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More help for jfood from MSP Hounds

jfood May 9, 2009 02:37 PM

You guys keep sending jfood to tons of great places. Over the next month jfood will have to sample at least 10 more of your great restaurants.

So if you could keep bringing those great suggestions to the forefront, jfood will gladly try and report back.

TIA

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  1. t
    tex.s.toast RE: jfood May 9, 2009 02:45 PM

    While ive been following your well-written and thought-out posts, i think a collection of places you have already been to would be helpful for further advice here.

    It is my thought that you have already enjoyed some of (dare i say most) of our first-tier higher end options and in order to avoid disappointment you may have to broaden your search out from places with wine lists to places with 4 tap choices, or no licenses and pictures of far-off lands on the walls.

    Has jfood sampled a jucy lucy? Matt's or 5-8 would be the "traditional" choices, both located in south minneapolis. In st paul the nook and the blue door are both solid options, and, IMO, better than the ones which claim originator status.

    10 Replies
    1. re: tex.s.toast
      jfood RE: tex.s.toast May 9, 2009 03:29 PM

      Not having a wine list is fine w jfood since he does not drink. Here is a list as best he can of places he has visited

      alma - best around
      112 eatery - having issues lately
      brasa rotisserie - great
      red stagg - very good
      cafe levain - very good
      heidis - very good
      thahn do - very good
      al vento - very good
      rinata - good
      strip club - excellent
      nick & eddie - excellent
      grand cafe - needs another shot
      cafe maude - jfood left
      broders - not bad
      corner table - very good
      cosmos - too shmanzy
      osteria i nanni - excellent
      meritage - excellent
      first course - fair
      heartland -very good
      salut - no comment
      arezzo - very good
      red lion -over rated

      Wow...jfood has gotten around. He will go back to many of the above as well.

      1. re: jfood
        MSPD RE: jfood May 9, 2009 04:11 PM

        La Belle Vie
        Chambers Kitchen
        Cafe 28
        Saffron
        Bradstreet Crafthouse (I'm sure they can make fantastic non-alcoholic drinks)
        Sapor
        Barrio
        D'Amico Cucina
        Masa
        Craftsman
        Tanpopo
        Town Talk Diner
        20.21
        Pagoda

        Don't give up on the burgers. Some night if/when you're in the mood for a burger, fries and maybe a ball game on TV, get to the Nook.

        1. re: MSPD
          jfood RE: MSPD May 9, 2009 07:51 PM

          Now that is a lot of food for thought. THX

          1. re: MSPD
            b
            BigE RE: MSPD May 11, 2009 07:29 AM

            I will second/add the following:

            -La Belle Vie - Consistently wins 'best restaurant' awards and the head chef just won the best chef midwest James Beard award.
            -Vincent A - Excellent $30/3-course menu, I believe they also have a $40/4 course. One of my favorite restaurants in town.
            -Chambers
            -Craftsman
            -Saffron
            -Solera (although it is a tapas style place...more for social eating than full meals).
            -Hell's Kitchen (for the huevos rancheros and/or lemon ricotta pancakes)

            -Sea Salt is good and the location is nice, but waiting in line can be absolutely dreadful.

        2. re: tex.s.toast
          scoopG RE: tex.s.toast May 9, 2009 03:37 PM

          I much prefer the 5-8 Club's Juicy Lucy over Matt's absolute burnt-to-a-crisp, tasteless offering. Haven't tried The Nook or Blue Door yet.

          1. re: scoopG
            The Dairy Queen RE: scoopG May 9, 2009 03:45 PM

            The Nook's jucy lucy (cheese-stuffed burger) is the best, but, remember, it's just a burger. ;-) with hand cut fries and a fresh bun from the bakery down the street, and served in a very "St. Paul" setting.

            Blue Door is great if it's in your neighborhood. Otherwise, I don't know if I'd bother. Long waits, inconsistent.

            Maybe Barbette? (more casual, but owned by the Red Stagg gal).
            Solera?

            EDIT: Porter and Frye isn't on your list. Neither is Bradstreet Crafthouse. Might be too schmancy. I've not been to either.

            Vincent?

            ~TDQ

            1. re: The Dairy Queen
              jfood RE: The Dairy Queen May 9, 2009 03:48 PM

              jfood has had a tough time with burgers out there. Will try a JL.

              1. re: jfood
                The Dairy Queen RE: jfood May 9, 2009 04:32 PM

                If you're having a tough time with burgers out here, you may not like a JL either, to be honest... A lot of people who like burgers don't like JL's.

                If you want to try something local, try the Southeast Asian food somewhere.

                ~TDQ

                1. re: jfood
                  Foureyes137 RE: jfood May 11, 2009 09:23 AM

                  I do not understand the appeal of the JL, but the Nook makes an absolutely stellar burger. My favorite is the one that is big-macish in it's presentation and condiments...has a steak knife through it...can't miss it on the menu.

                  1. re: Foureyes137
                    b
                    BigE RE: Foureyes137 May 11, 2009 10:48 AM

                    The massive double cheeseburger is the Nookie Supreme. Also my favorite, and definitely a good sized meal.

                    That said, I'd give the Juicy Nookie or Paul Molitor first, if jfood is interested in the Juicy Luicy idea. Can't miss those fries either.

          2. The Dairy Queen RE: jfood May 9, 2009 03:25 PM

            I agree with Tex, both on the suggestion that you remind us of where you've been, and that you are running out of top tier places to try.

            Saffron? (across from 112 Eatery)
            Ngon Bistro Vietnamese (in St. Paul)--contemporary/fusion Vietnamese with an emphasis on local sourcing
            Maybe Jasmine 26 (I haven't been there myself--only peeked in the window)--upscale Vietnamese

            Have you been to Meritage (St. Paul) yet?

