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Business trip to St. Paul - suggestions pls?

ne_cyclone May 20, 2008 07:09 PM

I am reposting this because I felt that I really was hijacking another persons thread- I will be in St. Paul for a week starting the Tuesday thru sunday after memorial day. i am looking for hole in the wall places (prefer Mid Eastern/Indian/BBQ/Asian/Mexican/Deli with great pastrami - Katzs anyone?) and since this time i am traveling without my colleagues would prefer places where a single patron does not feel too out of place.

oh and I need dinner recommendations only. my client will make the lunch decisions for me but if there are "cant miss lunch here" places please do tell. Open to Miineapolis/St. Paul/'burbs. I will have a car and will be staying @ the Holiday Inn Xpress in Roseville
thanks a lot.

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  1. AnneInMpls RE: ne_cyclone May 20, 2008 10:18 PM

    Hole-in-the-wall places? We're kindred spirits! There's lots to choose from within 5 miles of your hotel, and I think you'll be comfortable dining at any casual place in town. And you're actually as close to Minneapolis (the SE corner, aka my stomping grounds) as you are to St. Paul. The U of M - both the Minneapolis and St. Paul campus - are quite close, which means there are many good hole-in-the-wall eateries.

    The immediate neighborhood around your hotel is rather an industrial/suburban wasteland, but you're three blocks away from India Palace, a pretty decent Indian place. The lunch buffet is OK, but I prefer to order off the menu at dinner. Chat up the waiters and ask them what's best.

    For GREAT vegetarian Indian food about 4 miles away, go to Bombay 2 Deli on Central Ave. in Minneapolis. It's perfect for a single diner - it's really a small deli counter in a family-owned Indian grocery store - and the owner is extremely friendly. (She'll probably give you samples and recipes and tell you stories about family dinners.) But they close early in the evening.

    Middle Eastern: Holy Land Deli on Central Ave (Mpls), just a few blocks north of Bombay 2 Deli. Wonderful buffet during lunch and on weekend evenings.

    Asian: Hmm... Not much that's great in the immediate area. Head to University Ave. in St. Paul (between Snelling and Rice) for a ton of choices. I love Little Szechuan (Chinese) - or rather, I did when I last visited it a year ago(!). I really like Cafe Bon Xai (Vietnamese fusion), Saigon (bare-bones Vietnamese), and Ngon (upscale Vietnamese). Not sure if Krua Thai is still open. Likewise, Va Lor Super Excellent Papaya Salad (Laotian/Cambodian) might be closed or under new ownership.

    BBQ: Big Daddy's Weekend BBQ - Only on weekend afternoons & evenings, in the parking lot of the closed Abundant Bistro (next door to Saigon Vietnamese).
    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/306116

    Mexican: I can't think of anything close to Roseville. Make the trek to St. Paul for El Burrito Mercado (Mexican grocery/cafeteria S of downtown) or Manana (though I think it's really Central American, not Mexican). Or head to any of the little taquerias on E. Lake Street in Minneapolis.
    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/389866
    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/384857
    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/473028

    Better yet, take a field trip to the Mercado Central (all Mexican) or the Midtown Global Market (multi-ethnic) in Minneapolis. You can even try Somali food at the MGM - look for the Safari Express booth.

    A deli with great pastrami is scarce in these parts. The only reasonable option is Be'wiched Deli, north of downtown Minneapolis. It's more upscale than a deli, but I think it's worth a trip. They have WONDERFUL soups, as well as good pastrami (which they make themselves). If your client is interested in locally sourced, upscale sandwiches/soups/salads, give this place a try for lunch.

    I know there's more, but I have brain freeze...

    Anne

    -----
    Midtown Global Market
    920 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55407

    Ngon Vietnamese Bistro
    799 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55104

    Little Szechuan - West End
    5377 16th Street, St. Louis Park, MN 55416

    Saigon Restaurant & Bakery
    704 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55104

    Cafe BonXai
    1613 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55104

    El Burrito Mercado
    175 Cesar Chavez St, St Paul, MN 55107

    Golden Palace (formerly Va Lor
    )371 University Ave W, St Paul, MN 55103

    Holy Land Bakery & Grocery
    2513 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55418

    Bombay 2 Deli [Closed - May Reopen in Different Place]
    1840 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55418

    Mercado Central
    1515 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55407

    India Palace
    2570 Cleveland Ave N, Saint Paul, MN 55113

    Krua Thailand
    432 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55103

    Bewiched Deli
    800 Washington Ave N, Minneapolis, MN 55401

    Manana Restaurant
    828 7th St E, Saint Paul, MN 55106

    6 Replies
    1. re: AnneInMpls
      The Dairy Queen RE: AnneInMpls May 21, 2008 04:56 AM

      Great recommendations by Anne, as always.

      I don't think you can go wrong with any of her recommendations (though, I'm not a huge fan of El Burrito Mercado, except the bakery case and as a Mexican market. I think you'd be much better off--since you have a car-- exploring some of the Mexican joints along Lake Street in Minneapolis, including Taqueria La Hacienda, Pineda, Gorditas El Gordo, and Taqueria Los Ocampo; I would normally also point you to Mercado Central on Lake Street except that it's not that hopping for dinner--might be a good weekend option for you, though), but I particularly adore Little Szechuan, Saigon, and Ngon Bistro. I think I'd describe Ngon Bistro more as chef-driven Vietnamese, focusing on local sourcing and drawing more from French influences. And the interesting thing about Cafe BonXai is that it's a Hmong-owned restaurant, as is Red Pepper on University Avenue, a new place that none of us 'hounds has checked out and reported back on yet...

