was on sat. they do the dj events almost once a month. it gets going about 10:30-11. but then goes till 2. since i live at the other end of the block i drive by all the time. they get really busy during these events. mixed it up more and tried the curried shrimp recently. excellent. 5 or 6 jumbo super spicy shrimp.

              1. re: trhymers
                j
                Josie Nov 27, 2007 05:05 PM

                We went here tonight. In short, it was great. We had the poularie appetizer (hush puppies that others have noted, still not sure I have that spelled correctly) with the flavorful tamarind sauce. My husband had the pepper pot & I had the curried shrimp, we had an order of the jerk chicken fried rice, which as mnitchals pointed out has a full breast quartered on top of the fried rice. The portions were generous and so flavorful. Our 4 yr old had the chicken nuggets and banana soda (there are a variety of caribbean sodas & juices). He also enjoyed playing peek a boo with the owners young daughter. We were too full for dessert but I saw there was a flan. We both thought the menu was deeper than what others have noted. You do wait a bit because everything is prepared from scratch. Our appetizer, entrees, sidedish, 2 Red Stripe & 2 sodas came to $50. Great food, great value. Go!

                1. re: Josie
                  mnitchals Nov 28, 2007 06:42 AM

                  Is the menu deeper? Did I miss something? In the Guyanan dept, I only noted the jerk chicken things, pepper pot, fish, goat, chicken and shrimp curry. I assumed (and perhaps erroneously) that all the meat curries were the same just with different creatures. Don't get me wrong I love the food and the hosts were very gracious, but really it seemed like there were only 3 Guyanan entrees on the menu.

          2. Gastron Oct 3, 2007 07:01 AM

            I stopped in last night around 6:00 and was the only person there.Took your recommendations and had the Poulaise (sp?) with tamarind sauce.A bargain at 3.50 for 10 chickpea hushpuppies and homemade tamarind sauce,which was tart and tasty.

            I had the beef pepper pot,which was a bowl of tender,cut with a fork beef chunks in a brown broth served with a plate of rice and shredded fresh cabbage towards one edge.

            Washed down with a Heineken,all for 16.00.

            Yep,I'll be back to try their other offerings!

            1 Reply
            1. re: Gastron
              t
              tart1 Oct 4, 2007 05:20 PM

              I, also stopped in for a meal and was the only one there.

              Had the Poularie (?) still NOT the right spelling, but the same chickpea/garbanzo "hushpuppies" with tamarind sauce and the pepper pot.

              The food was delicious, and comparing Aribel's "hushpuppies" to the new Falafel King's "hushpuppies", I'd go back to Aribels in a blink for more. Falafel King's falafel fell short for me - dry and bland. In comparison, Aribel's [something like...]..Poularie (sp?) were smaller, donut-hole-sized chickpea balls that were deep fried and served with a delicious, homemade, tamarind sauce that made a great marriage - similar to how a great blue cheese dressing served with a very good buffalo wing "hits the spot perfectly" - great combination and flavors.

              The pepper pot was very good! the beaf chunks were very tender and the sauce was very complimentary and blended so well it's hard to describe any distinct flavors, but easy to say it was delicious. At the same time, the "pepper pot" came as a very small portion on the side in a very small bowl (probably less than a full teaspoon).

              I REALLY LIKED the flavor of the "pepper pot" (on the side), yet was surprised at the 'bite' it had. Wow! What a marvelous burst of wonderful flavor, and then the afterbite - " suddenly grabbing", then tapering off and then lingering, but definitely NOT unpleasant if you like spicy food. The flavor of the pepper pot had me going for more no matter what anyway. When I asked what was in it, the owner rattled off a gazillion ingredients off the top of her head and even told me that she didn't remember them all.

              All in all, I think this place needs more customers and I sure hope they get them. The food is really good and it's a very unique restaurant as far as the cuisine served is concerned since it's really NOT a "fusion" restaurant, but really IS Guyanese and a bit Carribean.

            2. t
              trhymers Sep 27, 2007 08:59 AM

              we live just down the block and get Aribels to go at least once a week. my wife gets the curried chicken all the time. i will mix it up. the pepper pot, lamb or beef curries, jerk chicken, beef or lamb fried rice. since we are regulars Leon and Chetranee know i like mine x-tra spicey. so it cooked that way for me plus i get a side of their hot sauce. and for the kiddies the chicken nuggets and fries are great.