            ~TDQ

            5 Replies
            1. re: The Dairy Queen
              jfood RE: The Dairy Queen May 9, 2009 03:50 PM

              Nice additions TDQ.

              Re Meritage - yes jfood had a delightful meal and a nice conversation with the chef/owner and his wife. Salt of the earth people. Parking is a real pain in that neighborhood though.

              Now that the weather is better than December St Paul is a lot closer.

              1. re: jfood
                The Dairy Queen RE: jfood May 10, 2009 04:35 AM

                There is a parking ramp in the same building as Meritage. You have to pay, but it won't be as much as what you paid to park at Nick and Eddies. The only time I haven't had to pay for parking at Meritage is for weekend brunch when there's often street parking available.

                Honestly, except for a handful of the places on MSPD's list (and not even all of those in my opinion, I think Masa, Craftsman, Town Talk Diner and 20.21 all have their issues for instance), I think you've hit all of the top "excellent" high-end spots in town. You will have to be willing to try the next tier or two down if you want to try new places.

                ~TDQ

                1. re: The Dairy Queen
                  jfood RE: The Dairy Queen May 10, 2009 04:49 AM

                  thanks tdq, jfood spent $10 the last time at meritage, so good to know of the ramp.

                  have a great mothers day.

                  1. re: jfood
                    The Dairy Queen RE: jfood May 10, 2009 05:03 AM

                    Oh, yikes! No wonder you thought parking was a little high. I'm pretty sure the parking in that ramp (you'll have to circle the block) is more like $3. You have a great day, too!

                    ~TDQ

                    1. re: jfood
                      The Dairy Queen RE: jfood May 10, 2009 05:40 AM

                      Oh, TDQ just had a terrible realization. Jfood didn't go to Meritage when there was a hockey game at the XCel center, did he? Downtown St. Paul is a nightmare for parking when the Wild is in town. Fortunately for jfood, the hockey season is over.

                      ~TDQ

              2. l
                LauraB RE: jfood May 9, 2009 03:55 PM

                One place I see missing from your list is the bar/lounge area at La Belle Vie. They have some really delicious bar only items (there is something about their french fries with curry bernaise sauce...) and you can order off the whole menu too (I really liked the pork belly the last time I was there).

                I would also recommend Saffron (across the street from the 112). I have only been once, but I really enjoyed the food - especially the small plates.

                Otherwise, I think you have hit most of the places that I have tried so far (I have only been back in the Twin Cities for a year now...) and would recommend.

                1. Jordan RE: jfood May 9, 2009 06:03 PM

                  To my mind, there are two glaring holes in your list. One is Saffron, across the street from 112 Eatery, as unique a place as you will find. The food is exceptional, and the small plates format will allow you to sample a lot, as seems to be your modus operandi.

                  You are also missing out on the restaurants created by our James Beard award-winning chef, Tim McKee. For fine dining, there's La Belle Vie (and a more casual swing at his menu in the La Belle Vie Lounge). Upscale tapas at Solera. Mexican "small plates" at Barrio. All three are within a handful of blocks of each other in the downtown Minneapolis area. All are worth a visit.

                  To chime in on the burger thread, nostalgia factor aside, I've only had consistently excellent burgers at three places in the Twin Cities. One is the Bulldog NE, a few blocks away from Brasa. They cure and grind their own meat, let the burgers rest in a beurre fondue before finishing them, and offer a tantalizing set of options. I'm partial to the truffle burger, on a homemade English muffin with truffle oil and Brie. The junk burger, with garlic mayo, sauteed mushrooms, local thick-cut organic bacon, and other toppings is sloppy but delicious. The fries are also great and can be ordered in a variety of ways, plain with sea salt, dusted with fennel pollen or with truffle oil and Grana Padano.

                  My second burger choice is Town Talk Diner, which overall has a wider and more consistently good menu than Bulldog. Their Kitchen Sink burger has more of that thick-cut local bacon and a homemade 'special sauce' with cornichons and shallots. The garlic parsley fries are not to be missed. Town Talk also usually has great entrees, chopped salads, and soups.

                  Number three is less pretentious than the first two. It's a solid neighborhood bar (in St. Paul) called the Nook. Very good bar burgers, good (but not particularly upscale -- no truffle oil here!) toppings, and decent fries. If you were to try a Juicy Lucy, I would get it here, just because of the overall burger quality.

                  1. jfood RE: jfood May 9, 2009 07:50 PM

                    Saffron is on jfood's list but every time he heads down there he looks at 112 and walks in. He always would walk across the street in his Norm-seat was occupied. Jfood has to have stregth to stay on the course.

                    La Belle Vie. Looked at the website and did not see the lounge. Nice idea. Is it a less expensive and different menu?

                    Okeedokee, the Nook is a try-for.

                    What aboutthe other two restaurants near Nick & Eddie, Joe's Garage and Cafe Lucs.

                    Pizzas? Punch did not do it for jfood. And understand he lives near New Haven and went to school in Chicago, so he is spoiled. Is fire-something any good. And then there is a thread on a coal fired place..

                    With 6-10 nights a month in your great town, jfood has a lot to try

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: jfood
                      bob s RE: jfood May 9, 2009 08:46 PM

                      I love Cafe Lurcat. However, my love of the place is for the beautiful room and the solid bar. Lurcat opened just after the success of Craft and has tried to follow its trend (as much as was possible in the twin cities) of simple preparations of food. I think that execution is fairly strong and I generally feel comfortable recommending it. If you can tear yourself away from a beautiful view of Loring Park in the spring, they have a few quiet tables in the alley behind the restaurant that I enjoy.

                      Joe's Garage on the other hand coasts on its roof-top deck and does not deserve any sort of recommendation. You've said that you've had problems with burgers in the Twin Cities, and Joe's will not fix your problems despite that they are "known" for burgers.