      Va Lor has at least new signage and a new name.

      Also, since you're at the Holiday Inn in Roseville, as Anne mentioned, check out India Palace--good, not outstanding. Also great in Roseville is Maverick's (on Lexington nearish to Larpenteur) for the great sliced roast beef sandwiches and check out China Jen on Snelling in the same mall as Outback Steakhouse for good Chinese food (with erratic service). Also, to throw other cuisines into the mix, on University Ave in St. Paul is West Indies Soul and on Saturdays only until about 4-5pm, Big Daddy's BBQ--it's take-away only.

      Have a great trip and please do report back.

      ~TDQ

      1. re: The Dairy Queen
        AnneInMpls RE: The Dairy Queen May 21, 2008 09:22 AM

        TDQ, you're very kind to someone with a flaky memory. Maverick's and China Jen - those are the places I was forgetting! And thanks for the details on Big Daddy's (I forgot that he was Sat. only).

        Another brain flash: Obento-Ya is a nice little Japanese restaurant that's not too far away. I hear that it now has a wine & beer license:
        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/413230

        Anne

        -----
        Mavericks
        1746 Lexington Ave N, Roseville, MN 55113

        Obento-Ya Japanese Bistro
        1510 Como Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414

        China Jen Restaurant
        2193 Snelling Ave, N St Paul, MN

        1. re: AnneInMpls
          AnneInMpls RE: AnneInMpls May 21, 2008 09:55 AM

          P.S. I agree that the Lake Street taquerias are better (in general) than El Burrito Mercado, though I like the carnitas and tamales at El B. and I adore the roasted corn stand in the parking lot, if it's running (weekends for sure; not sure about weekday evenings).

          On E. Lake, I love La Hacienda and Los Ocampos, too, and have been meaning to try Gorditas El Gordo and Pineda. Others must love Los Ocampo as much as we do - they have a booth at the Midtown Global Market, plus a stand-alone restaurant a block away.

          Anne

          -----
          Taqueria Los Ocampo
          417 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55408

          Taqueria La Hacienda
          334 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55408

          Pineda Taco's
          311 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55408

          Gorditas El Gordo
          211 East Lake Street, Minneapolis, MN

          Taqueria Los Ocampo 4
          920 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN

          Pineda Tacos
          2150 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN

        2. re: The Dairy Queen
          AnneInMpls RE: The Dairy Queen May 21, 2008 09:56 AM

          With any luck, here's the places link for Big Daddy's BBQ.

          Anne

          -----
          Big Daddy's Saturday Barbecue
          609 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55103

          1. re: AnneInMpls
            The Dairy Queen RE: AnneInMpls May 21, 2008 10:01 AM

            YAY! The link worked. This thread about Big Daddy's is a good one and has some photos to help you recognize it as you drive past...

            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/306116

            ~TDQ

          2. re: The Dairy Queen
            The Dairy Queen RE: The Dairy Queen May 21, 2008 01:17 PM

            Update: exercise caution (maybe telephone ahead) before heading across town just to try West Indies Soul. It sounds like they are temporarily closed http://www.chowhound.com/topics/521369 I still recommend the place, but, maybe have a "back-up" before making the trek. All those University Avenue places, Cafe BonXai, Saigon, Little Szechuan, Ngon Bistro, etc. would make a fine back-up.

            ~TDQ

        3. flavorfreak RE: ne_cyclone May 21, 2008 01:57 PM

          Babani's kurdish, try the Dowjic soup and anything else on the dinner menu. No booze, plan accordingly.

          Ruam Mit Thai is quite good. The ambiance reminds me of a Perkins which is fine by me because the food is awesome and the poor decor keeps snooty people out and prices down. Beef Laab salad comes with soup, go fall in love!

          Mickey's diner is a must go. Greasy spoon dining car. Get a picture taken by one of the bums outside and walk down to Great Waters Brewing Company.

          There is nothing particularly outstanding about Great Waters aside from they make their own beer and it is right downtown.

          1 Reply
          1. re: flavorfreak
            The Dairy Queen RE: flavorfreak May 21, 2008 02:02 PM

            Thanks for the great tips, flavorfreak! Welcome to chowhound! I must must get to Babani's one of these days--and have th dowjic soup, of course. (I'd like to point out that there is a main location for Babani's and an "express" location on West 7th. The "express" location is a must-avoid. But, I continue to hear good things about the main location). I look forward to hearing/reading more of your tips.

            ~TDQ

          2. ne_cyclone RE: ne_cyclone May 21, 2008 08:12 PM

            Wow thanks a lot guys..I cant wait to get out there and try all these great places. somali (is this close to ethiopian btw?) and west indian sound really intriguing.

            I forgot to ask - usually I try to get a steak on most business trips - would there any good recommendations that you could make? Thanks again and I will be back to post on my experience.
            have a great weekend guys....

            3 Replies
            1. re: ne_cyclone
              The Dairy Queen RE: ne_cyclone May 22, 2008 04:16 AM

              I posted in detail (with photos) about Qoraxlow if you want to read more about it (it was one of the links I gave in my initial post above), but based on my small number of experiences with Somali cuisine, no, it's not like most of the Ethiopian I've had. There are a couple of Ethiopian places in St. Paul, Fasika on Snelling just North of University, which would be pretty convenient to Roseville, and a new one on West 7th, which I don't think anyone has tried and reported back on yet.

