Top 5 Twin Cities Dishes, April-June 2019

After the double-bill that covered October 2018-March 2019 here is a regular top 5 list for the second quarter of 2019. I was out of town for a week in here too but we ate out quite regularly in the Twin Cities in the last three months (and have already gone out to eat once since i got back) and so I have no difficulty filling out this list. We ate at a number of highly regarded new(er) Minneapolis restaurants in this period and they show up in this list, as does the St. Paul branch of a Minneapolis favourite and a somewhat unusual residency at Cook St. Paul. Together they span a range of cuisines, genres and price-points. And they provide more evidence I think of the diversity and growing vibrancy of the Twin Cities’ dining scene, as recently celebrated by Rick Nelson in the Star-Tribune. Okay, let’s get to it.

As per usual in reverse chronological order of eating the dishes are:

  1. Mapo Tofu at the Golden Horseshoe residency at Cook St. Paul. We only ate here on Friday night. There’s been very little talk about Golden Horseshoe in the local food press as far as I can tell. If not for the recommendation by Jim Grinsfelder elsewhere on the blog I probably would not even have heard of it. Which would have been a terrible shame. I’ll have more details about the meal in my full review next week but I can tell you that the mapo tofu on their (currently) short menu is the best version in the Twin Cities. It has the depth and funk from fermented black beans that is missing even from the very good version at our old favourite, Grand Szechuan. My review next week will, I hope, give you reasons to go check them out next weekend and if you do you should certainly get the mapo tofu.
  2. Southern Fried Chicken at Revival, St. Paul. It took us a long time to get to any location of Revival but I’m glad we finally made it. We enjoyed all aspects of our meal—including not having to wait for a table—but the basic Southern Fried Chicken may have been the highlight. Boring, I know. Full meal review here.
  3. Chuleta at Popol Vuh. There were a number of candidates from this meal. I vacillated between this and the costilla but in the end this massive pork chop on a pool of huaxmole won out. I recommend it highly. Full meal review here.
  4. Pork Ribs Adobo at Hai Hai. This was the dish we liked so much we got a second order in as soon as we tasted it. Perfectly cooked ribs in a rich livery sauce, I could go for another plate of this very soon. Full meal review here.
  5. Roast Chicken with Bacon Aigre Doux, Sweet Corn and Braised Bacon at Grand Cafe. Here is your fine dining entry. Our dinner at Grand Cafe in April was very strong all around but I think all four of us may have had this as our consensus dish of the night. I hope it’ll still be on the menu whenever it is we make it back. Full meal review here.

Here is the requisite slideshow of the dishes. Scroll down to see what the honourable mentions were and also for a shout-out to some nice cocktails.


I will also acknowledge a couple of also-rans: the surprisingly excellent gajar/carrot halwa at the lunch buffet at Surabhi and the brisket at Handsome Hog. And a couple of cocktails I really enjoyed: the very silly Ric Flair (also at Handsome Hog) and Drink of the Wild at Popol Vuh.

Okay, up next from the Twin Cities: a full review of Golden Horseshoe. And we’re scheduled to finally eat at Young Joni next week as well. After that we’re going up to the North Shore for the better part of a week—if you have any recommendations for lunch spots in Duluth without going too far out of the way from the road to Lutsen/Grand Marais, or for places to eat at in Grand Marais (I’m told World’s Best Doughnuts lives up to its name), please let me have ’em!

10 thoughts on “Top 5 Twin Cities Dishes, April-June 2019

    • Definitely second the angry trout and the dockside for a lighter lunch of smoked fish or fish n chips. Duluth there’s not much for fish that I’d recommend. New scenic cafe is tasty between Duluth and two harbors. Northern waters smokehouse for good sandwiches (I think better then corktown). sir bens for a good view and solid pub food. Duluth grill is also usually a good choice. Lake Superior bake house has some of the best baked goods.


      • I also recommend the Angry Trout in Grand Marais. Lutsen Resort has upped their food quality if you want a fine dining meal.

        Quality at Dockside in Grand Marais has gone downhill under new management/ownership. Only one employee from former management remains.

        Sunday Brunch at Naniboujou Lodge and Restaurant, located 12 miles east of Grand Marais, is a classic must-do at least once. Interesting sausage, planked salmon, fresh fruit, quiches, etc. The dining room walls and fireplace are amazing if you don’t stop to eat.


        • Thanks! I may now have more Grand Marais recommendations than we will have meals available. Though, alas, we won’t be there on a Sunday. We’ll be staying quite close to Lutsen—will maybe give their restaurant a look and see if our kids can’t devalue the “fine” in their fine dining.


  1. Man, I was going to 2nd the Golden Horseshoe recommendation but you beat me to it. Ate there Saturday. Fish roll, dan dan noodles, mapo tofu. All excellent. Can’t wait to go back as they add more items to the menu. Chef Wu said the residency is running til September so there will likely be multiple visits.

    I find it puzzling that there hasn’t been more foodie coverage about this. Local media loves to pretend the Cities has, for example, decent sushi and NYC-caliber fine dining, yet here comes a unique business model with legit Sichuan pedigree, on the East Side of all places, and…very little. I mean, the story practically writes itself. And the food happens to be dynamite!

    Well if that means I can walk in on a weekend night and get a table without a wait, so be it I guess.


    • It’s sort of crazy. The “major” reviewers in town still don’t seem to have mentioned it (that I can see on Twitter anyway). I guess Cook St. Paul doesn’t send out press reviews? Then again, I can’t even remember their mentioning Grand Szechuan very much over the years. As you say, this is particularly mind-boggling because Sichuan is the rare cuisine that we in fact have far better coverage of in the Twin Cities than people outside it would expect.

      We’re out the next two weekends but we’ll be back at Golden Horseshoe the weekend after we get back. And probably at least one more time after that. I think they said they’re going to keep adding a few dishes to the menu every week, culminating finally in 20 dishes or so.


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