                      To me, there is not a nicer evening anywhere than a relaxing hour or two on the sidewalk in front of Lucia's (where, it appears, you have not visited), sipping a beer and enjoying whatever they're serving. (I realize that you won't be sipping the beer, but that will only slightly lessen the experience... ;-) Lucia's is one of the progenitors of the local food movement in the Twin Cities and has been a James Beard regional award finalist at least once.

                      Also, a lovely time may be had on the sidewalk outside of Barbette, two or 3 blocks away. The menu is also very strong there. The feel will be a little more Uptown and a little less Wayzata (think Lake Forest) at Barbette.

                      The third place for a pleasant spring/summer evening that I'd suggest is the Tin Fish. It's a fish shack on Lake Calhoun - lots of fried and grilled fish and seafood with pretty decent fish tacos. The food is good, but the chance to sit by the water on a nice evening and people watch is what makes the place worth a visit.

                      All three of these places are within walking distance of each other (it's about 6 blocks from Tin Fish to Lucias with Barbette along the way) and are in one of the busier districts in Minneapolis. You can easily check them all out and decide which you would want to patronize.

                      I'd also recommend Chambers and Vincent. Chambers is where you see the Twin Cities' inferiority complex come out with a chip on its shoulder. Still the food I've had there has been good.

                      Vincent, on the other hand, is very understated, relaxed and consistently good. Great, unpretentious French food. He's also got an unconventional burger - on special during happy hour if you can make it downtown by then. Here's a recent take on the burger: http://shefzilla.com/?p=1682

                      1. re: jfood
                        Jordan RE: jfood May 10, 2009 05:37 AM

                        The LBV website is a little subtle. Click on "The Lounge" on the upper right of the home page, then you'll see the Lounge Menu. You can order off the regular dining room menu as well as the special lounge menu.

                        As for pizza, if you want to try something similar to Punch but (in my opinion) higher quality and a more pleasant dining experience, go to Pizza Nea. As a native Chicagoan myself, I generally find MSP pizza to be adequate but usually not worth a special trip. I like Nea because of the high-quality ingredients. Get something with the roasted artichokes on it.

                        1. re: Jordan
                          jfood RE: Jordan May 10, 2009 06:44 AM

                          The tasting menu for $40 looks great...has anyone been? will jfood need to stop at BK for a whopper on the way back to the hotel?

                          TIA

                        2. re: jfood
                          t
                          twincities chow RE: jfood May 15, 2009 03:21 AM

                          The food at La Belle Vie is amazing, but even in the bar, drinks and a few apps ran us about $85 w/tip. that was one drink each! But it was a fun experience.

                          1. re: jfood
                            maatre RE: jfood Jun 4, 2009 08:25 PM

                            I'm normally a lurker, commenter on occasion. Just saw this wonderful thread while looking for something else, and must say:

                            jfood, I love living here in Minneapolis, and have been here for 5 years. But I went to school both in New Haven, albeit many a year ago (yes pepe's, no sally's, yes to the late naples, and tolerated yorkside because it was close to home), and in Chicago (albeit I prefer thin crust to deep dish).

                            I believe you will NOT find pizza here to equal either location. I could be wrong, 3 years of child rearing has kept me from sampling new stuff. I will, however, check back to your thread to see if you prove me wrong!

                          2. d
                            diearzte2 RE: jfood May 9, 2009 08:05 PM

                            I would second the Bulldog NE suggestion, even despite my burger being well done when I ordered medium rare, but I could tell the meat was light-years better than most. I also was able to try my friends which was cooked to a healthy medium, and it was excellent. I hope someday I am able to send a burger back for being overcooked, but I don't have the guts now.

                            I'm really not fond of the whole jucy-lucy thing, and honestly have no idea why it's so popular (and I'm a Minneapolis native). I've had the one at Matt's Bar and it really wasn't worthwhile. I've become really critical of burgers though recently, having become an avid reader of A Hamburger Today (part of SeriousEats).

                            I would also back up the requests for Solera and 20.21, and add a rec. for Cafe 421 on the UofMN campus in Dinkytown. Really good food in a unique neighborhood. Skip the Loring Pasta Bar though.

                            Also, can I ask why you write in the third-person?

                            16 Replies
                            1. re: diearzte2
                              The Dairy Queen RE: diearzte2 May 10, 2009 04:22 AM

                              Lots of great recs, but I have to say, 20.21 is just like any Puck restaurant anywhere else in the world. I wouldn't rush over there. Unless you're big on the setting, which is the world-class Walker Art Center and most certainly worth a visit but not for its chowishness, it's nothing special.

                              Personally, based on jfood's tastes, I'd tell him to skip the Nook (of which I am a great fan), unless he's after local atmosphere. dierzte2 Matt's jucy lucy is an overcooked brick of a sandwich and the fries are an abomination. I don't care if they invented it. Try the Nook instead.

                              Town Talk Diner has great food and exceptional service, but the noise level is crushingly loud and you will get to be on a near elbow-rubbing basis with your fellow diners. It's pricey, but price doesn't seem to be a problem for jfood.

                              Tin Fish, like 20.21, as Bob S says is more about the lovely lakeside setting, than the food. The food's fine.

                              ~TDQ

                              1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                Jordan RE: The Dairy Queen May 10, 2009 05:35 AM

                                To correct TDQ's post, while Town Talk is loud at peak times, the tables are not as crowded as she implies. They are a bit further apart than, say, Broders, to provide a reference familiar to the OP. The bar is also an entertaining seating option there.

                                1. re: Jordan
                                  The Dairy Queen RE: Jordan May 10, 2009 05:37 AM

                                  Seriously, you cannot even walk in between the tables at Town Talk without feeling rude, though Jordan's comparison to Broder's is spot on.

