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MSP: Twin Cities South of 494 finds

[Note this thread was split out of the "Most Controversial Opinions" thread by the Chowhound team]

DQ – I don’t want you to think I sit in my boat in the garage and reminisce about the good old days before I arrived in the cities, as someone else suggested above. We set out on weekends in search of good things. I’ll admit that some of the ideas proposed here and other threads have not been attempted by us yet. Some other suggestions made here are just not our preference like Thai.

I think we have found all the Chicago dog joints in town. Including the ones mentioned here. Joey D’s now AKA Chris & Rob’s I understand has opened another location in Fridley. Another that has not been listed is in Burnsville at Cliff and 13, Papa T’s. They do about as good as job as Chris & Rob’s but I fear for their future since I’ve never seen more than a few patrons there. As stated above, all these places are missing the whole menu of a true Chicago dog joint like Gryos, char dogs, fried polish sausage, etc. Considering they probably have to bring everything in from out of town I think they do a fine job, they even have the nuclear green south side relish! Sadly I didn’t make it to Scala’s Beef who opened a restaurant in Maple Grove last year but apparently not enough customers so it is already gone.

Since you asked for what we have discovered south of the mason Dixon line as some here appear to think of anything south of 494, here’s a short list.

El Loro – RT 13 Savage
Good authentic sit down, salsa and chips included Mexican. Make sure you try the spicy pork on cheese enchiladas! They have a great carne asada too.

Pablos – Downtown Shakopee
Also great spicy pork on cheese enchiladas. The great part about this place is across the parking lot from there is a supermercado that has a great assortment of Mexican cuts of meat including skirt steak. They told me they get their skirt steak from Chicago. It is about ½ as thin as what we typically find but if you cook it fast it is very good.

Edelweiss Bakery – Downtown Prior Lake
Great pastries, special occasion cakes and homemade breads.

Perron’s Sul Lago – Downtown Prior Lake
I was surprised at this find. It doesn’t show up on most boards or reviews. It’s a small place, reservations recommended. I’ve been to most of the Italian restaurants hyped on this board including Luci (sp?) and this if much better. The downside is they a very limited menu.

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  1. thanks for posting about these places M.H.

    can you tell a little more about perron's sul lago? atmosphere, favorite menu items?

    as you note, if you are looking for gyros around here, the dog joints will generally not have them, but the lebanese delis usually do (and not the dogs-- sometimes they have phillies and other hot sandwich items though). i don't know where the nearest lebanese deli to you would be, maybe MSPD can help.

    8 Replies
    1. re: soupkitten

      soupkitten, I posted about my first experience at Perron's Sul Lago three years ago and in repeat visits, the overall message hasn't changed much. Here is the link:


      Not a Lebanese deli per se, and certainly no secret, but Mediterranean Cruise Cafe is the best source of gyros in the south metro, in my opinion. Eagan, near Highway 13 and Cedar. Incidentally, Perron's and Med Cruise tie for the best lamb I've had south of the river as well. The "Moroccan Cous Cous" is one of my favorite dishes in the south metro (excluding Osteria I Nonni).


      To add to the general thread (and most of this has been posted previously):