              As for steak, the hot new steak place in the Twin Cities is the Strip Club on the East side (Dayton's Bluff) of St. Paul. (Even though it's still in St. Paul, it will be a bit of a drive from Roseville). Lots of posts on this place (nearly all the recommendations in this thread, actually, if you want to poke around to narrow down your choices) if you want to do a searhc. You'll want reservations. It doesn't seem like a great place for solo dining, though, unless you could get a spot at the bar, I guess, and you probably wouldn't need reservations for that either. Could get crowded.

              Also, for a classic, somewhat tacky, red vinyl banquette/blast from the past St. Paul steakhouse experience, there's Mancini's on West 7th. The chow isn't outstanding (except for the texas toast that they cook on the grill), but the atmosphere is a hoot. Mancini's isn't a favorite on the board, but I like going there once or twice a year because it's still family run after all these years and they have a very loyal clientele that really loves the place. It just feels so old St. Paul to me. Cafe BonXai is rumored to serve steak (it was a "Best Steakhouse" before it was Cafe BonXai) but I've never tried it or known anyone who has as far as I remember so I don't know whether it's to be recommended or not.

              ~TDQ

              1. re: The Dairy Queen
                s
                soupkitten RE: The Dairy Queen May 22, 2008 11:38 AM

                seconding recs for fasika for ethiopian and the strip club for steak (delicious, tender, flavorful grass-fed steak). if grass-fed is not your thing you could try mancinis (very old-school supper-club, TDQ's description is perfect), or go across the river to mannys etc.

                big daddy's is a great bbq rec, but not really a eat-in place (i think there are 1 or 2 tables?) it's verrrry keep-it-simple, and imho is all about the pork ribs. pastor hamilton's is off the path for you but could be a nice excursion. bbq is not msp's strength but these places are pretty good.

                -----
                Pastor Hamilton's Barbecue
                1150 7th St E, St Paul, MN 55106

                The Strip Club
                378 Maria Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55106

                1. re: soupkitten
                  The Dairy Queen RE: soupkitten May 22, 2008 11:45 AM

                  soupkitten is absolutely correct that Big Daddy's is not at all an eat-in place. Sometimes they take-over the Abundant Bistro building (they do their BBQ'ing in the parking lot of what used to be Abundant Bistro) but I think that's just in winter and I'm not sure if even then they let people dine in. So, if you decide to head to Big Daddy's, you'll need to plan to take it "to go." Maybe get your BBQ then keep heading East on University Ave until you encounter the Capitol, then try to find yourself a picnic spot on the Capitol grounds, which are really lovely this time of year. I know it's very rustic, but something about Big Daddy BBQ'ing his ribs right there in the parking lot and serving them up himself right there on University Avenue just has a certain weird appeal to me. And they are good. :).

                  OR, if you don't want the to-go hassle, go to Pastor Hamiltons. :) (or Lee and Dee's, even though they aren't as good.)

                  Most important thing about Big Daddy's is that it's SATURDAY AFTERNOONs only.

                  ~TDQ

            2. j
              JimGrinsfelder RE: ne_cyclone May 21, 2008 08:30 PM

              We don't have Katz's. Try Cecil's on Cleveland or Brother's in downtown Minneapolis.

              For Mid Eastern, if you're in St. Paul, Barbary Fig on Grand or Khyber Pass on Grand are pretty decent.

              BBQ...we don't do so well. Rooster's on Randolph can be fun. Famous Dave's is a chain and the BBQ is about as good as you'd get at a TGI Friday's.

              Indian...head over to Central Ave in NE Mpls. Hyderabad or Bombay 2 Deli or whatever is now in Udupi's old space are good.

              Asian...in St. Paul, you've got to just stagger down University between Lexington and the Capitol and you'll see 25 or so Vietnamese restaurants. They're all interesting. Saigon Bakery for the grilled pork sandwich. Trie Chau for the hot & spicy chicken, Pho at a number of places. Personally, I think Ngon is overrated...too fancy.

              Mexican...definitely Los Ocampos.

              Japanese! In downtown St. Paul we've got both Tanpopo which is pretty good Japanese noodles and Sakura which is decent sushi and good country-style cooking and Fuji Ya (which I haven't been to). Up Grand to Saji Ya for decent sushi and more.

              In Roseville (or northern part of St. Paul) head to Maverick's at lunch for the perfect Roast Beef sandwich. Fries are decent if you like McD's style fries. Skip the rest of the menu and shake your head at the poor damned fools who walk into the Subway next door. It's like walking into Hell when Heaven is a mere 3 feet to the south.

              4 Replies
              1. re: JimGrinsfelder
                t
                tex.s.toast RE: JimGrinsfelder May 21, 2008 10:27 PM

                I know a lot of people on this board like it, and it certainly isn't bad, but Cecils food is far from "must-do". they use vienna beef products imported from chicago - which are fine but nothing spectacular. they also offer "kosher" products (produced under the appropriate supervision, but prepared in an unkosher kitchen making them pretty much nominally kosher anyhow).

                Los Ocampo, on the other hand . . . thats mexican food i really miss, and i live in southern california now so thats saying something.