                                  ~TDQ

                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                    p
                                    pgokey RE: The Dairy Queen May 11, 2009 03:23 PM

                                    I would agree with TDQ that the tables at TTD are really close together. The loudness and the closeness of that place aren't cause for me to skip it or not recommend it, though. I think it's just worth it.

                                    1. re: pgokey
                                      The Dairy Queen RE: pgokey May 11, 2009 03:29 PM

                                      TTD is on my "never again" list. ;-).

                                      But, actually, Jordan made a good point about eating at the bar at TTD. That might be a better experience, especially if jfood is on his own.

                                      ~TDQ

                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                        d
                                        Danny RE: The Dairy Queen May 11, 2009 03:35 PM

                                        We went to TTD on Saturday (after discovering that Midori's is GONE! :( ) and found that things were pretty much the same even with their change in ownership.

                                        I've always liked the place, so we enjoyed our meal. But, I can see where some would have issues with noise, etc. (Early on, we really didn't like the place at all...)

                                        1. re: Danny
                                          The Dairy Queen RE: Danny May 11, 2009 03:41 PM

                                          Well, it's the noise, plus the too-close tables, plus the huge price tag for burgers, that gets me. I can spend the same at 112 Eatery and have a more comfortable experience and much better food. Or spend a lot less at the Nook and have a more comfortable experience and pretty good food.

                                          Danny, you understand that Midori's moved, right? I drove by the new location this morning and there was no brown paper over the windows. I just called the number and their answering machine picks up (they are never open on Mondays, so, I wouldn't expect a live person).
                                          http://www.floatingworldcafe.com/

                                          ~TDQ

                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                            d
                                            Danny RE: The Dairy Queen May 11, 2009 08:35 PM

                                            We had no idea that they moved. We're not there that often, decided to go, and found a sign advertising a kebob joint in their old location.

                                            I do agree about the TTD burger. Not at all worth it. But I've had enough other stuff that I enjoyed there. Like Bacon Ketchup with their cheese curds! TCL has really enjoyed every salad she's had there, and really liked their homemade veggie burger. I was tempted by the Turkey burger, but instead went for the Fried Chicken.

                                            1. re: Danny
                                              f
                                              faith RE: Danny May 12, 2009 04:44 PM

                                              so Danny, how was the TTD Fried Chicken?

                                              1. re: faith
                                                d
                                                Danny RE: faith May 12, 2009 06:47 PM

                                                It isn't a traditional fried chicken. It is half a chicken, deboned, dipped in buttermilk, then flour/seasonings, then fried.

                                                If you're expecting traditional fried chicken, you won't like it at all. If you want a good piece of chicken, served with a Chef's care, and in a similar preparation, you'll be happy. It worked really well with the (IIRC) Lemon Oil and Watermelon/Jacima side.

                                                1. re: Danny
                                                  f
                                                  faith RE: Danny May 12, 2009 07:02 PM

                                                  thanks , sounds good. I've liked the pan-roasted chicken they used to have, with a sweet potato hash- Wild Acres is good stuff- I'm sure this dish is great.

                                          2. re: Danny
                                            AnneInMpls RE: Danny May 12, 2009 09:17 AM

                                            Danny, Midori's isn't gone - they've moved to the corner. They're now at 2629 East Lake Street. Last time I was there (mid April), they were still waiting for their liquor license, but they probably have it by now.

                                            Much as I love Midori's food (especially the grilled fish bento), I think I'd recommend Obento-Ya or Tanpopo for Jfood. Mostly because of the exiting menu selections these two. But all three are great.

                                            Anne

                                2. re: diearzte2
                                  Foureyes137 RE: diearzte2 May 11, 2009 09:34 AM

                                  Not to dismiss Jordan, but I had at one time recommended NE Bulldog but stopped about a year ago (we live in the neighborhood and had been eating there about once a week). Lord knows we don't agree on Alma (I love it) so take this with a grain of salt.

                                  NE Bulldog had not cooked my burgers to requested temp about 5 times in a row (ordered mid-rare, prepared well), so I stopped eating there. Additionally, one day they replaced the fried garlic "chips" on the Stilton burger with jarred, minced garlic. These two ingredients have very different flavors and the latter was like eating a brick of raw garlic. They stopped using confit of chicken on the cobb salad, replacing it with a dried-out, skinless grilled breast etc. It just feels like the further they get from Landon's original menu, the worse it gets.

                                  However, Saison Dupont, St Feuillien, and St Bernardus on tap....tough NOT to go in there.

                                  1. re: Foureyes137
                                    s
                                    St Paul Susie RE: Foureyes137 May 11, 2009 12:10 PM

                                    I've had excellent burgers at the St Paul/Lowertown Bulldog. I usually don't order during prime time so maybe that is a factor?

                                    1. re: Foureyes137
                                      Jordan RE: Foureyes137 May 11, 2009 01:03 PM

                                      I was at Bulldog NE on Friday and had the truffle burger. It was up to their usual quality standards. I wouldn't recommend the non-burger food, as I have had no experience with it and have heard mixed things.

                                      1. re: Foureyes137
                                        l
                                        lneerland RE: Foureyes137 May 12, 2009 09:15 AM

                                        I was at the NE Bulldog recently and ordered a burger med-rare. It arrived RAW. Literally. Browned on the outside, raw in the middle. I also got a snooty "did someone ask for a refire?" when my burger was brought back after I pointed out its rawness - it didn't need a refire, it needed to be cooked. So yes, I would agree that the quality at the Bulldogs has definitely declined since the first one opened.

