Monday, May 16, 2016

Eating BIG in Minneapolis

Eating like a local:
Regional food specialties

- Local Eats of the Twin Cities

I hadn't been to the Twin Cities since my last post from back in 2012. So when my fiancee told me she wanted to drive there to check out wedding dresses I obliged. To me a six hour drive is nothing and I'd heard nothing but good things about the food scene since my last visit so I was down to spend a weekend eating and drinking. Luckily for us the weather had just started warming up so it was in the low 50's which is basically sandal weather for the people in these parts. I have no interest in visiting during the winter. But when it's warm, or not freezing, Minneapolis is very nice.


First stop I found thru this thread, thanks to those that posted the positive info. I love this trend of hip and happening restaurants opening up inside of museums and cultural centers. Located inside the American Swedish Institute, FIKA is a Swedish focused cafe putting out great plates of food as well as house infused Aquavit. Usually I take a picture of the menu so I can remember exactly what we ate but I forgot to here nonetheless I never forget to take a pic of whats on the plate.

Brussels Sprouts - I prefer my sprouts crisp and these were roasted until soft but still good with a creamy sauce and some chopped nuts did a little add crunch.

Potato Dumplings were as soft as can be without totally falling apart and that was impressive. The combination of slivered apples and roasted peanuts is usually something I find at Thai spots but as this dish showed it works great in all forms of food.

Smørbrød of Seared Salmon over Rye was fantastic even though I'm not a big cooked salmon fan. The Dijon Mustard sauce really made the salmon shine in my mind.

Bachelor Farmer Cafe

I didn't get a chance to try the Bachelor Farmer on this trip but I did shoot over to their new cafe showcasing coffee and all sorts of baked goods with a Nordic influence. Not a coffee drinker, nor a big sweets in the morning guy. That said they also have a Smørbrød (open faced sandwich) section and the smoked salmon with pickled veggies, dill and mustard was calling my name. I love the combo of smoked salmon and dill which I just mentioned it in the Seattle thread. This was good enough to get another but alas there's always another spot coming.

Scandinavian Style Open Faced Sandwich

When it comes to regional eats Minneapolis has some interesting options. Aside from all the Norwegian eating options there's also quite a few Somali spots. This would be due to Minnesota having what might be the most Somalian refugees of any US state. I read somewhere that 1/3 of US born Somalis live in Minnesota so that would make sense.

Afro Deli & Catering

This place too is part of a cultural/developmental center designed to help the well being of newly arrived refugees. The Somali restaurateur and the center split the profits so you're helping a good cause when you eat here. Two good things come of one as the food is pretty damn good. There was a steady mix of college kids and local Somali people and never were they not taking orders. I got an excellent steak sandwich made with thin/tender beef spiced up with African seasoning and topped with lettuce, tomato, onion and Swiss. The soft but stable focaccia was perfect for this tasty concoction. A Samosa was also enjoyed.

Somali Steak Sandwich and a Samosa

Strip Mall dining time. I took an early morning ride to the suburb of Burnsville to get my day started with a Somali style breakfast.

Tawakal Restaurant

Early Sunday morning so a few locals and their young sons were in there watching some soccer. I decided to go with the beef suqaar which is a popular breakfast made with cubes of meat mixed with veggies. It's comes served with injera which is a flat pancake to scoop up the meat and eat. Tender well spiced beef and veggies with a tangy sauce served on the side was a great way to start my day.

Beef Suqaar with Injera

Continuing on with the International regional eats offerings I was surprised to find a handful of Tibetan and or Nepali restaurants and as regular readers know I love me some momo. So I had myself a little momo-off. Aside from Jackson Heights in Queens I'm not sure there's anywhere with a higher concentration of momo options. There's actually a Nepalese tea spot coming to Chicago in Logan Square and the family behind it owns a joint in Minneapolis but I didn't make it to that spot. I did get to three others though.

Gorkha Palace

I had wanted to eat an entire meal at this spot featuring Nepali, Tibetan, and Indian food made with local ingredients but it wouldn't happen. I can only go so far when it's basically just me so I stuck with a half order of momo made with local bison meat. This was probably my favorite of the trio I tried as the meat itself was very clean tasting. I've ate my fair share of Nepalese Dumplings and a common characteristic new to me at all these spots was big chunks of green onion as opposed to finely diced-in with the meat which is what I prefer. Nonetheless I love the combination of fresh herbs spices used including cilantro, coriander, and Turmeric. The commonly served on the side dipping sauce is usually a mild tomato and cilantro blend as was the case here.