      Ring Mountain in Eagan. Excellent gelato, wonderful owners.
      Luxury Sweets in Apple Valley. Excellent gelato, wonderful owners.
      Jensen's Cafe in Burnsville. Good, no-frills breakfasts. Draw a triangle with Al's Breakfast, Hell's Kitchen and Perkins -- Jensen's would exist smack dab in the middle.
      Chateau Lamothe. Nice wine bar, nothing amazing but a really nice place to relax, have some small bites and sip some wine. Last time I was there they had moved the couches out though....not sure if it was permanent but a bit of a downer.
      E's Cheese in Mendota Heights (also in Woodbury now I guess). Very much worth a trip across from Savage.
      Sage Wine Bar. Across from E's Cheese. See Chateau Lamothe above.
      Windmill Cafe on Highway 13 (in Savage I think!) Truck driver breakfasts with real, live truck drivers! Place looks like a total dump -- I think they may have filmed "Alice" there.
      Spur Cafe (west on 13 from Windmill). An upscale Windmill. Housemade hash. Honest to goodness breakfasts.
      Buffalo Tap in Savage (same stretch). Wings, beer and sports. If they had trivia I would never have to go to Buffalo Wild Wings.
      Satay 2 Go in Apple Valley. Mentioned frequently here.
      Panino Brothers in Apple Valley. A new place, just opened. Here is a local blog that has a good summary. I'm not a beer drinker but their selection is impressive for the suburbs: http://www.lazylightning.org/panino-b...
      Brianno's. Obviously.
      JJ's on Cliff in Eagan. Another good lowbrow breakfast joint.

      That's just a start...I try and cover other places as I get to them. This also leaves out my previous thread about Eagan although I don't work over there any more so it might be a little stale.

      p.s. - I wasn't all too impressed with Papa T's. That said, I haven't gone there enough to make a firm judgement.

      Also, I'd be curious to know what Chicago transplants think of the Italian beef at Brianno's. The bread has a touch of sophistication over the standard Chicago beef but it's an excellent sandwich. Somewhere on here I've posted about it extensively.

      1. re: MSPD

        I am not a huge fan of the Briano's "Chicago" beef. Their gravy is more of an au jus than a authentic chicago style gravy. They are the only place in town, Cassetas included, that we have been able to find Volpi brand Genoa salami. They also know how to layer it and slice very thin, a real bonus. I do wish they had a sit down area as we live to far to take home.

        Another find south of 494 -
        Taqueria La Hacienda at RT13 & RT5 Burnsville
        Authentic mexican fast food with burritos big as your head, tortas, tostadas, etc. They use corn tortilias by default. The pastor is on a gyro spit but unfortunately they don't cook them on the spit, they just cut them off raw and cook on the grill. This is probably because they don't have enough customers to go through the spit fast enough. Too bad because cooked on the spit can be incredible.

        1. re: Musky_Hunter

          What is Chicago style gravy? Kind of a brown gravy?

          And am interested to try the salami,

            1. re: karykat

              Sorry, I should have been more specific because I don't want to create the visual of a slab of bread piled high with roast beef covered in brown gravy like with a side of mashed taters. To clarify, an italian beef is illustrated well in the photo of in the link. What is not visible in that link is the gravy. Locals to cities where the sandwhich is an icon like Chicago refer to it as gravy but those unfamiliar would find it similar to au jus. The difference primarily is that italian gravy has more herbs. Many prefer to have their beef sandwhiches dipped which is essentially giving the bread a dunk in the gravy before piling high with beef. The end product will likely run down your arm as you eat it if dunked well.

              1. re: Musky_Hunter

                Thank you. Now I know what you are talking about! And can picture it.

            2. re: Musky_Hunter

              Musky Hunter, In case you're still looking for Volpi salami:

              I had never heard of Volpi salami before I read this last post of yours(salami's just not one of my foci, ya know?) but somehow, your search for Volpi salami secured a tiny bit of the precious real estate that is my memory. Result: while standing at the deli counter at Kowalski's yesterday, waiting for some cheese to be sliced, I noticed they carry "Volpe" genoa salami. I'm thinking there's a good chance that "Volpe" was a misspelling of Volpi (or vice versa), and that they have what you're looking for. So it may be worth checking out your closest Kowalski's.


        2. Don't mind me. Just adding links to fill out the places wiki. I'm trying to make sure to get recommendations that aren't in the metro core.

