MSP - Golden Valley, MN
Well....since I'm no longer among the resident experts of Eagan, MN, I thought I'd open up a thread about chow in my new neck of the woods (career-wise...don't worry, I've still got Burnsville/Apple Valley/Lakeville covered). Golden Valley, MN and environs.
So far, it hasn't been all bad. It helps that the cafeteria foodservice in my building is actually pretty darned good.
I'm really going to enjoy the outpost of Uncle Franky's off Highway 55 just into Plymouth. It took me all of four days before I headed over and inhaled a Chicago beef. There really wasn't any mystery for me there.
As mentioned in the Be'wiched thread, that's going to be a really great resource for lunches. At first glance Golden Valley is your typical sea of chains but the Warehouse District is a mere 4-5 miles from the heart of GV. If you hit the stoplights right, you can even dine in and be back within an allotted hour lunch break. I look forward to learning more about the lunch scene at some of the places along Washington Ave (Monte Carlo, Jager House, JD Hoyt's, and a few others I can't think of off-hand).
The talk of sable has me excited to be close to Fishman's (never thought I'd say that), but I completely forgot that it also means I'm close to Yum!, a very good lunch spot whose name I abhor. Their tuna melt is top-notch. I was a little disappointed by the carrot cake, though. I'll check back when I've worked my way further down through the menu.
Next up will probably be a trip to the D'Amico outpost just up 55 from the office (I've been to enough of the others and enjoy them).
I would encourage anyone in that neck of the woods to add thoughts to this thread and help me find stuff to eat. Otherwise, I'll just occasionally post a "State of the Valley" addition to it hoping someone finds it useful like my Eagan stuff.
Today's outing was Good Day Cafe in Golden Valley proper.
GDC has been discussed as an excellent breakfast option (which I have yet to try) but my list of best hamburgers in MSP has a new holder of second place (behind the Nook/Shamrock's). Their "Black & Blue" burger (burger, grilled onions, blue cheese and bacon) was phenomenal.
The patty was generous, cooked perfectly to medium rare and was dripping with juice. Obviously hand-formed and never frozen, and the beef was ground a little more coarsely which I appreciate because it seems to give the juice a little more room to flow if that makes any sense. I think when you really pack finely ground beef, it tends to be too dense and result in a dry product. Anyway...way too much thought process...
The bun was my personal model of burger bun perfection -- generous, airy, a slightly chewy exterior and perfectly proportioned to the patty (maybe 1/3 to 1/2 pound by the way). Fresh as an irish spring (or something....this was this bun's first noon hour for sure).
I also appreciated that they used a mild blue cheese and applied it conservatively -- I often hesitate to order blue cheese burgers because the cheese dominates the rest of the flavors and/or attempts to conceal low quality burger (a la TGI Friday's). The onions were also subtle and well-caramelized -- they too stayed out of the way of the beef. I removed the thick cut bacon and ate it separately. It was great.
The icing on the cake was a sizeable portion of perfect, thick cut fries. They would benefit from a pinch of coarse salt/sea salt/etc. but I didn't ask for any. The table salt did the trick.
On a side note, for some reason this place reminded me of the old Lincoln Del in Bloomington, a restaurant I loved and miss. It had a similar layout, the vibe was so friendly (lots of hugging and people obviously meeting) and it was busy. Two totally different places but just a strange observation I guess.
All in all, an excellent first impression. I look forward to many future meals there although I'm unsure how I'll convince myself to stray from ordering a burger every time.
Good Day Cafe
5410 Wayzata Blvd
Golden Valley, MN
Thanks for the rec on Rasa Sayang. It's on the list.
Today's outing was just driving around to see what there is to see, enjoy the sunny day and decompress from completing a big project. I figured if I spotted anything good, I would stop in. My route ended up taking me along Highway 7 in St. Louis Park, home of Wagner's Drive-In.
I've experienced Wagner's but it has been a long, long time. Living and working in the south and east metro, I often wished I could get back up to Wagner's to refresh my memory.
