Pandemic Takeout 72: El Triunfo To Start the Year (Northfield, MN)


Yes, I’ve posted quite a few restaurant meal reports already in 2022—but those are all of meals eaten in 2021 in Los Angeles. Today’s report is the first from 2022 proper. And I’m kicking the year in restaurant reviews off in hyper-local style with another look at some things eaten at our favourite restaurant in Northfield, Minnesota: El Triunfo.

Okay, so I’m cheating a bit here. This report encompasses food from three separate outings, two of which were in the summer of 2021—and one of which was eaten at the restaurant when the pandemic was briefly looking less concerning. But the largest report is of the most recent meal, which we picked up and ate just this past weekend. Continue reading

Favourite Dishes Eaten in the Twin Cities Metro: Oct 1-Dec 31, 2021


December is not yet over but as I will be in Los Angeles till the end of the month dinner at Sooki & Mimi was my last meal in Minnesota for 2021. Which means I can give you the usual quarterly round-up of meals eaten in the Twin Cities metro in the last three months before those months are completely up.

When 2021 started I think we all hoped/expected that by the middle of the year we’d be back to something approaching normal life, which in the world of dining out would have meant going back to dining in person at restaurants as the norm. Of course, most restaurants in the Twin Cities went back to this even in the face of the rise of the delta variant in the late summer and many, many diners did too. We did not until early December, waiting till our younger boy had also received his shots. And so this list is also dominated by meals eaten as takeout and outdoors at restaurants. That doesn’t mean, of course, that we didn’t eat a lot of good stuff, because we did. Continue reading

Sooki & Mimi (Minneapolis)


As you probably know, Sooki & Mimi is the new restaurant from Ann Kim of Young Joni fame (she won a Beard award for her food there). You probably also know that it is one of the buzziest restaurants to have opened recently in the Twin Cities. The buzz really picked up two months or so ago when the New York Times included it in a list of the most exciting restaurants in the country or some such. You see, here in Minnesota we are so confident in our identity that we manage to both tell the New York Times they know nothing when they say things about us we don’t like and to fall all over ourselves in excitement when they offer the slightest bit of praise. Well, we are famously a very emotional people here in the upper midwest and it probably shouldn’t surprise anyone that we can be so volatile. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

A Guide to Ordering at Grand Szechuan (Bloomington, MN)


As I never tire of saying, Grand Szechuan is our family’s favourite restaurant in Minnesota. We eat there more often each year than anywhere else—probably more than the next five places put together. Over the years—from well before I ever started this blog—we’ve introduced a good number of friends and colleagues to this great restaurant; and via the blog I’ve introduced a number of strangers to it as well. The introductions for friends and colleagues come with detailed suggestions—tailored to their tastes—on what to order. On the blog I once presented a suggested order but for the most part I’ve let my reviews function as a guide to the menu. But the menu is large and for people who aren’t just first-timers to the restaurant but also new to Sichuan food it also can be overwhelming. And so—sparked most recently by interest on the excellent Twin Cities East Metro Foodies Facebook page—here is a fuller guide to the menu that will hopefully result in not just a good first order but a second and third and fourth and fifth as well. Continue reading

Petite Leon (Minneapolis)


We were originally supposed to eat at Petite Leon (in Minneapolis’ Kingfield neighbourhood) in early September. We’d made those reservations in July before Delta took off. By the time September approached we were too wary about eating indoors and so cancelled the reservation. Now, of course, Omicron is the variant of concern—and Minnesota’s infection rates are still nothing to be happy about—but we still made Petite Leon our first indoor meal in the Twin Cities since our dinner at Estelle in late July. The missus and I have both received our boosters—as have the friends we dined with—and both kids are now fully vaccinated as well. As such, we are loosening some of our previous caution. Did the food at Petite Leon justify this change? Yes, it did. We thought it was very good indeed. Continue reading

Tin Tea (Northfield, MN)


Northfield, Minnesota may be the only college town in the US with two colleges but not even one restaurant serving pho. We’re now one step closer though: as of this summer we have our first Vietnamese restaurant. Tin Tea opened in June as a Vietnamese tea specialist and that is still what they are. In August they began serving a selection of banh mi as well. I was tipped off to this by my friend Ben and was delighted to discover that he had not been exaggerating when he’d said the banh mi was very good indeed. About a month ago they added spring rolls to the menu. Now, I know what you’re thinking: surely, pho is next. Alas, that is unlikely to be the case (read on to find out why). But what they do serve is all very tasty and enough reason to wish devoutly that they will continue to do well. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 71: Grand Szechuan (Bloomington, MN)