                                    2. m
                                      mplsbruin RE: jfood May 10, 2009 05:31 AM

                                      How about Chambers Kitchen? Like to get your opinion on this one.
                                      There's lots of cool art work hanging around, and you can check out the small art exhibition area at the same time.
                                      This is part of the Jean-Georges Vonreightxxxx? empire of restaurants.

                                      1. s
                                        soupkitten RE: jfood May 10, 2009 05:34 AM

                                        i think Jfood would love la belle vie. must go. also must stay the course and go *past* 112 to saffron, which is an absolute gem. ( iknow, it's happened to me, too ;-P)

                                        my favorite places that Jfood hasn't visited yet include lucia's, ngon, and craftsman.

                                        loving all the great reviews, Jfood!

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: soupkitten
                                          jfood RE: soupkitten May 10, 2009 06:39 AM

                                          Thanks Soup-y.

                                          You'd be proud that jfood made his Gazpacho for mrs jfood yesterday and it is sittingin the fridge "coming together."

                                          jfood is bringing mrs jfood on one of his trips and can't wait to see her reaction to MSP. But then again it is not December and -35-degrees.

                                          Great Mother's Day.

                                        2. drew13000 RE: jfood May 10, 2009 09:51 AM

                                          Ngon Bistro for creative Vietnamese in an upscale atmosphere. Nice local ingredients.
                                          Himalayan Restaurant for amazing Nepalese food, little atmosphere.
                                          Saffron
                                          Bar Lurcat
                                          Craftsman
                                          Chambers
                                          Porter & Frye
                                          Town Talk Diner
                                          The Nook
                                          Tanpopo Noodle

                                          1. d
                                            Danny RE: jfood May 10, 2009 05:28 PM

                                            Aaah, jfood, you've only scratched the surface in our fine town(s).

                                            You haven't hit the legendary Manny's Steakhouse. As jfood often dines alone, I think a spot at the bar might tickle his fancy. He'll see an interesting crowd, and some of the best steaks around. His wallet might cry, but so what? http://www.mannyssteakhouse.com/

                                            I always have a soft spot for Signature Cafe. A must if only to meet Nathalie and Tony. A fine local establishment with a sidecar of good for the community. The kind of place that just makes you feel good when you're there (as long as you're not a dyed in the wool Republican, that is.) http://www.signaturecafe.net

                                            On the local food scale, Cafe Brenda and Spoonriver might also appeal to jfood. Brenda does a nice job at both, as long as you're not a hardcore meatatarian. http://www.cafebrenda.com/ and http://www.spoonriver.com/

                                            jfood should also take some time and explore some of our finer ice creams. We're a dairy state, and jfood would be missing out if he didn't delve into some local sweets at Izzy's, Pumphouse, or Crema. ( http://www.izzysicecream.com/ , http://www.pumphouse-creamery.com/ , google will be jfood's friend finding crema) After sampling all three, jfood can join in on what always ends up being one of the Chowhound Midwest Board's fiercest debates. Heck, I may have started one by leaving out Connie's Cones, Grand Ole Creamery, Liberty Frozen Custard, and The Gopher Spot (which now sells 6 rotating flavors of ice cream from the U of M Dairy Salesroom by the scoop).

                                            jfood can also tap into some of the cuisines that have competition here, but rarely see more than a token effort even in larger cities. We have a few WONDERFUL Ethiopian Restaurants in Fasika, Dukem, and Blue Nile (I've not been to Blue Nile for some reason, but Fasika and Dukem rarely dissapoint.) If jfood wants to stretch his cultural horizons even further, he can explore one of the Somali restaurants.

                                            If jfood wants to immerse himself in foreign culture, he should check out Mercado Central or the Hmong Market in St. Paul. While a foodie might turn his nose up at such places, a Chowhound would root around in delight!

                                            And, as others have mentioned, jfood MUST dine at D'Amico Cucina. The chefs at almost all of jfood's Twin Cities favorites got their starts there. It is truly the epicenter of the Twin Cities cooking scene.

                                            8 Replies
                                            1. re: Danny
                                              g
                                              green56 RE: Danny May 11, 2009 05:09 AM

                                              I'm with Danny, jfood, regarding Fasika, my favorite restaurant. The injera may initially give jfood the willies should jfood allow his mind to wander to imagined texture comparisons, but once jfood overcomes that, I do believe jfood will enjoy the injera. And while it's customary to eat Ethiopian with ones fingers, should the texture issue not be able to be overcome, jfood would be allowed to use his fork.

                                              http://www.fasika.com/welcome.html

                                              1. re: green56
                                                jfood RE: green56 May 11, 2009 05:56 AM

                                                jfood just checked out the menu and a big smile just crossed his monday morning face. could you give some recos as well as give jfood an idea of the heat content so he can plan accordingly. He is ready for finger food since he carries Purel in the car.

                                                1. re: jfood
                                                  s
                                                  soupkitten RE: jfood May 11, 2009 06:11 AM

                                                  fasika is great! i've never tried to eat there solo though-- everything is so much better when a big combo is shared by 3 or more folks-- the upside is that Jfood will have delicious leftovers for the hotel room.

                                                  i rec the lamb combo platter, the catfish, the lentil wats, and the atkilt-- vegetable dish (with cabbage and carrots-- this is always good, but if you can get lucky and get this in its 2nd day, it's *awesome*). i wish fasika would let you "build your own combo" so you could have the atkilt alongside lamb, etc-- i have requested a side of this dish, offering to pay for it of course, on several occasions. sometimes the server has brought a generous portion of it and charged me moderately ($2-$3) for it, and sometimes the server brings a smaller portion and it is gratis!