On atmosphere alone, I love Wagner's. And that they hand form never-frozen beef automatically gains them entry into the top 10 percent of burgers in MSP. Aside from that, it's a good, not great burger experience. The beef is tasty and juicy, but lacked any salt. On top of that, the guy taking the order didn't ask how I wanted it cooked -- I don't know if they've fallen victim to some sort of legal requirements or if you could ask for them done a certain way, but it came out medium well (no pink at all). I prefer mine with a good amount of pink (more medium rare to medium...as usual, the Nook would be my gold standard), although this one wasn't at all dried out.
The absence of salt or seasoning in the beef isn't necessarily a problem if the beef is good quality and is served with a good cheese and tasty bun. Wagner's uses standard, Kraft-grade American cheese and the bun, while fresh, was out-of-the-bag grocery store quality. They offer all of their burgers with grilled onions (I usually don't prefer but let them do it and they added a nice touch) and pickle slices.
As for the fries, they were also in the "good, not great" category. They were a little too mealy in texture, a bit limp, but the kosher salt (or some other form of large granule, sharp-tasting salt) was a big plus.
The diet Coke tasted like diet Coke, not iodine so that was much appreciated.
Overall, it's a solid option for a burger, and nice that it's 4 miles from my Golden Valley office. It's not the Nook/Shamrock's but good enough for now. I'm intrigued to give their Philly cheesesteak a try after all the talk of cheesesteaks on here lately. Along with the burgers, they are prominent on the menu and they call them their "signature sandwich" or something.
Winter hours are roughly 11:00 to 2:45 daily.
Wagner's Drive In
3712 Quebec Ave S (along the frontage road of Highway 7)
St. Louis Park, MN
I, too, liked Rasa Sayang on my one visit. Last winter, I needed to do some intensive car shopping in the northern 'burbs, and my bribe was to eat at places I normally don't get to.
I don't think it's the most gourmet food, but my dish (some sort of spicy nooodles) was mighty tasty.
El-Amin's Fish House. YES!
There aren't a whole lot of places around MSP that focus on inexpensive fish, fish & chips, etc. and those that exist, I've found, are of questionable quality. There's Mac's on Larpenteur which has been the subject of debate (changing type/quality of fish, is it fresh or frozen crap), there are the numerous outposts of the JJ's chain which suffer from consistency issues, and a small number of places where you can get fish as an afterthought (Like Lee's & Dee's for catfish which is actually quite good).
So with trepidation I went for lunch at El-Amin's at Penn and W Broadway in North Minneapolis. I was about three steps into the joint and the doubts were erased -- on my left was a case full of neatly arranged tubs of ice, on top of each were dozens of beautiful, carefully cleaned filets of a number of fish.
Now I know there's only so much you can tell about the quality of fish from looking at it through a window, but the fact that they would so proudly display the fish for the whole world to see (to me) says a lot about the end product you're going to receive.
As you can tell from their online menu, the choices are numerous -- you can get everything from fish to a quart of spaghetti to a Vienna hot dog. I was there for the fish so I got the "choose two" combo of perch and catfish with fries and fountain soda for $8.99 (I think).
Right away, I'll say the fries and soda were forgettable. (A topic for another thread but why is the water that supplies fountain sodas in North Minneapolis universally disgusting? Here, Tootie's on Main and one other place I can't think of right now the fountain soda tasted like iodine or some purification product. Anyway...)
I like perch (most kinds) and this was good. Non-walleye perch has a bold flavor yet a little more subtle than something like mackerel, and not nearly as oily. Everything here was just right. Especially good with the accompanying (optional) hot sauce.
That said, the catfish was in a whole other league. Snow white flesh, juicy and sweet. I make a pretty good catfish at home, but this puts me to shame. On both the perch and the catfish, the coating is a nice crunchy cornmeal with good seasoning and the right amount of salt. Not at all greasy. This, to me, is about as good as catfish gets anywhere and I think a few filets with some take-out sides from Brasa is immediately in order (I wish I could get them all in the same place).
In the "icing on the cake" department, they have good video games (including my all-time favorite Galaga, on which I had to crush the High Score before I left...yeah I'm a dork) and both the register guy and the cook who brought out my food thanked me for coming in (an increasingly rare thing to hear).