                1. re: JimGrinsfelder
                  The Dairy Queen RE: JimGrinsfelder May 22, 2008 03:53 AM

                  I love Tanpopo in downtown St. Paul! Great tip. Plus, their emphasis on local sourcing is really nice. Not quite as convenient to Roseville as some of the University Ave places, but, still worth the drive to downtown if you're up for it.

                  RE: Rooster's. I hate to step on a BBQ lover's toes as I know BBQ is a wildy personal thing when it comes to preferences, but I really dislike Rooster's BBQ. I think there are 4 BBQ places in St. Paul, aside from Famous Dave's, a chain: Aesop's (which I've never tried and is pretty focused on weekday business) Big Daddy's, Lee & Dees (just off of Selby a couple blocks West of Dale), and Roosters (on Randolph). We had a "BBQ" chowdown last fall where they taste-tested side-by-side and "blind" about a dozen ribs from all over the Twin Cities. In general, Big Daddy's fared near the top of the pack (though it didn't beat the favorite, which was from Minneapolis), Lee and Dee's in the middle, and Roosters pretty much at the bottom of the heap. But, if that cinnamon/allspice sauce is what says BBQ to you, then maybe Rooster's is the way to go. One thing I will say, don't plan on dining in if you go to Rooster's--get it to go. They do have a couple of seats, but you will feel covered in a film of grease after dining in the place. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/44877...

                  I prefer Big Daddy's and Lee's & Dee's to Famous Dave's, but Famous Dave's to Roosters. I think Famous Dave's is respectable as a chain and, at least, it's a local (but not small) chain. There's one in Roseville, too.

                  Very good point about the limited deliciousness of Maverick's menu. In addition to the great roast beef sandwiches, the brisket sandwich and the chocolate shake at Maverick's are good. The strawberry shake is rumored to be a "must avoid" as are many of the other sandwiches. The fries are a fine accompaniment to the sandwiches, but, not worth crossing town for all by themselves.

                  ~TDQ

                  1. re: The Dairy Queen
                    diesel RE: The Dairy Queen May 22, 2008 09:45 AM

                    What about Pastor Hamilton's BBQ? I've still never been (typed with shame), but it seems to be a board favorite. Can someone with more knowledge pipe up about Pastor Hamilton's?

                    1. re: diesel
                      The Dairy Queen RE: diesel May 22, 2008 09:56 AM

                      Pastor Hamiltons did quite well in the BBQ taste-off chowdown as per the thread I linked above. EDIT: it wasn't a unanimous decision or anything like that at the chowdown, but I think many people thought PH was their fav or one of their favs of what they tasted.

                      Since the OP is in Roseville I limited my BBQ comments to St. Paul, especially since Big Daddy was many people's second favorite in the BBQ taste-off and also because it's one of my personal favorites.

                      ~TDQ

                2. MSPD RE: ne_cyclone May 22, 2008 07:00 PM

                  If you are familiar with Katz's, I implore you to avoid eating pastrami here in MSP. You will especially hate Cecil's. I can definitively say, we have nothing even remotely close to Katz's pastrami here in MSP.

                  I even hesitate to recommend BBQ if you love top-notch BBQ and/or have great BBQ near you. It's just not a food we do good here. Big Daddy's on Saturday is good -- that's usually where I go lately when I have an urge for BBQ.

                  As for steak, if you're in downtown St. Paul (unclear as this thread has strayed all over MSP) St. Paul Grill in the St. Paul Hotel does a nice job. The Strip Club, as mentioned already, would be the fashionable pick (deservedly). You might feel more comfortable alone at The Strip Club and the guys that work there are all fun to chat with.

                  1. ne_cyclone RE: ne_cyclone Jun 4, 2008 08:36 PM

                    Hello Twin Cities (I love your city now) hounds,

                    Sorry about not reporting back earlier been a busy week with travel and a chow nightmare in the syracuse area right now. But I digress....
                    I am so glad I got to make this trip and was able to try out some of the recommendations from you fine folk so here goes

                    Tuesday was a washout - dont ask dont tell - ended up at Joe Sensers sports bar in Roseville late at night and the wings were VILE!

                    Wednesday night - I was joined by my colleague (last minute trip) and we decided to hit the Strip Club (378 Maria Ave St Paul) for some steaks. Almost missed the turn/place itself and the surrounding area wasnt very pleasing and almost gave up but for the timely intervention of a parking lot. Let me say this - this is the jewel in the crown for your cities. We sat at the bar and on the way in every member on the wait staff greeted us. I got to befriend the bartender Dan (we both dislike the Iowa Hawkeyes, he a badger and me from cyclone country) and he made a vodka tonic to die for me and a Jim Beam with self made cherry bitters for my friend. Got a hot dog appetizer on the house on a stick with bacon ketchup and pickled cabbage. Shallot brulee soup with mushrooms and then hand cut 10 oz grass fed ribeye followed sitting on bed of greens with balsamic vinaigrette and we topped it off with strawberry shortcake. Oh and I switched to Moscow Mules and the bartender shone through again. The chef JD came out and was very gracious and allowed us to sample some really great cabernet that he had just received. The place was packed but service was impeccable. One word - phenomenal!!

                    After the feast of kings I decided to run in the hotel gym and have a simpler meal on Thursday night and went to Cafe Bonxai (1613 Univ Ave St Paul) for some Hmong - really funny thing here the place shares a wall (?) with an adult store and kinda kept with the Strip club theme from the previous nite. I dont recall the name of the soup it was a coconut basil(?) followed by the Basil Lemongrass with shrimp. The shrimp were large and juicy and the place had a good feel about it but the prices were extremely reasonable. Service was kinda ok - the hostess was pretty matter-of-fact and made assumptions about my eating preferences based on me dining alone. I usually detract points for this since I do travel around quite a bit and end up dining alone. Dont discriminate and get a good tip and return visits is what I say...

