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Minneapolis ETHNIC Food Snobs, Your Help Is Needed!

I thought I was a "food snob" until I met my boyfriend...WOW! We both enjoy authentic, ethnic food and are looking for restaurants to try in the Twin Cities area. We are not afraid of "dive" restaurants or "off the beaten path" locations. Heck, we're dying to check out the Vietnamese flea market mentioned in a recent issue of MN Monthly.

I am searching for these places as date ideas and, hopefully, one unbelievable place to celebrate his birthday (This one can be located outside of the metro area and, hopefully, include a weekend getaway of some sort...We're very active and outdoorsy.) We are not "meat and potatoes" type of people...BORING and we can make it as good, if not better, at home. I'm talking about SPICY food, ethnic food, authentic food from near and far...Mexico, Thailand, The Philippines, Greece, Morocco, Spain, Ethiopia, etc., etc.

We're, also, seeking UNBELIEVABLE bakeries in Western WI and the East Metro area (VERY picky, as I once was a pastry chef.)

Since times our tough, we'd love to find affordable restaurants, too. Is this search doomed for failure or can you, foodies, help us in our quest? THANKS:-)

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  1. tvdxer's list should get you started. Not everything in the list is still open but more comprehensive would be tough to find. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/555525

    1 Reply
    1. re: MplsM ary

      Oh wow! Thanks! That's exactly what I need.

      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        Oops! Have you been there? I heard it's amazing but very difficult to locate.

        1. re: Inasuitcase

          Yes, I've been there many times. Refer to the post I linked to in my post above which includes information on how to find it, including photos of the entrance, and some detailed info on the various dishes.

          Please report back after you've tried some of the places people are recommending to you.

          ~TDQ

          1. re: Inasuitcase

            It's not hard to locate the complex, maybe just the food court. Just know that when you go in the parking lot, the food court is in the building on the left (closest to the street). BUT...I highly recommend walking around the other building too. Some really neat stuff in there.

            1. re: MSPD

              Actually, I found it hard to locate the complex the first couple of times (but maybe I'm just directionally challenged). But, the signage is very distinctive, hence, the usefulness, I think, of the photos.

              The food court is fantastic, but as MSPD said, don't miss the other buildings (there's one where they sell a lot of imported produce), as well as the open air "farmers market" in the back.

              Another Hmong food court is located in the back of Golden Globe, which is on Pierce Butler in St. Paul right behind Dragon Star (which someone mentioned in this thread as having awesome papaya salad to go). I've not eaten at Golden Globe, but it all looks intriguing and as if they are hurting for business. I've only been at weird, off-peak times, though.

              ~TDQ

              1. re: MSPD

                the building with the food court in it-- signage "west building" above door. go in, go straight, not left, through some clothing/shoe and misc stalls and you will wind up at one end of the food court. if you then hang a left, you can go to the end of the line of food stalls. (oh shoot, trying to remember) from the end, by the light green wall, i want to say the stalls go: "one stop"-- the one with the stars on the menu, then hmong express, then mr. papaya, then coco's. . . then several other stalls near where you first walked in. . . imo these 4 stalls have some good stuff though. "one stop" has good bbq and meats; hmong express has good sausage, and very good stuffed chicken wings and delicious pork belly; mr papaya has good steamed tilapia with herb stuffing and a very good papaya salad as well (go figure), made by a nice lady. coco's has a very good beef meat larb with beef tripe and fresh mint and vegetables, good 3-color dessert (bubble tea, $2) here as well--they put in finely chopped cantaloupe, so i am partial to this stall's version. make sure you order something with purple rice somewhere. the soups look good but ime skip 'em, unless you have a (*very* acquired) taste for hmong "healthy/health-giving chicken soup/soup for new mothers--in that case go for that item, from mr. papaya or hmong express. i like to sit at the long tables and nosh while watching the photo studio's digital display-- it's funny because it's a bunch of formal, traditional costume (hmong, thai, chinese) shots, western-style wedding & family shots, then there will be a random leather-clad sex-kitten shot. . . then little girls in traditional headdresses again. . . ;-P

                since you're already at the complex walk outside to the back of the open air market, past all the clothing stalls and check out the farmer's market, you can get some good veggies. in springtime everyone sells very cheap, nice bedding plants for like twenty five cents each, if you like gardening. one lady sells plants year round-- you can get hard to find stuff from her, like small kaffir lime trees, but watch out-- she is a *wicked* bargainer. near her permanent outdoor stall is a door that leads into an indoor produce market area (mostly fruit). good place to get large amounts of ginger, as well as melons (sweet & bitter), bananas, lychee, imported fruits in general. in this building there is also a large area for traditional hmong herbal medicinals. and lots and lots of videos, clothing, housewares, etc. one time i went to the hmong market and there was a stall set up on tables that had a huge variety of traditional hmong basketry. i was broke at the time so i didn't buy. when i came back it was gone, and i've never seen it since :( so if anybody sees this huge hmong basket display at the market let me know, okay?!

                oh yeah-- try to go earlier in the day. folks start packing up in the afternoon, if it doesn't seem busy.