Bison Momo

Moving onto the next spot I just so happened to be driving by and it was on my hit list so I stopped in for an order of momo to go.

Himalayan Restaurant

This place just smelled great with all the smells coming from the kitchen and what not. Again another spot I would've liked to further explore the menu but a half order of lamb momo was all I was good for. Another nice example, though I'll always prefer beef over lamb when it comes to these dumplings. Like the first stop the insides of these had nice sized chunks of greens to go alongside the meat. The tomato-cilantro sauce really is the perfect compliment to an order of momo.

Lamb Momo

Last dumpling stop up was a place that was open late and doubles as a bar so that made it within reach. When I stopped in there were quite a few drinkers on what was a pretty mild weathered Saturday night.

Tibet Kitchen

Even though these ones here were made with beef they were my least liked of the three. The wrapper itself was too rubbery while the beef was just a ball that often fell out after first bite. I wasn't asked about any preferred style of sauce but ended up with a damn spicy dip that pretty much took over the flavor profile when used.

Beef Momo

Then there's the American style regional eats. Cant do a trip to the Twin Cities and not stop for a Jucy Lucy and since I never had never been to Matt's now was my time.

Matt's Bar & Grill

I've had a Lucy at The Nook over in St. Paul years ago but never one from Matt's (Since 1954) which many say is the original. Many also say it's the best and there's been good word spoken here about it so I wanted to make sure I got in. Good thing I had a couple days because on Saturday when I stopped by sometime mid-afternoon the place had a line to the point where there were a few people waiting outside. Popular spot so plan according, I got there around 11:30a on Sunday and scored a seat at the bar.

The Grill at the end of the bar

Wisconsin tavern setup with the grill being in visible sight at the bar but there's to much traffic to make the bartender the grillmaster so each one held is held down by someone. I wanted as the grill guy remove and then reload the grill as many burgers as he could with each passing round. He was a natural. After a few rounds my wave came up and I had plenty of time to get a pic as you'll burn the shit out of your mouth if you don't wait for the cheese inside to cool down. The Jucy Lucy seems like such a simple burger, and it pretty much is, yet none of the imitators come close to the ones I've tried in the Twin Cities which is weird because you'd think it'd be pretty easy. Great bar burger. Make sure to go grilled with the onions, don't think it'd be the same without 'em.

Jucy Lucy

The Twin Cities also has a little bit of a roast beef sandwich culture and when out in da burbs I spied a place specializing in it.

Penn Lake Roast Beef

Turns out the owner from here used to work at another local spot called Wally's which was closed so I was never able to try it and see how they compare to here and also Maverick's which I stopped into last trip upthread. Special deals on the day I was in so I got two for $5. Considering the price this was a pretty good sandwich. Real, red at that, roast beef sliced to order and served with bbq and horseradish sauce on a lightly toasted burger bun. I can get down with that.

Roast Beef Sandwich

I like the old school roast beef spots but if you want one of the best roast beef sandwiches you'll have head to this new school butcher.

Clancey's Meat & Fish

Clancey's is pretty much like all the other new-school butchers and I mean that in a positive way. They got everything from custom cuts to duck fat and all the other good stuff I was hoping to find some walleye to throw in the cooler and take home but none this trip in. They also make sandwiches with house roasted meats and the roast beef gets lots of love online. I'm clapping with the rest of the applause as this was a masterpiece. Thinly shaved rare roast beef dressed to my liking in a fantastic locally baked bread roll. Deli sandwiches from your local butcher don't get much better.

Roast Beef Sandwich

MSP also has a good pasta culture going on and Italian is heavily enjoyed by both of us so we went around and checked some spots out. Though in hindsight I wish we returned to that which we knew because I didn't think either was on the same level as Bar La Grassa.

ie Italian Eatery

Stopped in here upon arriving in town on Friday night. It was packed and they pack them in so there were tables and chairs everywhere. In some cases good (near the open air kitchen) and in other cases not so much (near the bathroom). We were squeezed in at a small table amongst the bar area, the size of the tale made it somewhat hard to eat. Food was ok. Like I said it just didn't wow like Bar La Grassa did on a past trip.