                    Friday afternoon I could not remember the name Mavericks for roast beef but my client ended up recommending that we try Mayslacks and ladies and gentlemen THAT was a roast beef sandwich. pound of beef infused/marinated in garlic, hunk of bread with onions and banana peppers that felt like peppers and not some wussy stale veggie. had some waffle fries. steeped in tradition I was told and maybe the death of Stan has got the place down but to me an ordinary historic place is better than the swanky millionth chain restaurant that opens in its place. again thats just me....

                    finally Friday night - business completed succesfully I decided to stay in the area but try some ethnic so ended up at Fasika ethiopian. a blast of flavor this was with the lamb combination on injera bread. very divey hole in the wall but as expected the taste and people inside were awesome. attentive and good service and three kinds of lamb (fried, semi spicy and a red spicy gravy). well i was about to leave town the next morning bright and early and decided to call it a trip with an ice cream from Izzys on Marshall another keeper very polite staff and fabulous icecream (just a plain ol banana split for me).

                    I thank all of you again for your help and I hope to be back to keep going on this comprehensive list on my next trips (there might be a few I am told- yay!)

                    If you need some recs for the boston/nh/maine area do ask and I will try to steer you to some good chow. Bon apetit!

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: ne_cyclone
                      AnneInMpls RE: ne_cyclone Jun 4, 2008 09:56 PM

                      Thanks for the great report! I'm glad you had some good chow here - hope it helped to balance out the syracusian chow nightmare. Come back soon and try more places!

                      Anne

                      1. re: AnneInMpls
                        ne_cyclone RE: AnneInMpls Jun 5, 2008 05:43 PM

                        its unbelievable out here - i got one reply to my post on the N-NY board and it was kinda ok. Now I have been told about high crime in some spots in Syracuse so you can imagine my discomfort with even trying new recs from folks around here.

                        Trust me ... I will be back to the twin cities. thanks again.

                      2. re: ne_cyclone
                        MSPD RE: ne_cyclone Jun 5, 2008 08:33 AM

                        Excellent! Thank you.

                        1. re: ne_cyclone
                          s
                          soupkitten RE: ne_cyclone Jun 5, 2008 10:23 AM

                          rad! glad you had a great time. :)

                          1. re: ne_cyclone
                            c
                            chow11 RE: ne_cyclone Jul 3, 2008 03:15 PM

                            Mayslacks is not what it used to be, the owner after Stan now has a place on Highway 10, and it is not even the same, he toned it down, the meat is sliced instead of cut by hand, etc. It just makes you want to try to make your own.

                            Fasika is not bad, but Blue Nile is much better. Fasika to me has a bit of a harsh taste that Blue Nile does not. The injera is brought in by truck, Blue Niles probably is too. Blue Nile has a side of veggies, Fasika has a salad.

                          2. c
                            chow11 RE: ne_cyclone Jul 3, 2008 03:06 PM

                            Went to Big Daddys last weekend. Got the touted beef ribs and rib tips. The rib tips were nothing to write home about, they were like my worst effort on my own smoker. The beef ribs were huge, and they were so fatty that I couldn't eat them. No discernible flavor added. The sauce might as well have came from a store bought jar. The potato salad was really bland, and salt didn't help. Have to wonder how many here have smokers. For my money or effort, I have never come close to the beef ribs at Ted Cooks, 38th and Hiawatha, and they have a good sauce. The pork there isn't "that" good either though, somehow.

                            1. ne_cyclone RE: ne_cyclone Oct 3, 2008 02:48 PM

                              Hello Twin Cities CH'ers

                              Since my last report I was fortunate to spend two more weeks in St Paul and on most every night it was a culinary adventure. I used the list pf places suggested by you guys and added in a couple of my own finds so I didnt feel like a complete mooch :)

                              Places I visited in no particular order of time or preference
                              Ngon Bistro on University (swordfish with fennel)
                              Cafe Crema on Lyndale (heavenly icecreams no doubt)
                              Izzys (just fell in love with this joint and got way more adventurous with their flavors)
                              Babani's Kurdish (apart from great food - dowjic soup rec was spot on and I had some tabouleh and the sheikh-babani eggplant stuffed with meat. This is the one place that has given me bragging rights on adventurous eating in New England)
                              Bravo Bakery 1106 Grand Ave (green tea cake - if you have never had it, its an interesting revelation)
                              Restaurant Alma (a lovely 4 course tasting menu with a slow roasted peppercorn infused Wagyu beef - unbelievable that beef can and will melt sometimes)
                              Broders Pasta Bar - humble pasta in an unbelievable array of variations crowded like crazy too and I experienced why and they had Hacker_Pschorr beer what more can I ask for.
                              Khans Mongolian - not the best ever but at their price point no complaints at all
                              Queen of Sheba Ethiopian - not Fasika level but demonstrated the choice of ethnic available in your neck of the woods
                              Mavericks Roast Beef - spicy Jamaican roast beef hello flavor!!
                              Cafe BonXai for a repeat visit
                              Nalapak Indian (Southern Indian lunch buffet) very very lip smacking good :)
                              I apologize that my review this time was more a listing and not a review but I missed the boat by not writing this right after the trip. If nothing else will keep my memories alive :)

                              I did two chain places - Red Robin and Green Mill and I loved the bottomless steak fries and the gyro at Green Mill. For lunch they were no nonsense quicker eats. The one place that shocked me beyond belief was "Royal Orchid Best Thai Food" It was totally not. Thai is my comfort zone food - hard to find excellent choices but even harder to find less than decent thai food either again IMHO. This was unbelievable - overcooked beef in panang curry which had frozen mixed vegetables in it. what gives!?! my colleagues pad thai was dry and he had to request a meat option that was not available for lunch (??). Absolutely totally to be avoided.

