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Apr 3, 2009 04:45 AM

[MSP] 3/50 Project: Grassroots Economic Stimulus--which three local restaurants will you chose?

There's a new project launched out of the Twin Cities called the 3/50 project, a grass-roots economic stimulus of sorts, where you pick 3 small, local, independent, businesses that you don't want to go under and vow to spend $50 there every month:

If you choose 3 local restaurants (or food-related businesses) in the Twin Cities to spend $50 at every month (for how long, I don't know, I guess let's say a year), what would they be? Places you'd be heart-broken over, kicking yourself if they went under...

Hard to choose, as there are so many worthy restaurants, but, here goes:

0. My neighborhood co-op: I already spend $50 a month here, so, I won't list it as one of my three because I'm already doing that.

1. Ngon Bistro, St. Paul

2. Heartland, St. Paul

3. Los Ocampo, Lake Street, Minneapolis (I guess that means I'll have to eat there once or twice a week. How do you even spend $50 a month at a place like this?).

What are your three?

EDIT--I was just thinking over my choices while getting ready for work and I realize, if you choose to spend your $50 a month at a business that sources locally (like Ngon Bistro, Heartland, or your neighborhood co-op), your spending will have a "multiplier" effect because those businesses will spend your $50 on local labor, of course, but also with the local vendors they patronize; and, hopefully they would spend any profits locally. I wish that Los Ocampo would source locally (maybe they do, I really don't know) so that my $50 would support not only the local workforce, but maybe even other local vendors.Still, I'm keeping it on my list because I really would be devastated if they went out of business.

Here's a link to a good thread, that may need updating, about restaurants that source locally in the Twin Cities:

And a similar thread re: outstate MN


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  1. Places links.

    I notice there's a location of Los Ocampo at 417 East Lake Street. I know the 809 Lake Street is the stand alone location across from Mid Glo Mo and the 920 is in MidGloMo, but what is the 417? Is that real?


    1806 St. Clair Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55105

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

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

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

    Taqueria Los Ocompo 11
    895 Arcade St, Saint Paul, MN 55106

    Taqueria Los Ocampo
    809 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55407

    5 Replies
    1. re: The Dairy Queen

      TDQ, I think that 417 East Lake Street is the address of Lake Plaza, which is very similar to Mercado Central and includes a food court with several places. It is likely that this was the original Los Ocampo.

      Two years ago on the Lake Street taqueria crawl chowdown and we went into another Mexican marketplace right down the street, but this was smaller and had only one snack stand-- one of us purchased an interesting beverage of some sort and we walked on to the next place. I had confused this other marketplace with Lake Plaza, which is much larger and has a food court as large as Mercado Central's (or perhaps larger).

      We should do another taqueria crawl!

      Still thinking about my 3/50.

      PS: Lake Plaza seems like a hidden gem, because it dosn't look like much from the outside--I just happened to go in one day and was surprised to find a big marketplace and food court. It doesn't get the attention that Mercado Central gets.

      1. re: EarlOfSandwich

        Interesting. I must check that Lake Plaza out--I can't visualize it. You're saying it's NOT the place where someone (I think that was either KTFoley or usige) bought that beverage, right? That place wasn't very lively, chow-wise, at least, not on a Saturday.

        That taqueria crawl was a lot of fun. But we only got about two blocks because there were so many places to try. Maybe we can do a crawl where we pick up where we left off!


        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          Okay, here's the link to the taqueria crawl/chowdown report. The address of the "International Bazaar" is 301 Lake Street, so, you're right, that's not it.

          And funny, no wonder I couldn't remember whether it was KTFoley or Uisge who got the beverage, it seems that they both did.

          Maybe we never got to Lake Plaza?


          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            Uisge was searching out tamarind sodas. I ended up with the ketchup over ice.

            1. re: KTFoley

              I hate to say, even now, a couple of years later, it still doesn't sound that crazy delicious! Wasn't it spicy ketchup over ice?


    2. Ronin Sushi Cafe in Lakeville, Tanpopo and Golden Fig.

      I wish I had a few more to put...Premier Cheese Shop and Legacy Chocolates are hard to not list.

      2 Replies
      1. re: MSPD

        I suppose you're only limited by your own budget. I suppose if you wanted to spend $50 a month at five little business, that would be even better for the local economy. You could call that project 5/50. I don't know Ronin Sushi Cafe at all, but it sounds like a place I should look up next time I'm in Lakeville.

        Now that I see Tanpopo on your list, I wish I could have it on mine, too, because, yes, I'd be devastated if it went under. :).


        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          I'm probably on the 50/5 project.

          If I really paid that much attention to my spending, I'm probably already at 3/50 for the places I love. My response was actually narrowing it down to three if I absolutely had to. Valley Natural Foods in Burnsville is another, but after their recent expansion, I don't think they are in any danger of going under.

          As for Ronin, it's one of maybe 2 or 3 places south of the river that are actually worth a trek from closer to downtown (along with I Nonni/Buon Giorno, Brianno's and Satay 2 Go). It's easily one of the best options if you're already in the area and need a meal.

