Pandemic Takeout 28: Szechuan Spice (Minneapolis)

I don’t know how much longer we’ll be able to keep up our long family walks on Saturday mornings in parks in the Twin Cities Metro. It’s about to start getting pretty cold. The maximum for this coming Saturday is forecast to be 46f, which means it’ll be in the high 30s at the time we usually start our walks. This past Saturday, however, was not quite so chilly and we went for a walk around Bde Maka Ska in Minneapolis. It’s a 3.2 mile look around the lake but we managed to get off-track right at the start and added another .3 miles on to it. Which meant that by the time we picked up our lunch and took it home to eat with friends on our deck we were good and hungry. A good thing then that we picked up a lot of food. Where did we get it from? Szechuan Spice, which is just a few minutes drive from the lake.

It’s been a while since we’ve been to Szechuan Spice. As I noted in both my previous reviews, we always enjoy their food but not enough for it to be worth an additional 30-40 minutes round-trip vs. just going to Grand Szechuan in Bloomington. Especially since Grand Szechuan both has a much wider Szechuan menu and is, in our opinion, quite a bit better on the whole. That said, there are a couple of dishes we prefer at Szechuan Spice—their earthier mapo tofu, for one—and it’s certainly a very good Sichuan restaurant in its own right. And so it wasn’t with a sense of settling that we decided to make them our port of call this past weekend.

Like Grand Szechuan, they are not yet open for dining in. In fact, you can’t even go in all the way to pay. They’ve installed a barrier at the entry (not the door to the street but at the inner door) and you pay and pick up your food from behind a glass window—they have one of those sliding drawer thingies for payment and pickup that you see at pharmacy drive-through windows. We got there around noon and there was already one person picking up ahead of us. I hope that means they’re doing good business.

What did we get? Like all the Sichuan restaurants in the area, Szechuan Spice is forced to hedge its bets with a large American Chinese menu but there’s a goodly amount of hardcore Sichuan food on offer if that’s what you’re interested in. A lot of this is centered in the “Cold Dishes” section (for starters) and in the “Chef’s Recommended” section (for mains) but you can also find Sichuan specialties towards the bottom of most sections of the menu. We started with the following: boiled pork slices in garlic sauce, ma la beef tendon, and the Szchuan Spice cold chicken. The last of these is one of our favourite dishes here and while it’s been hotter in the past it was quite good on this occasion as well. The other two were tasty as well but the beef tendon didn’t really have a lot of Sichuan peppercorn action and the garlic sauce on the sliced pork belly was both not hot enough and a bit too sweet. The boys ate most of an order of dan dan noodles—I asked for this to not be too spicy and it came out rather bland (no heat at all and barely salted to boot).

Mains: Szechuan green beans and eggplant in garlic sauce on the vegetarian front. I am sorry to say that neither impressed, The green beans were overcooked as was the eggplant; and the garlic sauce was again too sweet. Things got a lot better after that. The mapo tofu was very good as were the Szechuan twice-cooked pork and the house special boiled fish. The kung pao chicken was also a touch too sweet but quite tasty anyway. However, none of these dishes were markedly hot—this despite the fact that I’d asked specifically for all dishes other than the dan dan noodles that should be hot be made extra hot. (We’ve had this problem dining in as well in the past). Rounding out the order was a dish that’s not meant to be hot and it was very good: flounder filet steamed in soy sauce with ginger and scallions.

Launch the slideshow for a look at the restaurant’s pandemic setup, their menu and the food. Scroll down to see how much all of this cost and what might be coming next.

With tip this came to $165. Counting the boys as one adult, we were 6 adults which puts it at roughly $27.50/head but considering the amount of leftovers, this was enough food for 10 adults. So more like $16.50/head. A very good deal even if the food wasn’t quite good enough to make us reconsider our fealty to Grand Szechuan. Let me put it this way: living south of Bloomington, we’d be reluctant to drive further north to eat at Szechuan Spice; but if we lived in North Minneapolis we’d be happy to drive to Bloomington to eat at Grand Szechuan. That said, we wouldn’t be unhappy to have the opportunity to eat their mapo tofu or their cold chicken again.

What’s coming next week? Well, if our resolve holds, we will go for a walk in Maplewood this weekend. And if we do, we will almost certainly pick up more Indian food from Indian Masala there. Let’s see how it goes.


3 thoughts on “Pandemic Takeout 28: Szechuan Spice (Minneapolis)

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