                              Now I am back next week for 3 days in the same St Paul/Roseville vicinity and was hoping for some more options based on what I filled in above. I am hoping ot get to Mercado on one night but the rest is kind of up in the air. So places that I should not miss???

                              As always appreciate each and every one of your helpful suggestions. Thanks :)

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: ne_cyclone
                                The Dairy Queen RE: ne_cyclone Oct 3, 2008 03:46 PM

                                Oy. So sorry about Royal Orchid--that place is so so so not good.

                                It's been awhile, but if you're in Roseville, I really like China Jen on Snelling at Cty B--in the same strip mall as Outback Steakhouse. And Maverick's of course.

                                ~TDQ

                                1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                  ne_cyclone RE: The Dairy Queen Oct 3, 2008 05:09 PM

                                  This was a result of a google search on my phone and deciding on the Royal Orchid based on the number of user ratings - it was like 3.5 or 4 stars.

                                  and, China Jen should be interesting ... any specific dont miss items on the menu?

                                  1. re: ne_cyclone
                                    The Dairy Queen RE: ne_cyclone Oct 4, 2008 04:25 AM

                                    Oh dear. Apparently, those users aren't chowhounds!

                                    At China Jen, I really love their scallion pancakes. They have a braised tofu dish I like a lot. The Kung Pao chicken's pretty good. Everything I've had there has been pretty solid. Even their lunch buffet is pretty decent for a lunch buffet. One warning though: service can be erratic and slow.

                                    Here's an old China Jen thread that is comprehensive; we could use an update!

                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/305828

                                    ~TDQ

                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                      ne_cyclone RE: The Dairy Queen Oct 10, 2008 07:38 AM

                                      Back with another report - I had a chance to end up at Khyber Pass on Monday night for some Afghan cuisine. Pretty good food had a roasted eggplant appetizer called Bharta with some bread and cilantro chutney with lots of afghan black tea. for the main entree I went with a lamb entree called shola-e-gosht (lamb with a rice and potatoes melange). A little disappointed with the amount of meat though - slim pickings. good service overall a bit on the slow side.
                                      Thank you TDQ for the rec on China Jen - absolute gem of a place. We ended with a TON of food that included the steamed pork bao, scallion pancakes, hot and sour soup and I had the kung pao beef and my partner had the singapore street noodles. perfectly cooked beef and at medium spicy was just right with some additional chilli oil on the side. service was quite slow but the hostess was very apologetic and again I was in no hurry after a long day at work. My partner made out well with a ton of leftovers to take home with him.

                                      This is turning into a fun food based trip every time I make it out there - will be back in 3 weeks again! Thanks for your suggestions.

                                      1. re: ne_cyclone
                                        The Dairy Queen RE: ne_cyclone Oct 10, 2008 10:05 AM

                                        Thank you for reporting back. I'm so glad to hear China Jen is still great. Such nice people there. Very unassuming restaurant that doesn't get much mention on the boards, but I've always had great chow there.

                                        ~TDQ

                                2. re: ne_cyclone
                                  drew13000 RE: ne_cyclone Oct 10, 2008 09:53 AM

                                  I'm glad you loved the Strip Club, it's one of my favorite restaurants and the service is amazing. You sound like you love desserts (or at least Ice Cream), so I'd recommend Cafe Latte for desserts. The food is pretty average: wood-fired pizzas, pasta salads, soups, sandwiches, but the desserts are wonderful! I personally always order the raspberry cream cake or the turtle cake.

                                  A couple other St. Paul locations I love are Punch Pizza, for authentic Neapolitan wood-fired pizza, and Heartland, for great local dishes.

                                3. ne_cyclone RE: ne_cyclone Oct 31, 2011 12:57 PM

                                  I come back to Minneapolis (More Minneapolis than St. Paul) and I hope that some of the restaurants that I reported on are still around? Or there are more cant miss places that I should hit.

                                  The clock starts ticking with dinner 1 tonight and then 3 more before I fly out on Friday morning. Oh and I can go anywhere - staying in Eden Prairie tonight and then right next to the convention center for the remaining nights.

                                  Same rules I guess - single diner, dont like pretentious (terribly) joints and just wanted to try some good food agian - your help is always much appreciated!!

                                  Thanks all...

                                  17 Replies
                                  1. re: ne_cyclone
                                    The Dairy Queen RE: ne_cyclone Oct 31, 2011 01:04 PM

                                    Welcome back. Glancing at your lists, Queen of Sheba and Cafe BonXai are both gone. On's Thai Kitchen took the place of BonXai and is definitely worth your while. (I see you ended up at Royal Orchid Thai on your last visit: I'm so sorry! What a waste of a meal.) Instead of Queen of Sheba, perhaps try Flamingo on UNversity Avenue, since it's new since your previous visit. However, people who have been to both Flamingo and Fasika seem to prefer the latter.

