Top 5 Twin Cities Dishes, July-September 2019


A little later than usual, here is my clickbaity list of the five best dishes I ate at Twin Cities restaurants in the last quarter. Same rules as always, except when I break them. That is to say, these lists are supposed to include only one dish per restaurant, and only dishes that are still likely to be available. I’m not breaking the first rule this time but the second one I am breaking in more than one way: there’s a dish from our recent dinner at Tenant on here and if it isn’t already off the menu it will be very soon; and not only do I have a dish on here that’s no longer available, it’s from a “restaurant” that’s no longer available. I put “restaurant” in quotes because I am referring to Golden Horseshoe, the outstanding Sichuan residency at Cook St. Paul that burned like a comet for two months in the summer before disappearing. All five restaurants on this quarter’s list have made an appearance on previous versions of the list. Yes, that means nothing from our dinner at Young Joni in early July made the cut. We’ll have to give them another try next year and see if we can figure out what the fuss is all about. But now, to the list (in reverse chronological order as usual)!

  1. Chicken Wing at In Bloom. Our second meal at In Bloom (full review here) was not quite as good as our first meal there earlier in the year (see here) but these chicken wings in a Sichuan-inspired sauce were a highlight. In Bloom’s menu also changes seasonally but these are still on and if you see them when you go, I suggest you order a plate (or two if there are more than three of you).
  2. Crispy Catfish in Red Curry Sauce at On’s Kitchen. Our most recent meal at On’s Kitchen (full review here) was likewise not the best we’ve had there in the last decade, and it appears that On herself has retired. It remains to be seen if the restaurant will be able to maintain their hold on the top of the Twin Cities Thai scene (further depleted by the closing this weekend of Lao Thai) but if this dish is any indication, On has taught the kitchen well.
  3. Rigatoni with Mushrooms, Sweet Corn, Pork etc. at Tenant. This dinner at Tenant, however, may have been the strongest of our three meals so far (full review here). There were a number of highlights but I think this was the dish I would have been most pleased to make a whole meal of. Probably won’t be on the menu when we return in early November but I expect whatever is on there instead will not disappoint.
  4. Pahok Ktiss at Cheng Heng. This was our second meal at Cheng Heng and it made us kick ourselves for having taken so long to go back. A number of excellent dishes (full review here) but their version of the classic Cambodian dish of spicy ground pork with lots of veg to sop it up with was at the top. And much better, we thought, than the (also good) version at Hai Hai.
  5. Dry-Fried Cauliflower with Pork at Golden Horseshoe. Oh, why can’t Golden Horseshoe come back as a permanent small restaurant? I’d trade any three over-hyped, Beard Award-aspiring, cocktail program-featuring restaurants for them. The last version of this list had their best in class mapo tofu on it; we ate it again on this visit (full review here) and it was still as good, but for the sake of variety I am going to go this time with the excellent stir-fry of caulini and pork.

Take a look at the top 5 dishes in the slideshow below. Scroll down to see which the also-rans were and to see what’s coming next from the Twin Cities.

Missing the cut: the always reliable and always excellent tinga de pollo plate at Northfield’s own El Triunfo—nothing fancy but just perfect comfort food; and the La Parisienne pizza at Young Joni. And a shout-out as well to the jam-filled donuts at World’s Best Donuts in Grand Marais.

What with visiting family and our sojourns out of town in the summer, we didn’t eat out so very much in the Twin Cities metro in the second half of the summer. But it’s going to be a different story over the next few months and I expect the next version of this list will involve harder decisions. Just this coming weekend we are scheduled to eat dinner at Joan’s in the Park (we have never been) and lunch at the new incarnation of Cook St. Paul, which is now serving only counter service lunch and dinner. I’m hopeful dishes from both meals will be contenders. We’re also hoping to finally get to Colita, Lat14 and Magic Noodle and to go try some of the more casual counters at Keg & Case. And in addition to our scheduled fourth meal at Tenant, returns to Bangkok Thai Deli and Kolap are on the wishlist. If there are any other places I haven’t reviewed that you see as big omissions, please let me know.

5 thoughts on “Top 5 Twin Cities Dishes, July-September 2019

  1. Good read! I know I’ve already commented on your Cheng Heng review, but I thank you for celebrating less-known gems in The Cities. So many other writers do concentrate on those “over-hyped, Beard Award-aspiring, cocktail-program featuring restaurant[s]”; it’s nice to see positive reviews about less-Instagram-friendly or less marketed places like Cheng Heng, El Triunfo, and (I hope) Kolap.

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  2. Thought we might see the ribs from Popul Vu on there.

    We had a pizza at Yung Joni not long after it first opened, and weren’t impressed enough to return.

    And no fair listing items we can no longer go to!!

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  3. Yah I thought maybe, I meant to look. I still want to go there for just the rib. But now you have me longing to try Cheng Heng.

    BTW Not sure if you’re a burger guy, but you should really try Matt’s Bar someday.

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