Twin Cities South Asian Restaurant Rankings, 2021 Update


Just about a year ago I published my first-ever “Highly Subjective Ranking of Indian Restaurants in the Twin Cities Metro Area“. That list was occasioned by recognition of the fact that the Indian food scene in the Twin Cities at the end of 2020 was almost wholly transformed from what it had been like when we arrived in Minnesota in 2007. And also by the fact the mainstream food media and their readers continue to be largely unaware of these developments. Now I don’t pretend to have a very large reach on this blog but I was happy to see that post shared and re-shared by many people on various Twin Cities food groups on Facebook. And though it was posted with just a week left in 2020 it quickly rose into the top 5 most read posts of the year. And it’s been read consistently in 2021 as well (it’s currently in the top 3 most read posts of the year). Here now is an updated second edition.

Two inter-related notes before I begin. First, this second edition of these rankings is not as expanded as I’d hoped it would be at this point last year. I had hoped to get to more North Indian places and slot them in alongside the newer restaurants that dominated last year’s rankings. I did get to a few of them but not to as many as I’d hoped. What this means is that this list is still centered on the newer places in the suburbs, most of which cater to a South Indian clientele. For my caveats about all of that see last year’s post. I also didn’t end up getting to any of the Nepali places as I’d said I would and only to one Pakistani place. I once again hope to redress all of this next year. In any event, I have included that Pakistani restaurant and also our Sri Lankan favourite, House of Curry into these updated rankings and have accordingly replaced “Indian” in the name of the rankings with “South Asian”.

Also, please remember that I am a one-man operation here. My family and friends were again very happy to join in my weekly pandemic takeout/outdoor dining plans. But if I’d wanted to eat Indian restaurant food every other week for the purpose of a thorough refresh of these rankings their enthusiasm would have quickly waned. So be aware that with a few exceptions positions in this edition of the rankings are not based on re-evaluations of restaurants—or in the case of new entries, on multiple evaluations. If there are places in here that you think deserve to be moved up or down feel free to say so in the comments.

Once again the rankings are in tiers. Tier 1 is the highest/best and so on down.

Tier 1

Godavari (Eden Prairie)
Indian Masala (Maplewood)

We ate takeout from both restaurants again this year (see links above) and both handily retain their places atop the rankings—this despite the fact that our Indian Masala meal focused on their North Indian offerings which are not quite as good as their South Indian. Godavari’s South Indian menu is far more extensive than Indian Masala but Indian Masala’s secret weapon is the specialized weeknight buffets they regularly put on: vegan, vegetarian, Indian Chinese and so on. We haven’t yet had any of these buffets—or Godavari’s over-the-top mega thali but we hope to in 2022.

Tier 2

House of Curry (Rosemount)
Hyderabad House (Plymouth)
Kabob’s Indian Grill (Bloomington)
Kumar’s (Apple Valley)

The three Indian places retain their spots in the second tier. Joining them in the new expanded South Asian rather than just Indian rankings is Rosemount’s excellent Sri Lankan, House of Curry. House of Curry’s menu makes even less allowance for the expectations of Americans used to North Indian food than do the South Indian restaurants but you should really give them a go if you haven’t tried them yet. By the way, we focused on the North Indian stuff at Kabob’s as well this year. As at Indian Masala, these are not as good as their South Indian offerings but still better than those at North Indian curry houses. In 2022 I hope they will be able to bring back my true love there, the weekday lunch thali.

Tier 3

Aroma (Bloomington)
Bawarchi (Plymouth)
India Spice House (Eden Prairie)
Original Mediterranean Grill (New Brighton)

Joining Bawarchi and India Spice House in the third tier are two places we ate at for the first time this year. Aroma opened in 2020 during the pandemic and made an adjustment to start offering more South Indian dishes than they did at the outset. We hope to check out more of their offerings in 2022. Original Mediterranean Grill was a very happy discovery (for us, I mean—it’s not like no one else knew they were around). The menu is split between Middle Eastern and Pakistani dishes. There are not a whole lot of the latter but I’d put them in this tier for their decadent halwa-puri alone.

Tier 4

Bay Leaf (Eagan)
Bombay Pizza Kitchen (Eden Prairie)
Persis (Eagan)

We did not visit Bay Leaf or Persis again this year but they remain in this tier contra any reports of a downturn or an upturn. Joining them is a places very different from all the others in these rankings. Bombay Pizza Kitchen in Eden Prairie specializes in pizzas with Indian toppings and various snacks and appetizers. It’s a good change-up and definitely worth it if you’ve never encountered Indian pizza. I have to say that I may have enjoyed the non-pizza apps/snacks more than the pizzas themselves.

Tier 5

Hyderabad Indian Grill (Bloomington)
India House (St. Paul)
Namaste India Grill & Brewhouse (Arden Hills)
Tandoor (Bloomington)

I confess that I felt some guilt about putting Hyderabad Indian Grill and Tandoor in the bottom tier last year and now for keeping them there. This because my opinion of these two places is based entirely on lunch buffets. In 2022 I will definitely do a fuller takeout from both and see if either merit a promotion. Meanwhile, they are joined here by Namaste India Grill & Brewhouse in Arden Hills and India House in St. Paul. There were a couple of dishes from our order there at Namaste India Grill this that we really liked—especially the tawa chicken—but on the whole I was not very inspired to return. I would say the same about India House, a longer-established North Indian curry house of the old school: familiar dishes competently done but nothing I need to eat again.

Launch the slideshow below to see photographs of dishes we particularly liked at all these places. Scroll down to see what my plan is for future exploration of the local Indian scene in 2022 and to see what’s coming restaurant-wise before the year ends.

So, here are my plans for new eating relevant to this series for 2022:

  • Check out the a la carte menus at Hyderabad Indian Grill and Tandoor.
  • Check out a location each of Taste of India and India Palace.
  • Finally check out the popular Nepali places.
  • Check out Raag, the new’ish mod Indian place.
  • Finally check out Pizza Karma.
  • Try to get to the new’ish Muddy Tiger Indian food truck.

In addition we’ll be going back to Godavari, Indian Masala and some of the others in the second and third tiers. Are there any other older or newer places you think I should get to for sure? Dancing Ganesha? Let me know in the comments. And also let me know in the comments if you have violent disagreements with my rankings.


 

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