                                    I think Nala Pak is gone, too, sadly. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6965...

                                    As far as what's new, gosh, tons of new stuff. You might start a new thread to get new recs. If you have lunches free in downtown Minneapolis, food trucks have arrived on the scene.

                                    For Mexican, in Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis, Sonora Grill is getting a lot of Chowhound love. La Sirena Gorda and the Los Ocampo in Midtown Global Market are both still good bets. (I actually prefer the standalone Los Ocampo directly across the street from Midtown Global Market.) Also, Pineda Tacos (two locations on Lake Street), Taqueria La Hacienda, and Gorditas El Gordo (all on Lake Street) are good. El Centro Pupuseria is a good, too, though I haven't been in awhile. Actually, to be honest, I could use a brushing up on my Lake Street Latin restaurants. Maybe I need to make this my personal mission.

                                    Other newish spots on University Avenue in St. Paul worth checking out: Asian Deli, 388 Western and Big Daddy's BBQ. Also Sole Cafe on Snelling just north of University Avenue.

                                    We have a number of new delis: Cheeky Monkey in St. Paul (I'm not sure I'd go out of your way for it. It's good, but not amazing. Still, they cure a lot of their meats in house.). Be"wiched in Minneapolis.

                                    ~TDQ

                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                      The Dairy Queen RE: The Dairy Queen Oct 31, 2011 01:42 PM

                                      I was also going to mention that Khyber Pass is apparently struggling. Depending on how much you liked it, you might consider going back.

                                      Oh, China Jen is gone. We've had a minor explosion of Szechuan restaurants. A place called Szechuan replaced China Jen. It's okay, not great. I've heard good things about Grand Szechuan, but haven't been there. Tea House, which has been around awhile, has opened a number of new locations.

                                      We've also got some new and interesting Japanese places. Moto-i, Masu Sushi and Robata, Obento-Ya. I haven't been to enough of them to compare and contrast. My stand-by Japanese has been Tanpopo in St. Paul.

                                      -----
                                      Khyber Pass Cafe
                                      1571 Grand Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55105

                                      China Jen Restaurant
                                      2193 Snelling Ave N, Saint Paul, MN 55113

                                      Grand Szechuan
                                      10602 France Ave S, Bloomington, MN 55431

                                      Masu Sushi and Robata
                                      330 E Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55414

                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                        mtullius RE: The Dairy Queen Oct 31, 2011 07:13 PM

                                        I guess I'm an exception: my Chowspouse and I love Flamingo and consider it the best Ethiopian in town, by a good margin. Considerably better than Fasika.

                                        Do you like beer? The scene in this town has really exploded in the past couple of years. If you're interested, you could go to Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery and Republic-- they're right across the street from each other in the 7 Corners area of Mpls. Going from one to the other, you can try 2 of the top 5 IPAs in the country (according to BeerAdvocate), Town Hall's Masala Mama (great on cask especially) and Surly Furious. The food at Republic is a bit more towards the "gastropub" side of things, while Town Hall's food is more traditional bar food (and what's not is best avoided).

                                        -----
                                        Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery
                                        1430 Washington Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55454

                                        1. re: mtullius
                                          The Dairy Queen RE: mtullius Nov 1, 2011 06:36 AM

                                          All the more reason to try a new place once in a while. even if you have a place you already like. You never know when you're going to find a new favorite.

                                          What do you especially like at Flamingo, mtulliuis? (Thank goodness for diversity of opinion. Don't you agree?).

                                          ~TDQ

                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                            mtullius RE: The Dairy Queen Nov 1, 2011 01:09 PM

                                            I've always found the food at Flamingo to be especially fresh-tasting. I know that during the summer, they source many of their veggies directly from the farmer's market-- that's the kind of freshness I appreciate. I also find their veggies to be slightly different every time, which I suppose could be annoying to some, but to me is charming and makes for a more exciting experience. It should probably be noted that we always get the veggies there, so I actually have very little experience with meat dishes.... But I've found Flamingo to compare favorably to the best Ethiopian places I've eaten at in D.C., whereas most of the other ones here (including Fasika) left me feeling nostalgic for greener Ethiopian resto pastures.

                                            1. re: mtullius
                                              The Dairy Queen RE: mtullius Nov 1, 2011 01:37 PM

                                              Thank you for this insight. Very interesting. I wonder if Flamingo is one of those places (like Alma) that is easiest to appreciate (vs its competitors) in summer and fall when fresh produce is at its peak?

                                              ~TDQ

                                        2. re: The Dairy Queen
                                          ne_cyclone RE: The Dairy Queen Nov 1, 2011 02:52 PM

                                          Made my way into Midtown Market ad tried out Tamales, Los Ocampo and the Bubble Tea at Pham's along wth some savories at the Salty Tart. They were all good (Huarachazo at OCampo, Tamale from Tamale place) but I didnt feel spectacular about the food either - maybe it was because of the entry time for me at 7 PM last night?

                                          I am sad that some of my old favs are now gone - pork bao at China Jen was something I could go for right now. Maybe I will go check out Town Hall Brewery - i do need some recs for breakfast as I have a late start and something around the convention center that i can walk to ....

                                          anything around the Mall of America that may be worth going to? Thanks again for all your help!!

