We enjoyed our dinner at Darbar India Grill in Apple Valley fine a week ago but far more exciting than that dinner—well, other than the drive up and back through foggy roads—was the discovery of Mantra Bazaar, an Indian grocery located a few doors down, both in the massive shopping complex alongside County Road 42 between Cedar Avenue and Pennock. This is exciting because this is now the closest Indian grocery to us and because it stocks all the essentials I need for cooking; thus making it a viable option to the much larger TBS Mart in Bloomington, which is 10-15 minutes further away, which is even more significant in bad weather—which as you may have heard, we get some of in Minnesota. I stopped in after our dinner last week to buy a few staples and check them out; and I went back again today for a larger grocery run in the wake of last week’s snowcalypse. And I took the opportunity to take some pictures so I could add them to my survey of grocery stores in the Twin Cities metro that serve immigrant populations.
The particular immigrant population that Mantra Bazaar serves is obviously growing. Mantra Bazaar is now the third Indian grocery I’m aware of in the south metro, and for all I know there are more*. In addition to the aforementioned TBS Mart in Bloomington, there is also Desi Foods in Eagan. Desi Foods in fact had opened a branch some years ago in a different corner of this massive shopping complex but it had closed down not too long after due to lack of business. Mantra Bazaar, on the other hand, has apparently been open for 18 months and seem to be going strong. On my first visit the owner (at least I assume he was the owner) said that they’re in fact thinking of expanding. He shared my view that the South Asian population in the area has grown and cited the all new construction in Lakeville as part of the story. One can only hope that this will soon lead to a greater improvement in the Indian restaurant scene in the area.
As for the store, it is compact—you could fit at least three of it into TBS Mart—but it is very nicely and neatly laid out. It doesn’t have the massive breadth of selections that TBS Mart offers—leave alone the even more cavernous Pooja Groceries further north—but, as I noted, they stock everything needed for everyday cooking. The main category that’s missing is frozen meat and fish but the owner also noted that they’re planning to add them at some point. In the meantime, they’re going to become my go-to store for staples and I recommend that anyone else interested in Indian cooking check them out as well. And I should add that they also have a separate section of Indian clothes—hence the “boutique” bit in their signage. The bulk of the clothes seem to be for girls and women—a bit disappointing as it would be nice to have a local source for kurtas etc. for the brats.
Anyway, here is a large slideshow of images that shows how full their offerings are (though not every section of the store is represented). Take a look and then scroll down for a few more details.
In the prepared foods dept. they offer a small range of snacks. I have not tried any of these yet but they looked fresh and good. On the weekends they also offer biryani cooked by a catering outfit in Roseville—apparently this sells out very quickly. I’ll have to try to check it out at some point.
In closing I should add that their prices are in line with other Indian stores in the area. I’m hoping that their success will continue. It’s not just good to have an Indian store within 20 minutes drive, it’s also nice to see a store that makes an effort on the aesthetic front.
I might have another Indian restaurant report from the south metro next week. I’m hoping to check out one of the places in Eagan this weekend. If that happens that report will be sandwiched between London and Bombay reports.
*If you know of any, please write in below