Pan Fried Artichoke Ravioli - Housemade Ravioli with artichoke, ricotta, lemon, white truffle oil

Mushroom Cappelletti with Crème Fraîche, whiskey barrel-aged shoyu, roasted mushrooms, thyme

Bucatini with Housemade Fennel Sausage, Smoked Paprika, White Wine, Pecorino

Scena Tavern

Popular spot for food and booze here and it was Happy Hour so we were there. Drinks were good as was an order of bucatini that we ate up off the Happy Hour menu.

Bucatini with 'nduja, egg yolk, garlic, herb, breadcrumbs

We also stopped for Happy Hour at a locally liked taco and margarita spot as I always try and doc a taco stop or two on each trip away.

Sonora Grill

The menu features a bunch of options but I could only muster up the appetite for one and settled on the hot shrimp tempura and made sure to ask for housemade flour as opposed to the standard store bought corn tortilla. Not sure why they even bother with the corn when taking the time to make flour in house. This was a massive taco and couldn't be ate as was which was fine since I just nibbled on a few pieces of the fried shrimp until it could all be folded over and ate like a taco. It was enjoyed but the margarita was not.

Hot Shrimp Tempura Taco

I had Spoon & Stable as an option for cocktails and then when we saw they do a Saturday night taco special after 10pm we decided to to head over.

Spoon & Stable

Really nice and thus very popular. We were lucky to snag some seats at the bar around 9:45p but the place quickly filled to the point where it was at capacity. Even with the crazy crowds the bartenders were on point with the drinks. All four scored A's on my report card. The Saturday night taco special changes weekly and this week was a mix of Midwest and Mexican. Modern Chef flavors on homemade tortillas are what these were and they were delicious.

Duck Carnitas Tacos with red mole, ramp salsa & fried cheese curds

Last stop up was on the way out in St. Paul. Lots of good words out there spoken on Saint Dinette the Upscale style diner ala Au Cheval.

Saint Dinette

Luckily for us there were no crazy lines or anything, plenty of people dining in but still room at a few tables and the bar where we took ourselves a seat. I ate a Jucy Lucy earlier in the day and just didn't have it in me to try their lauded double cheeseburger which looked absolutely delicious. If I hadn't had a 6 hour ride home upcoming I would've dove in without hesitation. So we split a few things that sounded good to here, all of it good to both us. The made in-house bologna sandwich was super sandwich material while the crispy smelts were terrific and the fresh crinkle cut fries pretty much a Superdawg replica. A place I'll probably make it back to, hopefully with enough eating power to get both the burger and that bologna. See ya next time.

Fresh Crinkle Cut Fries

Fried Smelt with Remoulade

House Bologna Sandwich with a Fried Egg added on

The Insides

2600 Park Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55407
(612) 871-4907

Bachelor Farmer Cafe
200 N First St
Minneapolis, MN 55401
(612) 206-3923

Afro Deli & Catering
1931 S 5th St
Minneapolis, MN 55454
(612) 871-5555

Tawakal Restaurant
12609 Nicollet Ave
Burnsville, MN 55337
(952) 500-8954

Gorkha Palace
23 4th St NE
Minneapolis, MN 55414
(612) 886-3451

Himalayan Restaurant
2910 E Lake St
Minneapolis, MN 55406
(612) 332-0880

Tibet Kitchen
1833 Nicollet Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55403
(612) 872-8663

Matt's Bar & Grill
3500 Cedar Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55407
(612) 722-7072

Penn Lake Roast Beef
8911 Penn Ave S
Bloomington, MN 55431
(952) 681-7430

Clancey's Meat & Fish
4307 S Upton Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55410
(612) 926-0222

ie Italian Eatery
4724 Cedar Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55407
(612) 223-8504

Scena Tavern
2943 Girard Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55408
(612) 200-8641

Sonora Grill
3300 E Lake St
Minneapolis, MN 55406
(612) 722-2500

Spoon & Stable
211 N 1st St
Minneapolis, MN 55401
(612) 224-9850

Saint Dinette
261 East 5th Street
St Paul, MN 55101
(651) 800-1415

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