          Buffalo Tap
          4990 W 123rd St, Savage, MN 55378

          Mediterranean Cruise Cafe
          3945 Sibley Memorial Hwy, Eagan, MN 55122

          Satay 2 Go
          6670 150th St W, Saint Paul, MN 55124

          Brianno's Deli-Italia
          2280 Cliff Rd, Saint Paul, MN 55122

          Perrons' Sul Lago
          16154 Main Ave Se, Prior Lake, MN

          Chateau Lamothe
          14351 Nicollet Ct, Burnsville, MN 55306

          Sage Market & Wine Bar
          730 Main Street, Mendota Heights, MN 55118

          Papa T's Chicago Style Eatery
          1996 Cliff Rd E, Burnsville, MN

          El Loro Mexican Restaurant
          4749 Highway 13 W, Savage, MN 55378

          Pablo's Mexican Restaurant
          230 Lewis St S, Shakopee, MN 55379

          Edelweiss Bakery
          16186 Main Ave SE # 600, Prior Lake, MN

          Ring Mountain Creamery Cafe
          1965 Cliff Lake Rd, Eagan, MN

          Luxury Sweets
          15322 Galaxie Ave, Apple Valley, MN 55124

          Jensen's Cafe
          12750 Nicollet Ave South, Burnsville, MN 55337

          E's Cheese
          720 Main Street, Mendota Heights, MN

          Windmill Cafe
          5367 Highway 13 W, Savage, MN 55378

          Spur Cafe
          7361 Highway 13 W, Savage, MN 55378

          Panino Brothers
          7083 153rd St W, Apple Valley, MN

          3 Replies
          1. re: bob s

            We've had enjoyable meals at Buffalo Tap on several ocassions. On Friday evenings they have fried chicken and AYCE fish fry. Both are very good. Their cheeseburgers are also very good and they have real onion rings, not those processed breadcrumb covered things you so often find borrowed from Burger King.

            1. re: bob s

              Thank you for all the places listed-I wouldn't normally venture far from St. Paul-maybe over to Minneapolis! My parents live in Rochester, and I pass many of these places on the way-going to Satay To Go has been on my list of things that I forget about for a long time....Next time I will stop and make a visit.

              1. re: jenniegirl

                If you like burgers, there are two "must stops" on the way to Rochester -- House of Coates and King's in Miesville (a bit off the beaten path but worth it).

                I've posted about both; do a search for more details.

            2. What about Kami and Enjoy? Both in Apple Valley - and use the same parking lot. I like them both. Kami is very new and I think I've said this here before, but I they don't seem to have much of a customer base yet. I don't know exactly when they opened, and I really hope they survive, but if they don't start bringing in some customers, I don't think they will make it.

              Kami Japanese Steakhouse
              15322 Galaxie Ave Ste 108, Saint Paul, MN 55124

              Enjoy Restaurant
              15435 Founders Lane, Apple Valley, MN 55124

              2 Replies
              1. re: Serenity_MN

                My son wanted to see a show at the IMAX theater at the Zoo this weekend so we went off to Apple Valley thinking we would try something new for dinner afterward. Not knowing much about the area we attempted one of the spots mentioned in this thread, Enjoy in Apple Valley. Unfortunately I didn't find it to be all that great, especially for the price. I had the special, name I cannot recall, a Mexican fish dish that contained only (1), yes one shrimp, (2) small mussels and two very small pieces of monk fish on top of a huge pile of rice surrounded by a fairly good sauce, price $24.95. I was so hungry after finishing it I had to eat one of my son’s leftover chicken fingers. My wife had the sea bass. I was surprised at how similar this dish is to one my wife makes frequently. It was nice but when you have it at home and it tastes the same, it is hard to get excited about at $24.00. For desert we had the caramelized bananas in rum sauce. Notwithstanding that the bananas were not caramelized (were not cooked at all) this was a good desert. If they cooked the bananas it would be excellent. The facility has a nice ambiance but the food doesn’t stand up to the décor or price IMHO.

                1. re: Musky_Hunter

                  Oh, the irony of not enjoying Enjoy. I'd hate to see what would happen if you tried Relax in Minneapolis! (Ha!)