                                                  Jfood should note that the service at fasika has the reputation of being very friendly and nice, but rather leisurely ;-P

                                                  1. re: soupkitten
                                                    d
                                                    Danny RE: soupkitten May 11, 2009 09:52 AM

                                                    If jfood has never had Ethiopian food before, one of the Combos - beef or Lamb is the way to go. If jfood finds himself in the mood for chicken, the doro wot is popular - although he will not get to sample a few of Fasika's creations.

                                                    Another way to sample all of the sauces would be the Vegetarian sampler. Often overlooked, it features bits of five different dishes, and can be accompanied by a filet of fish.

                                                    Or, jfood could go "All In" and get the Ultimate Combination. It feeds two or three, but covers an even wider variety of the menu.

                                                    After jfood has acclimated himself to the cuisine, he can return delve into the portion of the menu that features raw beef - dishes like Gored Gored, and Kifto. Ordering either of these, jfood will find the server asking, "Have you had that dish before?"

                                                    Of course, as soupkitten mentioned, the service is leisurely, at best. jfood would be advised to bring a book, and ask for the check when he is ready.

                                                  2. re: jfood
                                                    g
                                                    green56 RE: jfood May 11, 2009 06:12 AM

                                                    Otay... Will check out the menu and report back. I think I had some kind'a combo plate.

                                                    First time there we sat at a booth right by the kitchen door. The chef would come out from time to time and as I oooo'ed and aaahhhh'ed over my food I was asked if I wanted samples/leftovers he had. Was a most delightful and fun experience. Hint, hint...

                                                    1. re: jfood
                                                      t
                                                      turtlebella RE: jfood May 11, 2009 06:18 AM

                                                      Our chowfamily quite likes Fasika (however, should jfood ever find himself in Washington, DC, I encourage you to try some truly marvelous Ethiopian. Really out of this world). What to get recs- we usually order the vegetarian combination and one meat dish, for the two of us (babychow does not really eat much solid food yet). That may be too much food for jfood. Of the items in the vegetarian combination, our favorites are the collard greens and reddish lentils (I think these are red due to Berbere sauce, not due to being actually red lentils). Yellow lentils (split peas?) are also very good. None of these are very spicy, in my opinion. There is usually an extra dollop of berbere sauce on the side should jfood want to kick it up a notch. For meat we almost *always* go with beef. Kifto is good- sort of like ground beef mixed with cottage cheese- sounds kinda weird but it's actually very good. A standard for us is beef Tibs- usually quite tender morsels of beef,grilled or sauteed with jalapeños and onions.

                                                      Mouth now watering. I forsee a trip to Fasika is this chowfamily's near future!

                                                      1. re: jfood
                                                        g
                                                        green56 RE: jfood May 11, 2009 06:51 AM

                                                        The hotest sauce is the Berbere, others less so. Is jfood a Chile-Head (green is a card carrying Member)? If so he should be able to tolerate the Berbere. But it's pretty dog-gone warm... But oh, so good!

                                                        The Doro-Wat is delicious and the egg is a wonderful foil to the warmth of the Berbere, as is the homemade cottage cheese. It's not like *our* cottage cheese, as it's runnier and more sour, but should jfood be a cheese freak - as is green - he will enjoy it.

                                                        I agree with soupkitten regarding the combo platter(s) and number of people. The Ultimate Combination is truly that and, in my mind, the best Faskia has to offer. Going with that and the Vegi Sampler is the best idea when not eating alone.

                                                        The Ybeg Tibs (lamb) is fabulous and what I usually get. It's less hot than the Doro-Wat, but still has a spicey, Ethiopian punch.

                                                        I do not recommend keeping leftover injera (green shudders)... It's a texture thing...

                                                    2. re: Danny
                                                      s
                                                      St Paul Susie RE: Danny May 11, 2009 12:11 PM

                                                      You can also order Manny's menu at the bar at the living room in the W.

                                                    3. b
                                                      babaoriley7 RE: jfood May 10, 2009 06:44 PM

                                                      I'll add my two cents...

                                                      Since spring is here, I think Sea Salt is a great place to go for decent sea food and a wonderful atmosphere. There is a thread out there with others expressing concern, but I doubt anyone would argue that once you have your food while sitting outside that it isn't anything less than a lovely experience.

                                                      I love Saigon Restaurant or Pho Tao Bay for traditional Vietnamese food. And Ngon Bistro for some more imaginative fare.

                                                      Cafe 28 seems like it would be right up your alley.

                                                      I second the nook as a representative of the jucy lucy (also one of my fav fries in the cities)

                                                      Cafe Levain would be worth a stop.

                                                      I think Chino Latino is a festive fun night out with at least some imaginative food. I haven't had a lot of their entrees because I'm usually there for their happy hour and to be honest perhaps not the best place for a solo diner.

                                                      Also in Uptown, I think Tum Rup Thai is quite good, though we aren't known for thai food in the twin cities

                                                      One other unique place worth a try might be Moscow on the Hill. Certainly not easy to find upscale Russian dining establishments so it would be an experience. Perhaps it would be wise to save this for a cold winters evening as this food is quite hearty.

                                                      5 Replies
                                                      1. re: babaoriley7
                                                        The Dairy Queen RE: babaoriley7 May 11, 2009 04:44 AM

                                                        When you mention Moscow on the Hill, it reminded me of W A Frost, also on Selby in St. Paul, that fits in the the high end category jfood seems to favor. Apparently the chef just left, so, who knows how good it is right now. They have a lovely patio this time of year and, also, a bar menu if you just wanted to eat in the bar.

                                                        ~TDQ

                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen
                                                          jfood RE: The Dairy Queen May 11, 2009 06:00 AM

                                                          to be clear, jfood likes good food, from pizza to foie. You will see Thahn Do and Brass as well as Cosmo (he liked the first 2 better). And the Fasika suggestion looks great above.

                                                          So keep those cards and letters coming.