                                          -----
                                          China Jen Restaurant
                                          2193 Snelling Ave N, Saint Paul, MN 55113

                                          Salty Tart
                                          920 E Lake St Ste 158, Minneapolis, MN 55407

                                          1. re: ne_cyclone
                                            The Dairy Queen RE: ne_cyclone Nov 1, 2011 03:32 PM

                                            Of the places you tried at MidGloMa, sadly only Los Ocampo is one I recommend without caveats, but even in that case, I prefer the stand-alone Los Ocampo outpost across the street.

                                            Hmmm...MSPD has a recent post about a new place near the MOA. Let me dig that up.

                                            Walkable from the convention center? Hell's Kitchen, perhaps? I like the lemon ricotta hotcakes (very rich) and wild rice porridge (also rich). Even the condiments are house-made. It's a little bit over the top atmosphere-wise, though. Maybe take a cab for an early morning breakfast at Al's in Dinkytown? It's a 14-seat counter, so get there early or be prepared to wait.

                                            ~TDQ

                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                              The Dairy Queen RE: The Dairy Queen Nov 1, 2011 03:35 PM

                                              Here's that post of MSPD's: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8031...

                                              ~TDQ

                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                MSPD RE: The Dairy Queen Nov 5, 2011 07:19 AM

                                                Yep. If you HAVE TO eat around the Mall of America, it's a good option. I've had a burger there recently and it was also very good. Score another point for "something you can't get near the Mall (a good burger)". My wife shared the sentiment on her burger.

                                                Andale is a bit farther and great. There's also a tiny end-of-the-strip mall Middle Eastern place that I've been meaning to get to know better. 2 miles from the Mall, west on Old Shakopee Road. I've been in once for a quick take-out gyro which was OK, and a piece of baklava which was very good. I'll post if/when I go a little deeper into the menu.

                                                1. re: MSPD
                                                  k
                                                  karykat RE: MSPD Nov 5, 2011 12:08 PM

                                                  Please do post on this place when you are ready. I need to get into that neighborhood to hang out with my Mom occasionally and always need to know where good places are.

                                            2. re: ne_cyclone
                                              The Dairy Queen RE: ne_cyclone Nov 3, 2011 06:11 AM

                                              Since you had a disappointing trip to Midtown Global Market, if you go back, try Sonora Grill first. I still like La Sirena Gorda for seafood, but Sonora Grill is hard to beat for Latin food. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8018...

                                              ~TDQ

                                              -----
                                              Midtown Global Market
                                              920 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55407

                                              La Sirena Gorda
                                              920 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55407

                                              1. re: ne_cyclone
                                                b
                                                BigE RE: ne_cyclone Nov 7, 2011 07:30 AM

                                                If you're still looking for MOA recs, I'd check out Tucci Bennuch. For the last few months, the kitchen has been run by Asher Miller, who's last job was running Wolfgang Puck's restaurant at the Walker (before it closed).

                                                They are turning out the best food I've ever had at MOA.

                                                1. re: BigE
                                                  The Dairy Queen RE: BigE Nov 7, 2011 07:53 AM

                                                  I've been wondering how that was going. What have you had there that you recommend?

                                                  ~TDQ

                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                    b
                                                    BigE RE: The Dairy Queen Nov 7, 2011 03:01 PM

                                                    I've stuck to basic stuff and specials in my two visits, but the Pesto Bianco pizza and Lasagna were both pretty good.

                                                    Here's a quick DeRusha writeup from a few weeks back...

                                                    http://www.minnesotamonthly.com/media...

                                                  2. re: BigE
                                                    MSPD RE: BigE Nov 7, 2011 08:20 AM

                                                    Thanks for this -- I vaguely remember hearing about this but had glossed it over I guess. Maybe because the food there was so forgettable previously. I'll have to add that into the mix soon.

                                              2. re: ne_cyclone
                                                u
                                                Ummm RE: ne_cyclone Nov 1, 2011 03:36 PM

                                                We live in MN but not in the Twin Cities so don't have as much experience as others. We tried Chimborazo (Ecuadorean) half a year ago and enjoyed it! Parking lot in the back but it doesn't have a lot of space, but okay to park on the street.

                                                2851 Central Ave, Minneapolis.

                                                Travail Kitchen and Amusements in Robbinsdale (maybe a bit of a drive?) won one of the best new restaurants from bon appetit magazine recently. They have a tasting menu for two, so it may be too much food for a solo diner, but you can order from the menu. However, if you don't get there before 5pm, there may be a bit of a wait (we got there at 5:40pm on a Saturday but didn't get seated until 7:30pm). We haven't been to Victory 44 but supposedly similar in style (in fact, some of the Travail chefs leave V44 to open Travail I think).

                                                -----
                                                Victory 44
                                                2203 44th Ave N, Minneapolis, MN

                                              3. g
                                                gryffindor249 RE: ne_cyclone Nov 1, 2011 06:40 PM

                                                Shish on Grand Avenue...not too far from Roseville:

                                                http://shishcafe.net/

                                                Do not miss the cheese pies!

                                                Brasa in St. Paul...also not too far from Roseville:

                                                http://www.brasa.us/

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: gryffindor249
                                                  k
                                                  karykat RE: gryffindor249 Nov 3, 2011 07:40 PM

                                                  Brasa is a really good idea. Not pretentious but nice. Caribbean and south influenced meats and sides. (That's a good description, right?) Quality local ingredients. I had the chance to cater an event from there for a meeting recently which gave me a good chance to try more of their menu. Fantastic.

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