                1. re: soupkitten

                  Oh, I completely disagree on your recommendation to skip the soups! It might not be a "soup" time of year right now, but I really like the sweet pork with hard boiled egg soup I mentioned in the link in my first post. Completely unique and, with the inclusion of the egg (which has special meaning in Hmong tradition) very Hmong. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3183...

                  I also like the spicy Shrimp Soup (tom yum goong).

                  And the "signage" I was referring to that I found helpful to have a photo of was not the signage for the food court building (I've never found it that hard to find the food court building. It's the first one you see when you enter the parking lot and the only building that doesn't look like a warehouse), but the signage visible from the street that lets you know you've found the complex: http://www.chow.com/photos/10401

                  ~TDQ

                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    yes absolutely, your photos in the older post will be useful to anybody trying to find this complex for the first time. but i don't think the "west building" sign appears in your photos, it's been recently added and it might help someone trying to get directly to the food court, that was my only point, sorry to be confusing!

                    which stall did you get that delicious sounding pork and egg soup and tom yum goong from? it's totally possible that all the good soup is at one of the stalls i've been skipping for the past year--based on a totally arbitrary comparison of hmong sausage, when i first visited, LOL! if so i'll certainly correct that! in the meantime, i'll edit to say that the curry noodle soups from the hmong express, etc end of things look a lot better than they taste.

                    1. re: soupkitten

                      The soups were from different booths. I say in the link which ones I got the dishes from. There's some photos there, too.

                      ~TDQ

          2. I would put Bankok Thai Deli on your list.

            I also really miss Great India up in Brooklyn Center (we moved to S. Mpls to we don't get there much)

            1. bangkok thai deli without a doubt.

              also, the croissants at trung nam, just down university are really tasty, and i guess count as east metro.

              im also partial to the papaya salad at dragon star market (no seating though) on minehaha an dale, if you are insistent they will make it super spicy.

              2 Replies
              1. re: tex.s.toast

                Super spicy is what he LOVES!

                I read alot about Bangkok Thai Deli on the boards here last night. It is on our list and I hope to get there this weekend. Can someone simplify what we should order? I read a few different things. Thanks!

                I'm so happy I found this forum. It's really going to help us.

                1. re: Inasuitcase

                  My favorite at BTD is stir fried beef with peppers. I think this is #20 on the menu. They will make it super spicy for you as well :)

              2. When I want Mexican, I head to El Burrito Mercado. It's no frills but I get consistent and quality cheap eats. It's cafeteria style with a few more tables (since expansion) and I ask for extra spice-and they'll give it to you.

                When I want Chinese, I always get Cheung's Hot N' Spicy chicken (off Dale/Lexington) in St Paul. It is always the same and is never a disappointment.

                I prefer Thai over Vietnamese, etc. even though I live by Frogtown-Como, so I'll let others tell you where to go. I've been to Hoa Bien, Mai Village-and have not been overly impressed.

                When I wa Thai - and this is up for debate-these are my choices-Sen Lai Sen Lak (despite the authenticity), of all my eateries (Taste of Thailand, True Thai, Chang, Sawatdee, Tum Rup, etc) I prefer Sen Lai, Thanhdo in St Louis Park or TOT. I also do like Tum Rup - mainly for the fact that I can get a mean, mean Mai Tai.

                There is a huge debate on this too -but I prefer Mirror of Korea. It's probably b/c I live so close and I think she likes that I'm Korean and my hubby is white and digs into kimchee like it's the best thing since sliced bread- b/c we always get extra food and extra off-menu appys. The Na Go Gi and Bulgogi (pork over beef) if you ask for it extra spicy, she'll indeed create it that way.

                I think the spicy tuna rolls for sushi are top notch at Origami (Ridgedale Mall) or at Fuji-Ya in DT St Paul.

                While I posted that I didn't like Fasika - I think it is more that Ethiopian is not my out to eat food of choice-but I will say that the spiciness of my dora wat was deep and rich, and spicy (good with the hard boiled egg). Anything with harissa makes life better anyway.

                And finally, I will say that India House on Grand Avenue deserves a visit.

                In terms of pastries/sweets, I'm not a sweets fan-so I'll let the expert CHs give you that.

                1 Reply
                1. re: snoboardbabe77

                  Thanks! That's a lot of great info. I won't disagree and will do my best to go to the places you mentioned. I mean, how could I go wrong with someone who appears to love to ride as much as my boyfriend and I. Perhaps, you are coupled, too, and would want to hit the slopes this winter. We're always looking for others to join us:-)