As I said last week, it’s been a dangerously long time since our last meal from Grand Szechuan. And so rather than compound that danger we picked up a big order from them this past Saturday. For a change we didn’t have a large crew of people joining us for pandemic takeout: it was just the four of us eating. However, those who know us well will not be surprised to hear that we ordered exactly the same amount of food for the four of us as we would have if there had been 8-10 of us. It’s the right thing to do. You get to eat a proper range of dishes and then you get leftovers that mean a few more days of deliciousness. Here’s how it went. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 70: India House (St. Paul, MN)


At the end of last year I published my rankings of Indian restaurants in the Twin Cities metro. (In case you missed it, you can find that post here.) In that post—which largely celebrated newer South Indian specialists—I rashly announced that in 2021 I would make more of an effort to explore more old-school North Indian restaurants as well—the kinds of places that have long been the mainstay of the Indian restaurant scene in the US. Of course it is now mid-November and I’ve not really done much of this exploration. I’m going to try to hastily make up some ground at the end of the year. Here first is a review of a recent takeout meal from India House, a longtime standby for those looking for chicken tikka masala, dal makhani, sag paneer etc. in and around Grand Avenue in St. Paul. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 69: Bangkok Thai Deli (St. Paul, MN)


It has been a dangerously long time since our last Thai meal. That was takeout from Krungthep Thai in St. Paul. Having gone more than two months since then without Thai food, urgent action was required. Accordingly, on Sunday I drove to Bangkok Thai Deli on University Avenue and picked up a rather large order. It was a warm November weekend in southern Minnesota and so we had what was likely our last pandemic takeout meal on our deck with friends. There’s snow on the forecast for this weekend and it’s going to keep getting colder and we never did get around to buying any of those patio heaters. Well, as last hurrahs go, this was a good one. This was one of the best Thai meals we’ve had over the course of the pandemic. All of it would have been better coming straight from the restaurant’s kitchen to one of its tables, but it was pretty good even reheated after a long drive. Continue reading

A Quick Lunch at Moroccan Flavors at the Midtown Global Market (Minneapolis)


I was up in Minneapolis for some annual medical appointments earlier this week. Due to some scheduling complications what was supposed to have been a few appointments in the mid-morning became appointments before and after lunch. I wasn’t sure where I could go for an outdoor bite in the area and so rolled the dice and decided to walk to the Midtown Global Market. Early lunch on a weekday, I reasoned, was not likely to find the market crowded and thankfully this proved to be true (well, the vendors at the market would probably prefer it otherwise). There were other people there eating but there was plenty of space and most people seemed to be masked when not eating. I knew where I was headed: to Moroccan Flavors. I last reported on a meal there in early 2017 (they’d opened the previous year). We really enjoyed that meal and I cannot explain to you why we haven’t been back. Well, I went back on Tuesday and had another excellent meal. After the meal I wandered the market a little, noting some changes. Here is a quick look at it all. Continue reading

Spoon and Stable III (Minneapolis)


I had not realized until just over a week ago that Spoon and Stable has outside seating. We’ve eaten there twice before but the last of those occasions was in the dead of winter and there was no question of anyone sitting outside. And I have no memory of seeing outdoor seating on our first visit in the late summer/early fall of 2015. This may, of course, be a more recent pandemic development but at least of late they have had a few tables set out on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant with heaters by every table. Or rather they did. It turns out this past weekend was the last weekend for their outdoor seating. Well, if we’d known about this earlier we would have eaten there quite a bit earlier this year but I’m very glad we found out before it went away for the winter. Our meal there this past Saturday evening was very good indeed, on par with our previous very good meals there (here and here). Continue reading

Colita (Minneapolis)


Colita opened in South Minneapolis in late 2018 and quickly gained a reputation for its rendition of Oaxcan food passed through an upscale cheffy filter. For whatever reason we didn’t get around to eating there in 2019. Did they not take reservations at the outset? Was it very hard to get a reservation then? I can’t remember. Anyway, when we got back from India in early 2020 I finally made a reservation…for the month of April. You know how that went. Flash forward a year and change and it was drawn to my attention that they have a large patio for which they take reservations. I made reservations again and we were supposed to eat on that patio three weeks ago. And then it rained. Their patio, it turns out, does not have any kind of covering and so it was a no-go (we ended up eating at Andale on a patio under an overhang). And I made a fresh set of reservations, hoping like hell that the weather would not play us false again. Thankfully, it did not and we finally ate there this past Saturday with the friends we were supposed to eat with earlier in the month. Herewith the details. Continue reading

Bombay Pizza Kitchen (Eden Prairie, MN)