Great vibes all around.
El-Amin's Fish House
2221 W Broadway (at Penn Ave)
Next up was Maxwell's Corner Delicatessen at the corner of N Emerson Ave and Lowry Ave N in North Minneapolis.
First, no part of Maxwell's qualifies as a delicatessen. Beyond that, the menu board has broad offerings, everything from Chicago beef sandwiches to wings to catfish dinners to gyros to the Philly Cheesesteak which is what I ended up ordering.
I had no expectations that this would be a great Philly Cheesesteak but overall it was a tasty sandwich, especially considering your options in that immediate neighborhood include a tiny hole-in-the-wall chow mein place and starving to death.
I didn't really chat up the guy working there, just ordered the sandwich accepting of whatever options it came with. The meat was more chunks of beef than slices though they were perfectly tender and not chewy at all. The cheese looked like two slices of American but didn't taste quite like it -- still, it didn't add any real flavor. There were some grilled onions, some mayo, lettuce and tomato slices. They have one of those nacho cheese pots -- if I do another steak, I'll have him slather that stuff on instead of the yellow square cheese.
The highlight was the roll. It was very fresh, pillowy, just a tiny bit chewy. I either lucked out and went on the day the place gets their bread shipments or they have fresh bread every day (I could see the piles of bagged rolls, but couldn't spy any brand name or writing if there was any). That alone made me want to return and try the Chicago beef. I'll also probably sample the gyros, wings and catfish. Overall the sandwich was about the quality of Steak Escape at a mall just with better rolls.
The fries were thick, frozen crinkle cut. I had actually asked for the fried okra instead but he said they were out. If you're a fan of Faygo sodas (I had no idea these still existed), that's what they have in the beverage case.
I will provide fair warning on the ambiance. If you're uncomfortable in urban, economically depressed areas, this is not the neighborhood for you. As I was waiting for my food, I noticed two patrons mesmerized by some event occurring outside. I couldn't see what was going on from my vantage point, but as I later walked out the door, I got to witness no less than 20 MPD officers approaching and cautiously entering the nail salon next door with hands resting on their holstered guns. It was quite a sight -- I'd love to know what was going on or who they were taking down. I didn't stick around to find out though -- I interpret cops who look hypervigilant, walking with caution and with guns at the ready as a good message for me to "move along".
After giving my wallet a bit of a break, I headed out after work on Monday. As I've settled in, I find myself intrigued with exploring neighboring North Minneapolis and its fringes mainly because the area is virtually ignored on this board.
Monday's trip was to a place called Tootie's on Lowry, a place that allegedly had good burgers and I found a comment on a Citysearch-like resource about their five-spice wings. Upon actual review, it's your run-of-the-mill corner urban neighborhood bar and restaurant. I debated between a simple bacon cheeseburger and the jalapeno cheese stuffed option but decided to stick with the basics to set a benchmark. The burger was fine and cooked medium rare as I requested, served with American cheese and store-bought bacon. The bun was fresh but not remarkable or baked on-site. Unfortunately the meat had no salt or seasoning and the beef wasn't anything special. It was a little too perfect to be a hand formed patty but it was better than a Sysco-grade frozen patty. I guessed that it was of the never-frozen pre-formed-at-a-factory variety (which enables them to make a stuffed burger).
The fries were thick-cut frozen. I also ordered six of the five spice wings which, again, were nothing special. I'm not sure how many spices make up Lawry's but that's about what these tasted like.
I'll go back and try the stuffed burger and maybe some of their sauced wings but this isn't a place worth going out of your way to find.
Tootie's on Lowry
2706 Lowry Ave N
Tootie's on Lowry
2706 Lowry Ave N, Minneapolis, MN 55411
Definately check out the Robbinsdale places I mentioned. They're on the fringes of that area, and worth the trip.
Sadly, North Minneapolis just hasn't had much to check out since AJ's Smokehouse, Lucille's Kitchen, and Coconut Grove closed. With the exception of Lucille's, they didn't even last very long. I have a lot of hope for the Saturday Rib guy I found the day of the rib chowdown - hopefully he comes back next summer.