                                                          Ciao

                                                          1. re: jfood
                                                            The Dairy Queen RE: jfood May 11, 2009 06:07 AM

                                                            Ah, well, then there are a ton of places for you to try on low-end ethnic front. I don't count Brasa in that category, and am not sure about Thahn Do because I haven't been there, but the best Thai restaurant I've been to in the Twin Cities is Bangkok Thai Deli on University Avenue in St. Paul. Also, Saigon on University Avenue in St. Paul is a must do.

                                                            ~TDQ

                                                            1. re: jfood
                                                              s
                                                              soupkitten RE: jfood May 11, 2009 06:32 AM

                                                              another good ethnic rec would be tam-tam's (pan-african), in the colorful cedar-riverside area of minneapolis (interesting local history in this area). i usually get something with halal goat at this establishment, and follow the welcoming and loquacious owners' recs for side vegetables. i also concur with TT's rec for obento-ya below for solid lower-end japanese, and another board favorite, tanpopo (japanese noodles) in lowerown st. paul. the taqueria front may be a whole new thread. . .

                                                              1. re: soupkitten
                                                                d
                                                                djohnson22 RE: soupkitten May 11, 2009 08:30 AM

                                                                I'll second the Tam-Tam's recommendation. So much good stuff, but if I were to be forced to name just one remarkable item it would be the ginormous ribs

                                                        2. t
                                                          tex.s.toast RE: jfood May 11, 2009 06:05 AM

                                                          Here's another one: Obento-Ya. Its roughly over by the U, and while sushi/japanese is not necessarily something i think we do the best around here, this place has made some of my more memorable japanese meals. They have expanded their menu since i was last there, but i have had very good luck with the robata (skewers) and the value is really great (without feeling like cheap japanese, a genre im ok with, but usually only if in sight of a body of water larger than a great lake).

                                                          Ill second (or third) Fasika, if ethiopian isn't something you get a lot of/is something you want a lot of. Some of the meat curries (wats) can be somewhat light on the protien, but its mostly about the sauce. if you want a variety of more substantial offerings (somewhat ironically) choose the veggie sampler which will provide you with a number of different legume and leafy options. Ive eaten ethiopian at some of the top places in LA's fairfax neighborhood and Fasika is a first rate example (though ive sometimes felt odd walking in with a group of non-ethiopians the service is uniformly friendly - it was the other patrons we felt like we were disturbing).

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

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: tex.s.toast
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                                                            green56 RE: tex.s.toast May 11, 2009 06:15 AM

                                                            Fasika is definitely a neighborhood restaurant and I, myself, have often felt as though I was intruding. However, yes, the service is always friendly and makes you feel very welcome.

                                                          2. mtullius RE: jfood May 11, 2009 06:30 AM

                                                            Also in the vein of great ethnic chow, jfood might want to try Mañana Restaurant, in the same neighborhood as The Strip Club. It's on E. 7th St. and is a fine example of Salvadorean food. Try the pupusas. They're amazing!

                                                            5 Replies
                                                            1. re: mtullius
                                                              d
                                                              dave43 RE: mtullius May 13, 2009 07:30 AM

                                                              Jfood needs to try the Seabass soup at Quang's. Jfood will like.

                                                              1. re: dave43
                                                                bob s RE: dave43 May 13, 2009 12:44 PM

                                                                Jfood and others should note though that the Sea Bass Soup at Quangs is a weekend special - served Friday through Sunday only. I don't know if it's available for lunch on Friday's.

                                                                1. re: bob s
                                                                  t
                                                                  tex.s.toast RE: bob s May 13, 2009 03:08 PM

                                                                  as long as we are footnoting the recommendation - the soup is available from fridays when it is ready until they run out. DO NOT as i did at least one too many times, assume it will be available for a sunday dinner, as they only make one batch and sell it until its gone.

                                                                  1. re: tex.s.toast
                                                                    d
                                                                    dave43 RE: tex.s.toast May 15, 2009 11:25 AM

                                                                    If jfood snoozes...jfood loses

                                                                    1. re: dave43
                                                                      jfood RE: dave43 May 15, 2009 12:39 PM

                                                                      The issue is jfood lives in CT and he flies in on monday morning - out thursday evening.

                                                                      The snooze is on NW airlines back to mrs jfood

                                                            2. clepro RE: jfood Jun 2, 2009 10:57 AM

                                                              Ok, gotta ask: was jfood at the Hungry Gnome in St. Paul on Tuesday, May 26th? Don't know why but I looked over at a gentleman and "jfood!" popped into my head. Even though I've not checked chowhound for a while, and didn't know you've been here so often recently.

                                                              And if so, what book were you reading?! It's been driving me crazy...recognized the cover, but couldn't place the book.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: clepro
                                                                jfood RE: clepro Jun 2, 2009 11:13 AM

                                                                nope, jfood was in NY at the theatre. never been to Hungry Gnome. Is it good?

                                                                1. re: jfood
                                                                  clepro RE: jfood Jun 2, 2009 11:35 AM

                                                                  Casual place with a great selection of beers. But if I'm remembering your posts correctly, that wouldn't interest you.

                                                                  I've only been there that once, and didn't expect much. So maybe that's why I was so pleasantly surprised. Had a huge, and I mean huge, bowl of PEI mussels steamed in a hard pear cider/sage broth for $10. They were excellent, especially with the bitter reddish beer I had. (Would say what it was, but I can't remember. I'm not much of a beer drinker, so just told the waiter my tastes and put myself in his hands.) An extra bread basket let me leave exactly none of the broth behind. I wouldn't drive across town for it, but I'd definitely drive over the hill, if I were in the mood for mussels. Plus, there's a parking lot right next door, which is a big draw in that area.

