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Nov 28, 2007 01:34 PM

Paella MSP

I want to cook paella. Beforehand, I need to eat it somewhere to get an idea of the balance of flavors, etc. (I cook better this way than just reading a recipe)

My limited research led me to either Babalou or El meson. I think that I might like el meson's menu better, but I read that babaloo has a better version of paella.

Also, thinking of bringing our 6yo if that is a factor. He knows how to behave at a nice restaurant, but didn't know if babalou was a good setting for him.

Any thoughts or other recommendations? Driving up from Rochester.

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  1. I have not tried it but I have heard that Palomino makes a mean paella.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Clams

      thanks, the menu looks good. BTW check out their wines by the glass prices....Pretty decent, but lower cost wines. They are charging 70-80% of what I can get an entire bottle for Retail. They must be marking these up 600% over cost. Not bad if you can get it.

      Am I getting spoiled having a wine cellar?

      1. re: chrisinroch

        You and me both. For some of their by-the-glass wines (like the Five Rivers PN), a glass is over 100% of the retail-on-sale cost. Ouch! For this reason alone, I'm never going to Palomino. This pricing policy drives me crazy.

        El Meson has a nice wine list - better matched to the food - with a slightly smaller markup. Not that much smaller, though - Mpls/St.Paul is BAD for wine-by-the-glass prices.

        But that's another thread...


        P.S. I've never had the paella at El Meson, but I've loved everything I've eaten there. I think you'll be pleased.

    2. This isn't the most useful of replies, but.
      I have never had the paella at either joint, and never been to Babalou, but el meson has never disappointed me. They also tend to have a generous half price wine schedule.
      Paella is also scary easy to make, so I wouldn't lose any sleep about getting the best sample. Of course, you need to cook the way you need to cook.
      If you are coming up just for that, p'raps you could find something to stretch the day and hit both places? Maybe the 6yo would like to see Frog and Toad at the Children's Theatre...

      4 Replies
      1. re: ajs

        Did El Meson used to be Cafe Havana? If so, We had a great meal there some time ago. (before the name change) Never been to the childrens theatre in MSP, so thanks for that rec.

        1. re: chrisinroch

          No, El Meson is its own restaurant.

          3450 Lyndale Avenue South Minneapolis MN 55408

          1. re: KTFoley

            El Meson places link:

            El Meson
            3450 Lyndale Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55408

          2. re: chrisinroch

            now that you mention it, i believe cafe havana makes paella by request (i.e. not pre-made. it used to be very good, no matter what the opinion of the rymarczyk(sp?) family's restauarants are) might be worth a call to see if they still do this.

        2. I've had both and El Meson's was a little better, but they really are comparable. Paella can take a while to make so if you have a wee one get your order in right away and order appetizers to fill some time. Depending on when you go El Meson's probably a little more child freindly. Babalu has a reputatin for being pretty loud, but my understaing is that may have change. It's been a while since I have been there.

          2 Replies
            1. re: chrisinroch

              Palomino has a really nice Paella dish but I think El Meson is the best.

          1. Solera has paella too, and their food is excellent in general. I have made this dish, make sure you get good quality seafood. Coastal is a good bet.

            1. I would recommend Taberna del Alabardero on 18 Street (between H and I). It's not cheap -- about $30 per person, but they make it for you on request. But wherever you go, make sure they make it on request. I wouldn't waste my time and money for paellas that are pre-made -- even portions of it. Rice dishes don't age well. With paella, you want to taste invidivual ingredients.

              Unless you pay 30 bucks per person for a custom-made paella in a restaurant, I'll bet you can make one at home that can beat those in restaurants. You may not hit it the first try, but what works for me is to have good ingredients, and having trusted recipes (go to for some good ones). Paellas are are normally cooked in one pan -- avoid those that have you prepare the rice in a separate pot as they are suspect. And don't forget to put the entire pan in the oven for about 10 minutes to let the rice set. Good Spanish recipes include this step -- very import for the home cook as we don't have the wide burners or grills on which to heat the pans.

              2 Replies
              1. re: MartinDC

                The poster is coming from Rochester MN up to Minneapolis. The Taberna is in Washington DC, right? That's a bit of a detour.

                1. re: KTFoley

                  "Dad, are we there yet?" ;)
                  Still, thanks martin for the info on the paella recipes.