              3 Replies
              1. re: trhymers
                h
                happysnacker Sep 28, 2007 08:31 AM

                Four of us had dinner at Aribel's last night. At 7pm we were the only customers, after a family of three left. We had great personalized service and a wonderful meal. We tried and shared the jerk chicken lo mein, the pepper pot beef, the shrimp stew and the curry chicken. We also had the appetizers described above (chick pea "hushpuppies") with the tamarind sauce. I could just slowly eat a whole bowl of this! What a treat everything was! Full of flavor, fall off the bone tender, as spicy as any of us wanted. The owner shared that he is planning to remodel in December, adding soundproofing so they can have live music without unhappy neighbors, and adding a full bar!

                I encourage everyone to go and try this place. He has a lot of pride in his cooking, and he should! He needs a bigger audience. And it is a great chow value...everything we had above, plus eight beers, was only $77.00!

                1. re: happysnacker
                  j
                  jenniegirl Apr 10, 2008 08:14 AM

                  Is the Jerk Chicken Lo Mein in a creamy coconut milk based sauce?

                  1. re: jenniegirl
                    mnitchals Apr 10, 2008 08:59 AM

                    No it's just a thick rub on the meat.

              2. EarlOfSandwich Sep 12, 2007 02:58 PM

                We enjoy Aribel's and it is very close to our house. May want to consider a Chowdown there. Our daughter usually dances and plays with the owner's little girls when they stick their heads down from upstairs.

                A personal story about the building: before it was Aribels it was an okay mexican place for a couple years. Before that it was King Oscars. King Oscars used to advertise with coupons on the back of the receipt tape at the Rainbow down 66th, so my wife and I went to try it out one evening. There was actually a queue almost out the door, but we were the only customers under 65.
                Worst.Meal.Ever. Can you say "nursing home food?" Was mighty inexpensive, though!

                We are pleased to have Aribels in its place!

                1 Reply
                1. re: EarlOfSandwich
                  d
                  dave43 Sep 16, 2007 12:10 PM

                  Ate there yesterday. We were there on Saturday around 2 p.m. We were the only customers. Expect a long wait time as everything is made from scratch. The appetitizer the poster above mentioned was called something like poulaise, it was very good and the sauce was excellent. I had the pepperpot which was very interesting as far as flavors. I liked it as it is something very different. It was hot but not really hot like chinese sichaun. I also had the fried grey snapper battered in a hot sauce. It was good but could have been a little more crisp. That was my fault for coming at such a late time...The oil probably had to be reheated. The menu isn't that large but is very different and this place is worth a visit. Next time I would get the snapper stew.

                2. The Dairy Queen Sep 11, 2007 04:45 AM

                  Thank you for this report. Sounds like another fantastic discovery--I will put it on my list of places to try! I'm not sure whether I've has Guyanan food before!

                  I applaud you for boldly going where no hound has gone before. (Now I'm not sure if that's Chowhound or Star Trek?) Discovery is the best part of Chowhounding and sometimes you eat some crummy meals along the way, but isn't it glorious when you find something wonderful and unusual?

                  And, yes, I too am intrigued by the idea of jerk chicken lo mein. It's situations like these I want to point to later when I hear people diss some wonderful good they've tried because it isn't "authentic" enough due to ingredient substitution or borrowing techniques or flavors from various cuisines. This is a perfect scenario to remind us that "fusion" is a natural evolution and the results can be astoundingly good.

                  ~TDQ

                  1. r
                    reannd Sep 10, 2007 07:52 PM

                    AWESOME! i heard about this place a while ago, and it's just off the normal route we take anywhere, so we always forget about it. now i must go.

                    i think they have a lunch buffet (or they used to). i tried calling a couple times to find out what was on it, but no one ever answered the phone :/

                    how's the pricing? many good veg dishes, or all meat?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: reannd
                      d
                      Danny Sep 11, 2007 05:57 AM

                      Most entrees were under $10. There were quite a few veggie dishes, especially if you'll eat fish. Everything is made from scratch and to order, so if you're having trouble finding something, ask. (They asked us if we were vegetarian after we asked a lot of questions, TCL ordered some veggie stuff, and I was taking a while to decide what I wanted.)

                      One other note - don't go if you're in a hurry. We were the only ones there, and it took quite some time to get our food as everything is done to order.

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