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.
We love Fasika. It is great. We loved the vibrant atmosphere, including one very cold, rainy night in early April. It was hopping! The food was much more flavorful and refined than other Ethiopian places we'd tried. And the prices were amazing!
Service was...leisurely, but that was ok by us. The food was worth it.
Origami has its detractors, but we have enjoyed it very much on several occasions. Really good hamatchi kama.
glad to see shish popping up. generally good food and convivial atmosphere, close to macalester campus (for the visiting op). ironically, the last time i picked up takeout there the tabouli was SO lemony i couldn't eat it! like someone added lemon, forgot they did, added it again, never tasted it before sending it out! they are typically very busy. the quality is quite high, & there is a bit more of an innovative cooking style at shish than at the more traditional mom & pops-- still will satisfy a traditional appetite though.
My votes go to Fasika for Ethiopian, Shish for Lebanese and Midori's for Japanese.
Out of those, Fasika is my strongest recommendation. The food has always been wonderful and very reasonably priced even if the service can be on the slow side. We always get the combination platter and leave full and very pleased.
Emily's is terrific (have to concur on the tabouli comments. Maybe they chop the parsley fresh when you order it as it doesn't have that staleness that pre-made has.) but again, no wine or beer, not a "destination" unless you want to eat good lebanese food. Get the baklava-type phylo desert they have. Fasika is also very good, but we have not had a full dinner there...yet.
I've only had Blue Nile for Ethiopian, but it was solid the two times we've been. We went with a big group last time so it made for a really fun meal. No forks! If you need lunch one day, go hit the Holy Land buffet. Lamb shank for days!
For Japanese you have a lot of options. If you're in Minneapolis, Origami. Get omakase, sit back, and get spoiled. Nami is good, though I think they keep the fish too-cold. If you;re in uptown Tango or FujiYa but I'd mke the trip to the warehouse district instead. While I liked the style and menu at Obento, they don't do sashimi, and when I asked for some, the 20 year old waiter told me they don't have "sashimi-grade" fish...then served me a bunch of Nigiri. !? If you're in St Paul, someone else knows better. Tanpopo is great, but no sushi.
It's funny - to me Emily's is the perfect recommendation as a destination for an out of town person. At least, it's the kind of place I'd enjoy being directed to. I love being sent to restaurant in a part of town I might otherwise not have gone to, and just exploring around the area. I like to see where people actually live - not just the streets where they go shopping. Emily's is the kind of place where I can imagine what it would be like if I actually lived in the city I'm visiting. Of course, the food does have to be really good to make this fun, but Emily's does it.
i think that many times when people refer to a "destination" restaurant, they are bearing in mind that a visitor may have to arrange specially to be in the area of the restaurant-- getting a ride from friends, using public transit/cab, renting a car for a day, walking across town in cold weather. . . and so the food needs to be on some level "worth it."
if i was at loring park/the sculpture gardens with my family and we all cabbed to emily's for lunch, for example, i'd probably be a little put out that the cab cost more than everyone's food, there wasn't anywhere to sit, and that there wasn't a beer or 2 for me, no matter how good the tabouli was (and it's great, but worth the schlep? i dunno).
i think that the language of "local mom & pop," "urban casual," "fine dining," "destination restaurant" can help set the expectations appropriately for the op and help with planning meals to crescendo properly. gawd i sound like an asshole sometimes: "crescendo properly(!)"-- do you know what i mean though? some "local mom & pops" are worth travelling across town for-- for some people-- & many are a great option if you are already close to them. destination restaurants are a little more upscale and special, often meals that are saved for and invested in--the highlight meals of a trip, to be planned around. that's how i think about it anyway-- on the rare occasions i get to travel i plan the destination restaurants and budget for them, then i plan other activities and map out the local food gems to try based on location rather than craving. i'm a freak that way, i suppose, but it's terrible to hear about people who go to a great food city and wind up eating mcdonald's because "we were hungry, and it was there." horrors!!!