I'll get to all of your recs eventually -- bet on it. I plotted out a number of places on a map and as I drive around, I note all of those that have closed. There are a few still around and a few I haven't checked yet (in order of my eagerness to get there):
Maxwell's Corner Deli
El-Amin's Fish House (I mentioned earlier)
Emily's F&M Cafe
Papa's Pizza & Pasta
I also located Crystal Bistro on one outing which has been mentioned on here and I might spill into NE as well. I did notice a place in the Crystal Bistro strip that looks interesting (in a breakfast/blue collar lunch sort of way). Any word on that?
By the way, I read quite a bit about "AJ" and his reviews on here. I wonder what happened to the guy. He had quite the interesting culinary background.
I am curious about Papa's on 42nd, it has always seemed closed whenever I went by.
The place next to Crystal Bistro is called Eggies, but I haven't been there. There's another breakfast joint closer to me - Fat Nat's eggs at 36th and Winnetka. It's a decent neighborhood joint, but not anyplace worth driving out of your way for. (I'd rather make the not too long drive over to Al's) Frankie's Pizza in the same strip mall as Fat Nat's has decent pizza - their deep dish is the best of the bunch, but much closer to Sicilian pizza than the Chicago style they claim it to be.
Definately look at spilling into NorthEast. If you like Uncle Frankies, the original location on Broadway has about 10,000,000 times more charm!
The next lunch outing took me south. I really didn't have a plan in mind, so I figured I would just take a random exit off of 100 and see what happened. The lucky exit was Vernon Avenue (also the exit for 50th/Interlachen) in Edina. At the top of the ramp, I glanced right and saw the word "Patisserie". DING! Winner.
Patisserie Margo, a place I've heard about but never been to, is tucked into a strip mall just off the intersection. They promise "Desserts and delicacies handmade in the Old World tradition".
I'm trying to do fewer "bakery sampling as lunch" meals so I just opted for a plain croissant (because they looked good) and a small wedge of their chocolate cake. The croissant was excellent -- I much preferred theirs to Patrick's, Turtle Bread, Rustica, and everywhere else generally mentioned here for plain croissants. They were actually very similar to Trung Nam in both size, flavor and texture. I consider Trung Nam a close 2nd place to Cupcake in the plain croissant division simply because Cupcake's have a little more buttery essence and manage to be served fresh no matter what time of day I get them.
It was very good and not at all bready.
The chocolate cake was fine, but nothing I would seek out again. I know it's a "patisserie" and not a "boulangerie" but I was surprised they had virtually no bread for sale. They did have some really nice looking baguettes back in the kitchen but nothing evident out or in the cases.
If you're into scones, their array was impressive. At least a dozen varieties both sweet and savory. They looked very nice but I wasn't in the mood.
On the way back, I popped into Fishman's with hopes that the sable that was rumored to be coming in another thread had showed up. Not yet. I don't know why (based on past experience) but I ordered up a small pastrami on rye ("#1 Nosher Size"). I can forgive myself for being stupid enough to order one from there again, but the fact that I paid $9.50 for it was proof that my terrible sleep habits are beginning to kill brain cells. Never again.
Thank goodness their potato knish was very, very good today as was the pickle. I was this close to pretty much writing off the place for good, sable or not.
I'm a great fan of Patisserie Margo when I'm in the neighborhood. My favorite thing at the moment is their roast beef sandwich made with havarti cheese and horseradish on one of their deluctable croissant. The roast beef is left very rare and when you take your first bite, beef juice slides down your throat. How I love that sandwich!
Their danishes are wonderful also.
Useless to resist. Despite dutifully packing a lunch today, I cruised over to Joey Nova's for a slice (sorry Lean Pocket and soup...you'll be tomorrow's lunch).
The good, the bad and the ugly:
Good: Pepperoni by the slice. Outstanding! The slice was enormous -- a good foot from crust to tip and 9" wide. It really bothers me that 99.9% of by-the-slice offerings around town have a distinct "cooked this morning and reheated" quality. I've had a hard time finding offerings better than Cosetta's in this category (which come out fresh because of their volume/turnover). It may have been luck in timing, but this one was clearly fresh off the pie out of the oven.