Bombay Pizza Kitchen opened late last summer in Eden Prairie. As their name indicates, their thing is Indian-style pizza, a genre with an established history in India. Indeed, on our family trips to Delhi the boys much enjoy eating Indian-style pizza at outlets of Domino’s or Pizza Hut in malls (take a look at Pizza Hut India’s options here). I would imagine the genre is already quite widespread in places in the US where large populations of Indians and other South Asians can be found. The Twin Cities is increasingly one of those places and so it’s not a surprise that it should be here too now. Of course, they’re not the first such place in the Twin Cities metro; they’re not even the first in Eden Prairie: Pizza Karma, which opened a year or so previous, is less than a 10 minute drive away. We had been planning to go eat at Pizza Karma before the pandemic began and it’s entirely by happenstance that we ended up at Bombay Pizza Kitchen first. We stopped in for lunch with friends this past Sunday, after a 3.5 mile walk around Rice Marsh Lake on the border of Eden Prairie and Chanhassen. We were hungry and got a fair bit of the menu. Here’s how it went. Continue reading

Meritage II (St. Paul, MN)


For the second weekend in a row it seemed like our plans to eat an outdoor meal at a fancy restaurant would be spiked by the weather. You may recall that we tried to eat at Colita the weekend before last but the forecasted rain (which did show up) led to the reservations on their patio being cancelled that morning. (Don’t feel too bad for us: we ended up under the awning on Andale’s patio and ate very well.) Undaunted by this damp outcome I made reservations for the missus’ birthday dinner at Meritage, whose website lists a terrace. Now I couldn’t remember a terrace from the last time we ate there—it turns out they use the word “terrace” for what I would call “the sidewalk in front of the restaurant”. But this is not the season for semantics. Winter is coming and we will take whatever opportunities for outdoor dining as present themselves. As the week went on I checked the forecast every day. Wouldn’t you know it, by Thursday there was rain predicted for the exact time of our reservation. Not wanting a last minute cancellation, I called the restaurant on Friday to see what kind of shelter they might have on their “terrace” and was reassured to be told that our table was under an awning and it would probably take a major thunderstorm for there to be any issues. To be safe, I moved our reservation from 8 pm to 7.15 pm. I am happy to say that there was no cancellation call on Saturday morning. Here is how the evening went. Continue reading

Favourite Dishes Eaten in the Twin Cities Metro: July 1-Sep 30, 2021


A week later than usual, here is my round-up of some of our favourite dishes eaten at/from Twin Cities restaurants in the last quarter of the year (see here for the April 1-June 30 round-up and here for the Jan 1-Mar 31 round-up). At the start of July we expected we’d be back to in-person dining on a regular basis very soon. Indeed, two of the July meals here (at Tenant and Estelle) saw the missus and I dining indoors. But then the Delta numbers began to look worrying and given our not-fully vaccinated family we decided to return to a more cautious posture—which we continue to exhibit now. But that’s not to say that all the rest of our restaurant meals were takeout. There are a number of those, yes, but of late we’ve been eating more and more at places that have dedicated outdoor seating. Winter is coming but it has been a quite warm fall so far. Hopefully the younger boy will get his shots soon and hopefully the Delta numbers will go down soon as well. If that happens you can expect the next edition to feature more in-person dining. Continue reading

Andale Taqueria, Again (Richfield, MN)


We were scheduled for Mexican dinner with friends on Saturday night but not this Mexican dinner. We had reservations at Colita for a four-top on their patio. Alas, as the day approached the weather forecast turned ever dire. We woke up with hope on Saturday as the meteorologists predicted that the rain would end before dinner time. But the meteorologists are dirty liars and as the evening approached the threat of rain remained constant and the restaurant cancelled all patio reservations. We could, of course, have chosen to stay at home but I put it to our friends that we could go somewhere else for a Mexican meal and they were up for it. And so we drove to Richfield and ate dinner on Andale’s patio. It was not the fine dining meal we’d planned but it was a very fine meal. Continue reading

Shopping at El Burrito Mercado (St. Paul, MN)


We ate lunch on the patio at El Burrito Mercado last weekend and after the meal I browsed the mercado itself. The meal was fine but the mercado is truly special. The first incarnation opened in 1979—though not at this location—and as the business has grown over the years it has become a very impressive one-stop shop for Mexican foods (or so I assume anyway). From vegetables to a carniceria to spices to canned foods to prepared foods to pastries they’ve pretty much got you covered for all but the most esoteric needs. If you haven’t been—or haven’t been in a while—go take a look and buy a little—or, even better, a lot. Continue reading