                  Seriously though, sorry this turned out to be a disappointing meal for you (I've not eaten there so I'm afraid I can't offer any dining tips for you). Thanks for reporting back, though.

                  Funnily enough, for some reason the (non)caramelized bananas sound appealing as you described it, even though they weren't carmelized.


              2. There is a new restaurant in Lakeville as well, Porter House. I haven't been there, but my mom was there just a few weeks after it opened. She said the prices were high considering its location, but that her steak was very good. Has anyone else been there yet? Have you heard anything about it?

                7 Replies
                1. re: Serenity_MN

                  Porterhouse is related to the restaurant of the same name up in the NE metro. I haven't been there yet. I've heard really good things from non-houndish people about the original one for what it's worth.

                  Re: Kami, I thought I had posted about it. Maybe that was another blog. I've been pleased with my limited experience there. The decor is nice and nothing was off. That said, side by side with the downtown places, it's about equivalent to Ichiban or Benihana. I haven't been to Osaka yet (the other side of Apple Valley).

                  I have never had a good experience at Enjoy! at all. Service is laughable. Food is on par with other south metro bastians of averageness (Axel's Bonfire, Houlihans, Stefanos, Viva Italia, etc.). I periodically have to cringe and recommend it for a private party knowing that the space is nice, but aside from that, I don't send people I like there. I am never tempted to return voluntarily -- four or five visits was enough (actually more than enough).

                  1. re: MSPD

                    "on par with other south metro bastians of averageness...Stefanos, etc.)."

                    Wow ditto on that one. I had the misfortune of being sent there by someone who raved about it. Never again. We actually didn't finish our meals that were that enjoyable.

                    ps. Don't forget to add Chianti Grill to that list as well.

                    1. re: Musky_Hunter

                      interestingly (or not), chianti grill, ciattis, and the porterhouse restaurants are all the same, yaaawn, chain.


                      1. re: Musky_Hunter

                        I knew there was a connection between Ciatti's and Chianti Grill but had no idea about Porterhouse.

                        Re: Stefano's, they used to be very good about 10 years ago and were probably one of the better places around. At some point, they just kind of fizzled out in quality.

                        One place to add to the list is the Buckboard in Lakeville. It looks like a forgotten diner along 210th just outside of downtown Lakeville. The owners are very pleasant and they draw a good crowd for weekend breakfasts. It's a bit desolate in the evening but they serve some unexpected Mediterranean/Middle Eastern dishes. Nothing crazy good but worth a spot on the regular rounds, especially down in that area.

                    2. re: Serenity_MN

                      Husband and I went there a couple months ago on a weeknight, probably between 7 and 8 PM. It was JAM PACKED (never saw such a crowded restaurant in MN before), but the service was still fairly good. Our waitress seemed to dislike the job (she complained that the restaurant gave the staff few freebies - only bread, really), but that's all that I remember about her - so she must have performed her responsibilities just fine.

                      The food *was* expensive. I think we spent ~$70 (dinner for 2, no alcohol, 1 dessert), kinda crazy. On the plus side, they actually cooked my steak properly - I like rare to medium rare. They are sparse on the bread and butter but will refill the basket if you ask. I don't think I'll go again, it was a little too spendy.

                      1. re: joshi

                        First post :)

                        If you want to try a great place for mexican in South, try Teresa's in Lakeville (20202 Heritage Dr, Lakeville, MN 55044)

                        I like the Fresh chips and fresh salsa, Bean dip with cheese is great, Fajita's are a bit different than you are probably used to, but I think they are great. I normally order a dish theu call the Alambre, sliced steak (ribeye) sauted up with green peppers and onions, and bacon (like it needed that) topped with cheese, I think it's $11 which I think is a true value for what the dish is. Service is always top notch and prices are good, I've been to the rest, and to me this IS the best. I can't even force myself to eat at Pablo's anymore....

                        1. re: mnxd9

                          Welcome, mnxd9! Sounds like a great tip!