I didn't find the amount of cheese overwhelming, as has been mentioned by others on this board. It certainly is a different style of pizza than your Grimaldi's NYC style -- instead of patches of fresh mozzarella, it's a covered-in-shredded variety. I can see if you're expecting to visually see sauce between the patches of cheese why you'd say there's too much cheese. But it's just a different style in my view.
The balance of ingredients was good, they all tasted like good quality and the crust was thick and chewy but not so much that it was hard to eat. For a slice that big, it's IMPERATIVE that you are able to fold it in half -- this one held together perfectly when folded unlike Fat Lorenzo's and other "top" by-the-slice competitors around MSP which tear in half when you fold them. Further proof of the freshness. Crust was done to perfection.
Bad: Well...not really bad, but I don't like that they call it "Neapolitan". It's not at all reminiscent of, or prepared like neapolitan pizza. More accurately, they have "based on a 60 year-old Connecticut recipe" under the neapolitan nonsense -- I wish they would just say it's Connecticut style (although maybe not enough people would know what that is or would be expecting white pizza with clams or something). They offer an outstanding pizza, why open it up to criticism by labeling it neapolitan and accepting the tight preparation and ingredient controls that comes along with the breed?
Ugly: The pre-made cannoli in the case were a complete mistake. Frankly, they didn't even have much visual appeal other than their size. But I'm a total sucker for cannoli. Unfortunately, they are just flat out wrong. Awful filling, totally soggy shell, gloppy and chewy chocolate coating on the end and stale pistachios. All and all a total and utter failure. Credit to the other cakes, etc. that actually looked much, much better.
I'll definitely be back for pizza and to try some of the nice looking subs they were sending out of the kitchen. In the grand scheme of MSP chewy crust, "NY Style-ish" pizzas, they rank at or among the top in my mind.
Joey Nova's is now a mini-chain since the first one was opened in Tonka Bay. I've gone through every specialty pizza they have to offer plus I compared Joey Nova's to Cafe Bicko's flagship pizza (45th and France) ingredient for ingredient and Cafe Bicko blows Joey Nova's away in my opinion. Now that they are relatively close you can compare for yourself. Hey, but that's my opinion. Joey Nova's essentially replaced the for Mike's Pizza Platter in the shopping center on Smithtown Rd and Manitou Rd (County Rd 19). I miss Mike's Pizza Platter.
crystal bistro afghani in crystal
el loro in crystal
schuller's tavern by the GVCC
Taste of India @ 394 & 100
Yangtze @ 394 & 100
Ju Yuan on Winnetka (BBQ boneless sparerib/ shrimpfriedrice combo is our standby guilty pleasure quasi-ethnic soulfoud dish)
Fat Nat's Eggs @ Winnetka & 36th...good diner
Joey's Seafood @ 55&Winnetka
Hmm, didn't know that. Too bad. It was kind of a strange place in that it was primarily a pizza joint with super pizza, but you would have never known that unless you actually stepped inside the place.
My three favorite pizza joints, Mike's Pizza Platter in Tonka Bay, Cafe Bicko and Chuck Martin's Pizza in Speedway, IN all closed because the owner's apparently were not very good businessmen. Chuck Martin's was 45 years ago, BTW. I worked there when in high school and was amazed how much care he put into preparing his sauce, dough, sausage and other ingredients from scratch all day long for a 5 PM opening every day.
For good, basic mexican try Pineda Tacos - it is in the same strip mall as the Tea House. They have all the standards - tacos, burritos, quesdillas, tortas, etc. - and a nice variety of meats. Good, friendly, fast service and they are happy to make any of their items to order.
Also, I really think that Latuff's (11255 Hwy 55) does a nice job with their pizza. Thin crust and, unlike just about every other place in town, I don't have to ask them to cook it well done - it comes nicely browned and crispy.
