Jfood visits Manana and Izzys (St Paul) - Excellent
Jfood had an all-day Sunday meeting and when it was over he was exhausted. So he needed to discover some good food and ice cream. Given traffic on 494 is very light compared to weekdays, Jfood decided to work around visiting Izzy’s in SP for ice cream and now just needed a good place for dinner. He considered Fasika and started reading some threads and saw all the great comments about Manana. After reading Eat Nopal’s threads on Mexican cooking the decision was easy to try the Mexican.
Jfood passed Strip Club, worked around a detour and found a perfect parking spot in front. He walked in and approached the cashier. Jfood pleaded ignorance and asked for assistance. After a brief discussion Jfood ordered the fish soup and a combination papusa. Jfood found a table and started a new book. He watched as the ladies behind the counter individually flattened the dough to make all of the bread related items. It appeared that three generations were in charge of this function. This brought a huge smile to Jfood's face.
The fish soup arrived with a side of condiments and some tortillas wrapped in foil. The first thing Jfood noticed were the whole shrimp floating on the top of the red broth. A taste of the broth and Jfood was ecstatic; this was fantastic. On the condiment tray was cilantro, onion and limes. He grabbed some cilantro and sprinkled into the soup. He next removed the five shrimp and placed on the plate of rice to cool so he could peel them. Then he went back to the soup. The cilantro made a great soup even better. As Jfood worked his way through the fish that was in the bowl, he came across a cod steak, a crab, mussels, squid and diced tomatoes. With the freshly made tortillas that came with, this dish could be a meal by itself. And the price was $12.
The papusa arrived and the server explained that you place the red sauce on first, then add the cabbage, then fold and eat. Jfood, always the obedient servant, did just that. The result was great fun. The cheese in the papusa was still hot and melted, the meat and chicken, along with the slight kick in the sauce and the sweetness of the cabbage made for a great dish.
A couple of people approached Jfood to ask how he liked the dish. Now understand that Jfood was the only non-Mexican in this restaurant and this made him feel like he was now part of the family. Now Jfood could not leave his family, so he ordered another dish, a grilled steak gordita. The server gave a brief explanation and Jfood thought it sounded very good. When it arrived, another big smile crossed Jfood's face. The gordita was a tortilla sliced in half. Inside the tortilla were steak, sour cream, radishes, lettuce, tomatoes and a few other items. A knife and fork was supplied and Jfood went to work. Jfood loved this dish as well. It was crunchy, hot, cold, smooth, spicy, mild, all of these ingredients together. Now Jfood was too full for another dish.
Total price with a bottle of water was $21 plus tip.
It was time for Jfood to move to dessert and the garmin took him straight to Izzys.
This was a tough decision to make. He already knew he would order the salted caramel flavor for the Izzy scoop, and eventually settled on Banana and Milky Way for the real scoops. His first bite of the salted caramel told him he was glad this was the Izzy scoop since it just did not move Jfood, a bit too salty. But the texture was the best of any ice cream so far in MSP. Now onto the Milky Way. The flavor of the ice cream was made to resemble the nougat center and it did a very good job, once again the texture was perfect. Then there were nice sized pieces of Milky Way mixed within. This was very good but Jfood has eaten better Milky Way. He was a bit disappointed that there was not a caramel swirl mixed throughout. He next moved onto the banana ice cream. Once again the texture was perfect. And the flavor was outstanding. Was it as good as Pumphouse? Jfood still needs to give his nod to Pumphouse as the best Banana ice cream so far in the Twin Cities.
Just a quick note for the record: since it seems somewhat out of jfoods normal range, technically pupusas, and Manana, are Salvadoran, and not Mexican. While masa cakes of various incarnations are common through mexico and central america, the name pupusas (and the delicious cabbage condiment called curtido) are distinct to El Salvador.
Although, clearly, Manana and many other salvadoran places serve mexican food (like your gordita, which isnt too different, in principle) because it can be, understandably, hard to make a living selling something so "niche".
Glad you had a good meal, and always glad for more reports.
Pupusas are not distinct to El Salvador. The first place I ever had them was Nicaragua. I think I had them in Costa Rica also. But Manana is a Salvadorian restaurant.
In Nicaragua they are street food. They put everything in a plastic bag for you. Then you squish the bag until everything is blended, bite off a corner of the bag, and suck the whole thing through the whole. The best damn thing I've ever had.
I stand corrected. Growing up in SF i exclusively associated pupusas w/ salvadoran places, and not for lack of other central american places - despite not having a particularly renowned food culture there is a small corner of SF's mission which could be described as a (very) "little managua" and i dont think ive ever seen pupusas on the menus at any of the places i know there.
Other than being filled after cooking, there arent tons of distinctions to be drawn between jFood's gordita (small griddled round of masa filled with meat) and the pupusas he ate first - obviously the gordita was filled after cooking while the pupusa was griddled with fillings inside.
That said - and to keep this post on topic - i have never seen rice-based gorditas anywhere but do know that some pupuserias offer rice-flour alternatives. has anyone spotted any around the twin cities?