      2. Afghan Restaurant, Crystal

        Reuan Thai, Osseo

        Gangchen, Minneapolis

        13 Replies
        1. re: Bobannon

          Ooh, Afghan Restaurant, another great little spot. I've never even really heard of the second two. Can you tell me a little more about those, please?


          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            Unfortunately I picked 3 places that don't have websites or menus online.

            Reuan Thai is my local neighborhood Thai place in Osseo. Every single thing I've tried there is fabulous. I've brought many friends and family and they all love it. No one can believe we have such a great Thai restaurant in Osseo! The ambiance leaves a bit to be desired but the food is so good. My favorite dish is the #64 with chicken. It's their version of Rama Thai, a peanut curry over steamed spinach and broccoli. Their spring rolls are also very good. The Spicy Cashew is excellent. REally, every there is great.

            Reuan Thai
            311 Central Ave
            Osseo, MN 55369

            Gangchen is a great little Asian place on Nicollet just south of Downtown. They bill themselves as Fine Tibetan Cuisine but really it's a little of everything. The Red Curry is wonderful as is the traditional Tibetan Momo dish. They also have a great happy from 4 - 7 and 10 - 2 with 2 for 1 bottle beer and $2 wontons.

            1833 Nicollet Ave S
            Mpls, MN 55403

            1. re: Bobannon

              Very cool! Thanks for the info on these. I'm not out in Osseo much (correction: if I'm out in Osseo much, I'm unaware of it because I don't really know where it is. By Minnetonka, right?) but another one I should put on the list for when I'm out that way.

              Anyway, but I can definitely hit up Gangchen. I can't believe I haven't heard of it! My chow-dar must be broken. :).


              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                Osseo is north, almost completely surrounded by Brooklyn Park and a little bit of Maple Grove. Where 169 and County 81 come together.

                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  Gangchen has a tasty cranberry curry that's fairly addictive. Dara Moskowitz wrote about it sometime last year in City Pages. Restaurant ambience is more of a 70s nightclub lounge which makes for an not-your-usual experience. Love the other Tibetan meat dishes too, can't remember specifics though.

                  Dairy King

                2. re: Bobannon

                  Thanks for the information on Gangchen. It is right near where I live, but I have not been there yet. It sounds like it would definitely be worth trying. :-)

                  1. re: LauraB

                    I'm so glad. I'm always afraid these little places will go away if we don't frequent them. Another great thing about's really reasonably priced. Boyfriend and I had dinner there last week, Shrimp appetizer, 2 entrees, 1 beef and 1 chicken, a couple of beers, tax and tip and it only came to $30!

                    1. re: Bobannon

                      I'm appreciating the encouragement to check out Gangchen. I have seen
                      the place, and it doesn't look like much from the street, as in 'Are they open
                      or not?' and 'What kind of food is in there?'. It's on the lower end of Eat
                      Street closer to downtown.

                      1. re: faith

                        Gangchen is excellent. It's owned by Tom Pham, who also owns Thanh Do and Azia. The cranberry curry signature is on the menu, the egg drop soup is wonderful, and the martinis are sufficient to wipe out any bad memories.

                        I'd be upset if they went down, but my three would be:

                        Bahn Thai Cuisine in New Hope
                        Barley Johns in New Brighton
                        Cafe Heidi in SW Minneapolis

                        1. re: kevin47

                          Barley Johns, huh?? That's right by my house. What's a good thing to order??

                          1. re: jenniegirl

                            The Pizza N is lovely, as is the garlic bread. Both are very unique. Their soups and salads are consistently good as well, and have enough flavor to stand up to their beers. Their barleywine style porters are a perfect dessert.

                          2. re: kevin47

                            Just FYI: Gangchen is run by Tibetan owners. Not a Pham restaurant. But still fun and yummy.

                    2. re: Bobannon

                      Wow - I stopped in at Reuan Thai a few times several years ago... was just thinking about that place last week, wondering if they were still open.

                3. I'm with you on the co-op - Linden Hills, yay!

                  The rest of my list will have to be 3/20 if I'm honest. I can't afford 150 a month on restaurants and even 60 is pushing it.

                  French Meadow

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: MplsM ary

                    Ooh and I have to add Turtle Bread, too.

                    Lucia's Restaurant
                    1432 W 31st St, Minneapolis, MN 55408

                    1600 W Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55408

                    Turtle Bread Co.
                    3421 W 44th St, Minneapolis, MN 55416

                    French Meadow Bakery & Cafe
                    2610 Lyndale Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55408

                    1. re: MplsM ary

                      I'm so loving to hear about everyone's choices. Such great little indy places, we have. I think it's completely appropriate to adjust the spending limit to your own situation. I think every little bit counts with these places.

                      I love the tempeh reuben at French Meadow and everything in their bakery case!


                    2. Yes, I need to add a bakery to mine many to chose from! Gonna have to go with A Baker's Wife for variety and general goodness.