I also work at the corner of 55 & 100 and can tell you that Joey Novas is a standby for many of the folks that go out to lunch here. It's not like DiFara (RIP) or Grimaldi's or Lombardi's or any of the pizza places I eat at in NYC, but people here like it.
Also, I wouldn't write-off all of the "chains" in the neighborhood. I find we're pretty lucky to have a D'Amico within a few blocks of here, and Chipotle still makes a good taco.
Actually, I only worked in Eagan (live in Burnsville). Funny thing is, in the four years I was there, I never once went to that Italian Pie Shoppe location (although I was there prior to that and have done the others). Not because I don't like it, I just rarely did pizza alone (most of my lunch runs are solo).
Thanks for the tip though -- I'll have to get over there at some point.
Depending on where in GV you are, your neighborhood may be close to ours. (Golden Valley certainly covers a lot of ground!) We're in Robbinsdale, and there's actually some decent chow in our little town.
First and foremost is Athen's Cafe at 41st and Broadway, in the same shopping center as Walgreen's and Bill's gun shop. Basic Mediterranian with huge portions and low prices. My personal favorite is the Kofta, but the lamb kabobs are quite good as well. The sandwiches are a bit too big for their own good - stick with the entrees, and you'll do very well. (They also have some options not on the menu. In addition to the spinach pie, there is often cheese pie and veggie pie. Just ask if they have any. They also have a spicy felafel - like the regular stuff, but stuffed with a mixture of hot peppers.)
Also in Robbinsdale is Hackenmueller's Meats - they have a wide variety of sausages, and are also my source for lump charcoal and woods for smoking. My favorites are their brats - cook 'em up on a HOT grill or broil them for a real treat. Dara raved about their Yard sausage a few years ago as well - that thing is a sight to be seen!
There's also St. Petersburg for Russian Food. On the weekends, they host a lot of parties for the local Russian community - that means there's entertainment! You haven't lived until you've heard the house band perform "Fields of Gold" with a Russian accent!
Don't forget the other stuff in Plymouth too. If you're at Uncle Frankie's, you're a stone's throw from Tea House and Pineda Tacos
Tea House Chinese Restaurant
88 Nathan Ln N, Minneapolis, MN 55441
4080 W Broadway Ave Ste 141, Minneapolis, MN 55422
St Petersburg Restaurant
3610 France Ave N, Minneapolis, MN 55422
11850 62nd St Ne, Albertville, MN
Much appreciated. I'm actually almost in the dead center of GV according to my map. Near the Highway 55 and Highway 100 intersection.
I should have mentioned Tea House -- definitely a favorite even dating back to the last time I worked in Golden Valley (only for a short time, then we moved downtown). That will be a staple.
I look forward to checking the others out -- they're certainly in reach over the lunch hour.
By the way Danny (and I'm crossing over from the Ribs & Tres Leche thread), have you ever stopped in El Amin's Fish House (or whatever the name is) at the same intersection of Broadway where the rib guy was? (Or has anyone been in there besides Danny?) It really looks intriguing. "One bite and you're hooked" according to the sign. It looks like a rundown version of Mac's Fish & Chips over in Roseville.
If you're there, take 100 to the exit for 42nd, and you're pretty close to Athen's Cafe.
You'll also pass Thistles, which I always want to love, but never seem to be able to. I've had some good meals, but there's always been *SOMETHING* wrong. But, it is as close as you'll get to fine dining, the room is lovely, and the prices are a fraction of what you'd pay for the same thing downtown.
I haven't been to El Amin's, or anywhere else on that stretch of W. Broadway (except for that rib guy). I'd love to hear if any of those places are worth visiting.
As for the pizzas mentioned in this thread - Joey Nova's and Italian Pie Shoppe are okay, but I'd drive to the Uptown Punch instead. You can either take 100, or if you want a very pretty drive (especially this time of year) take 55 to Theo Wirth Parkway, and drive through the park. A right turn at the traffic light by the Greenway will put you onto France Avenue - leading you to Lake Street only a couple of blocks from Punch. (Theo Wirth has some really nice picnic areas, when the weather is nice, that'll be a good place to lunch away from work.)