                                                                  My friend ordered the salmon wrapped in leeks and baked...can't remember any other details of how it was prepared other than that there was some type of pesto and mushroom involved, but she very much enjoyed it.

                                                                  If you saw the Wilson play, I'll be stone cold jealous.

                                                              2. s
                                                                ssioff RE: jfood Jun 2, 2009 12:06 PM

                                                                Clepro - Sorry, but it's the Happy Gnome, not the Hungry Gnome.

                                                                And jfood, it's pretty much a steak house with a Greek twist, but Phil Tara's Hideaway (used to be a speakeasy) just outside of Stillwater has a Greek Combo Dinner on the dinner menu that I get every time I go. It might be fairly out of your way, but you seem to be branching out with Manana. Went there today for lunch as a matter of fact. Here is the link to the web site.

                                                                http://www.tarahideaway.com/

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: ssioff
                                                                  clepro RE: ssioff Jun 2, 2009 02:49 PM

                                                                  Thanks for the correction!

                                                                2. a
                                                                  autobahn RE: jfood Jun 4, 2009 08:36 AM

                                                                  If you're looking for a good traditional American diner, check out the Convention Grill in Edina. Their burgers are top notch (but not fancy by any means) and their malts are to DIE FOR. Also excellent hand cut fries. May I suggest the Oreo Malt as you previously stated that you enjoyed Oreo ice cream?

                                                                  -----
                                                                  Convention Grill & Fountain
                                                                  3912 Sunnyside Rd, Minneapolis, MN 55424

                                                                  1. i
                                                                    intrepid artist RE: jfood Dec 28, 2009 05:30 AM

                                                                    Long time lurker- first time caller. I was looking for ideas for places to take out-of-town visitors, and there are lots of options here. But I noticed that some of my favorites aren't on the list yet:

                                                                    Lucia's, in Upown
                                                                    Whitey's Bar, for the beef sandwiches- cooked a long time with a lot of wine, me thinks, and I like their crab cakes too.
                                                                    Signatures, in Prospect Park always makes me feel like I'm in France
                                                                    Babvani's in St. Paul- Kurdish; not fancy, but I've liked everything I've eaten. I recommend trying the Kurdish lemonade (it's not for everyone, but I'm addicted and now make it at home.)

                                                                    The best sandwich for the $$ in St. Paul is at Golden's Deli in Lowertown. Their soups are consistently good too.

                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                    1. re: intrepid artist
                                                                      s
                                                                      soupkitten RE: intrepid artist Dec 28, 2009 10:36 AM

                                                                      welcome. i hope you stick around and give us more input. more voices are better! in your post you mentioned one of my absolute faves, lucia's in uptown, which i agree does not get rec-ed nearly often enough. i don't know whether people just forget how great lucia's is because it's been around so long, or what. . .

                                                                      1. re: soupkitten
                                                                        b
                                                                        babaoriley7 RE: soupkitten Dec 28, 2009 02:40 PM

                                                                        Absolutely agree, it is by far the best restaurant in Uptown (IMO). It is a place I would love to have around the block.

                                                                        1. re: babaoriley7
                                                                          jfood RE: babaoriley7 Dec 28, 2009 03:00 PM

                                                                          Thanks again peeps.

                                                                          Jfood will place Lucia on the list for 2010.

                                                                          You guys dig out?

                                                                          1. re: jfood
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                                                                            faith RE: jfood Dec 28, 2009 03:29 PM

                                                                            Jfood, I can't wait for your Lucia's review. It's weird, I go to the bakery/to go part a lot, but rarely to the restaurant, although I love reading the weekly changing menus online. Yes, we've pretty much 'dug out' although budget cuts have resulted in not much plowing and when they do, it leaves petrified icebergs in our neatly shoveled walkways. grrrr

                                                                            1. re: faith
                                                                              jfood RE: faith Dec 28, 2009 03:34 PM

                                                                              Crazy out here.

                                                                              yesterday 2PM the jfoods eating a sandwich at the beach watching 50 dogs running and then a walk on the beach. this morning a mini-ice event.

                                                                              back in msp next week

                                                                          2. re: babaoriley7
                                                                            bob s RE: babaoriley7 Dec 29, 2009 04:39 AM

                                                                            It is, in fact, a great place to have around the block. I now work about a block away (and also live nearby), so I'm in the bakery about 1-2 a week. The wine bar is also a great place to drop in to on a whim - either for a drink, a snack, or a meal. And the restaurant is consistently good as well. (A hint - both the bar menu and the restaurant menu are available in the wine bar.) And a perfect summer evening to me is spent drinking outside as the sun sets. You'll have to wait a while for that Jfood...

                                                                            Having said all that, I think that Barbette hovers near Lucia's as the best restaurant in Uptown. We go back and forth (literally) on that.

                                                                      2. lollya RE: jfood Dec 30, 2009 07:53 AM

                                                                        jfood!
                                                                        i have been following your thoughtful posts for quite a while and hadn't realized you were a neighbor! :) i realize this post is from awhile ago...but i thought i'd recommend my favorites to you. i'm less of a fancy diner and more of a hole-in-the-wall lover. good food, fun atmosphere...if you like some of that here are my thoughts:

                                                                        great brunch & dinners
                                                                        http://www.bryantlakebowl.com/menu, birchwoodcafe.com

                                                                        pizza:
                                                                        http://www.dinewithfiresidepizza.com/
                                                                        (big fan of the sauerkraut & pineapple pizza

                                                                        )

                                                                        chinese:
                                                                        for traditional: cathays in SE mpls has been my favorite for years - and kim's in NE is good also. also a big fan of www.thanhdorestaurant.com and www.tumrupthai.com

                                                                        good luck jfood, all of the other suggestions above are GREAT, i've been to many of them and loved them.

                                                                        lollya

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