MSP -- Lebanese/Ethiopian/Japanese
I'm going to Minneapolis for this weekend until the rest of the month, and I'm hoping to get my fill of good ethnic food while I'm there. :)
Do you have any recommendations for Lebanese, Ethiopian, and Japanese (sushi, specifically) restaurants?
From the advice from past threads, I am planning to check out Origami and Fuji Ya, since they seem to be getting the most consistent ratings. No one seems to oppose Sakura, either, so if i can get to St. Paul, I will definitely try that, too. But please speak up if you oppose this plan. :)
I'm not even sure if Minneapolis has Lebanese and Ethiopian food at all, but I'd really love some so if you know of any restaurants, please share.
For Ethiopian, I prefer Fasika on Snelling in St. Paul. While the food at Blue Nile is fine, I find the service to be incredibly annoying. While at Fasika it can also be slow, I find it less annoying that Ethiopians are serving me versus (lazy) college kids. I also like how Fasika is always lively and near full, while the dining room at Blue Nile has been close to empty the 4 or so times I've been. Blue Nile does have a more extensive beer list though.
There are many middle eastern restaurants, although I'm not sure which are run by Lebanese. We love Holy Land on Central Ave and in the Midtown Global Market, but it's deli/buffet versus sit down. Saffron is an upscale restaurant downtown which serves Lebanese/middle eastern food.
Blue Nile Gosa Gosa's are for sure the way to go.. plus they have HH specials almost all the time (b1g1 free wine & beer)... from like 4-6 & 8 to close.
You don't really have to deal w.the server but more than to order & to pay.. and they have these tacky old velvety couches that are super fun. I wouldn't go there as my first experience in Minneapolis, esp for atmosphere, but after living here for 10 years and eating at a lot of different spots, its one of my top 3 spots in town.
Lebanese: I've never eaten at Emily's but assume it's Lebanese based on its full name ("Emily's Lebanese Delicatessen"....). I don't think that it's got a lot of ambiance, but it might be a good lunch spot. I'd second both of Kate's suggestions for Holy Land and Saffron, although I don't think that I'd describe Saffron as a hard-core middle-eastern restaurant. More of a middle-eastern influence.
Jerusalem's has a dark ambiance that I find a little dreary, but the food is pretty good. There was also a recent rave about Java Restaurant down Nicollet a little way (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/468082). Bear in mind that neither of these may be true Lebanese food. (I don't know enough about Lebanese food to comment.)
I agree with Kate's assessment of Fasika vs. Blue Nile. I would, however, point out that not only is the Blue Nile beer list extensive, it's full of great regional beers.
My favorite sushi spots are Origami or Nami, although Fuji Ya can be pretty good too.
Fasika Ethiopian Restaurant
510 Snelling Ave N, Saint Paul, MN 55104
Saffron Restaurant & Lounge
123 North 3rd Street, Minneapolis, MN 55401
30 N 1st St Ste 1, Minneapolis, MN 55401
251 1st Ave N, Minneapolis, MN 55401
Holy Land Bakery & Grocery
2513 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55418
1518 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55403
600 W Lake Street, Minneapolis, MN 55408
Holy Land Bakery
920 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55407
2801 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55408
Emily's Lebanese Delicatessen
641 University Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413
Blue Nile Ethiopian Restaurant
2027 E Franklin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55404
i'll also second the rec for fasika in st paul. emily's (in northeast) has good food but it's extremely tiny and casual, not really a destination. . . other options could include beirut restaurant in st paul (mellow mom & pop restaurant with good food--good for a lunch?).
saffron is a fabulous, mediterranean/middle eastern influenced fine dining spot downtown. more north african than ethiopian. wonderful small plates incl. mirqaz sausage, great desserts, turkish coffee--a rec on it's own merit but not as an ethiopian or lebanese restaurant specifically.
Beirut Lebanese Restaurant
1385 Robert St S, Saint Paul, MN 55118
I think Emily's is excellent. Their kibbe is really good and their tubbulli (sp?) is really great, probably the best in the state. I've liked everything on their menu.
For Ethiopian I would go to Fasika or Casablanca. I used to work with a lot of Ethiopians and they all agreed Fasika is the best. But, since we worked in Minneapolis, they would often run and get lunch from Casablanca.
Casablanca is located next to the Red Sea bar in the Cedar-Riverside area. They have very good food. I'd recommend the beef tibs and the doro wat. I haven't been there in quite a while now. I'll have to go soon. The link doesn't work, but they are at 411 Cedar Ave S.
Lebanese restaurants in the Twin Cities include Emily's, Java, and Beirut. Emily's and Beirut are my favorites. (Holy Land and Jerusalem aren't Lebanese - though some of the food is similar - and Saffron is more Mediterranean-Persian fusion.) Zakia Deli is a newish Lebanese place that I haven't tried yet.
Emily's is very casual - formica tables next to a deli case - and has the best tabbouli in town (the lettuce salad is all-iceberg, but the dressing is great).
Java has had its ups and downs, but I hear it's "up" these days. In my Java-going days, I loved the lamb shank dinner and the basbusa dessert (a sweet grain cake that's sometimes called "harissa").
Beirut has wonderful, life-giving garlic sauce that comes with the kabob dinners. The raw kibbe and baba ganouj are also fabulous. So is the hummos. I don't like their tabouli, though, and their wine list sucks. But most of the food is really good, and that garlic sauce rules.
Japanese: I love Tanpopo, Obento-Ya, and Midori's - all are cozy places with home-style cooking. Tanpopo doesn't have sushi (except for one or two rolls). The other two do, but it's not their main focus. I haven't been to Sakura for years (too close to Tanpopo, which is so wonderful I can't resist), but I used to like it.
For Ethiopian, I defer to the experts on this board. Fasika is on my "must try" list.
Have a nice visit here, Embla! We'd love to hear your reactions to the places you try.
Tanpopo Noodle Shop
308 Prince St, Saint Paul, MN 55101
Midori's Floating World Cafe
2629 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55406
2801 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55408
2412 Kennedy St NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413
Obento-Ya Japanese Bistro
1510 Como Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414
I was at Java recently and it was very good. The falafal was the best I've ever had, though I don't think that's a typical Lebenese dish. It was really good and very cheap. The service was amazing. The atmosphere is a bit bizarre, they clearly haven't remodeled since they opened at that location.
After some reflection, I don't think that the Java Restaurant is Lebanese. I think (but am not at all sure) that the owners are Egyptian. In any case, the food is pretty good. But if the OP is looking for truly Lebanese food, this might not be it.
If it were later in the year, I would recommend the annual Touch of Lebanon Festival at St. Maron Catholic Church in NE Mpls. But I think that the festival is in September.