Favourite Dishes Eaten in the Twin Cities Metro: April 1-June 30, 2022


Here is the second quarterly round-up of the year of my favourite things eaten in the Twin Cities. While recent  roundups have been centered mostly or only on takeout and outdoor meals, this one covers the period in which we started eating in freely at Twin Cities restaurants. It includes meals at some new(er) restaurants, some “new to us” restaurants, and some meals at old favourites. Most of these meals have been written up in more detail on the blog and in almost every case you can click on the restaurant’s name to go to the fuller review. A few of them, however, are from meals that haven’t yet made it from the backlog to the blog. You can consider these to be appetizers for the main review to come. As has been my practice throughout the pandemic, every restaurant we’ve eaten at in this period gets a look-in here. Continue reading

Vann (Spring Park, MN)


Even by my very low standards this is a very low-utility restaurant report. I’ll tell you why in a bit. But first a bit about the restaurant. Spring Park, a western suburb of Minneapolis is located alongside Lake Minnetonka, and Vann—Norwegian for “water”—is located just across the street from the lake and boasts lovely views of it from its large windows. The chef is Erik Skaar whose path to Spring Creek included stops in Tampa Bay, Denver and Seattle before a return to the Twin Cities where he cooked at the Bachelor Farmer and Tilia before finally opening his own restaurant in late 2019. No, it wasn’t the most fortunate timing. But they made it through the first two years of the pandemic and have now seemingly hit their stride again. We finally made the trek out to Spring Park earlier this month to try their food, and we were very glad we did. Continue reading

The 5-8 Club (Minneapolis)


My last two Twin Cities restaurant reports have been from the high end (Tenant and Saint Genevieve). Let’s go towards the other end of the range for this week’s report: all the way to the 5-8 Club in South Minneapolis, a decidedly casual spot that specializes in burgers. And not just any burgers: the 5-8 Club is the primary rival of Matt’s Bar (a little further up Cedar Avenue), both claiming to be the originators of the Jucy Lucy, or as the 5-8 Club spells it, the Juicy Lucy. This is, of course, one of Minnesota’s iconic foods. I have to confess that I am not a major fan of the genre of burgers with unfeasible amounts of cheese oozing out of the patty (I don’t even like too much cheese on the patty, as in a classic cheeseburger). But I’d managed to spend almost 15 years in Minnesota without eating at the 5-8 Club and it seemed like it was time to fix that. Especially since the boys love burgers and the younger one particularly likes Jucy/Juicy Lucys. And so on a weekday in May, when the whole family had an appointment to keep in the Cities, we stopped in for an early lunch. Herewith a quick account for the benefit of those who have not been.  Continue reading

Tenant VI (Minneapolis)


Tenant was the first restaurant we dined indoors at after the pandemic started. That was back in July of 2021. At the time things were threatening to look up on the pandemic front and we’d begun to think hopefully of a return to something approaching normalcy. Then the delta wave hit…and soon we were not eating in again. Just when we got started again there was omicron… When we finally got comfortable with the idea yet again at the start of the spring, Tenant was one of the first places we’d hoped to return to. But between the need to make reservations more than a month out and the need to cancel the first set of reservations I was able to make, it was not until the end of May that we got back there. It was both a happy return to a familiar space and a new experience of the restaurant for us. Details follow. Continue reading

Saint Genevieve (Minneapolis)


A few weeks ago we were scheduled to eat at Myriel in St. Paul with friends. But just a few hours before our reservation they had to close suddenly because of you-know-what. Rather than cancel our plans entirely we cast around for other places that might have tables and were happy to find that there was room at Saint Genevieve in south Minneapolis. Though I have not reviewed them before, this was not my first meal there. I ate there at a work-related engagement some years ago. I enjoyed that meal but somehow they fell off my radar and I never got around to going back with the missus. And when they came back on it they had switched to requiring full payment at the time of booking. While I don’t object per se to this model of dining, it’s a bit of a no-go for parents of small children like us. But on this occasion they had tables freely available and—not that it would have been an issue that evening—I wasn’t asked to pay ahead. As to whether that’s because they’ve changed that reservation model or whether the policy is relaxed when last-minute tables are available, I don’t know. I do know that we all enjoyed our meal very much. Continue reading

Bangkok Thai Deli, May 2022 (St. Paul, MN)


It took more than two years but we finally ate in at Bangkok Thai Deli again. Our last visit was in February of 2020. During the pandemic we got takeout from them a number of times and enjoyed all those meals very much (here, here and here). But it’s not the same as eating in—and not just because some dishes don’t take so well to being reheated after a 50 minute drive. Some restaurants mean more to people than others and for us Bangkok Thai Deli is one of the cornerstones of our Twin Cities dining life. We’ve been eating there since we arrived in 2007 (which is when they opened, as per their menu; I would have guessed it was earlier) and it would have been a big blow if the pandemic had claimed them as well. All this to say, we were very happy to eat there again in person. Continue reading

112 Eatery II (Minneapolis)


After our lovely dinner at Alma in April we decided it was time to go back to our old favourites in the Twin Cities more often. And so I immediately made a reservation for dinner at 112 Eatery, a restaurant we like more than the number of times I have reviewed it would indicate. It was the first fine dining restaurant I ate at in Minnesota, having been taken there for dinner when I was interviewing for my job (at which point I think it was just over a year old). And when we arrived in Minnesota it was one of the places we ate at most frequently. But when I started reviewing restaurants on the blog the urge to chase novelty meant fewer visits to old favourites. Our Alma meal reminded me of the folly of this practice and I am very glad it did: we had a very good meal at 112 Eatery as well. Continue reading

Sakura II (St. Paul, MN)


Sakura was the last restaurant I ate at before the pandemic closures began in March 2020. I stopped in for lunch by myself, sat at the bar and had an enjoyable meal of not-exceptional but entirely acceptable sushi. That may sound like damning with faint praise but in Minnesota it’s actually saying a lot. Thanks to the pandemic, it took a little over two years for me to go back and this time I went with the family. In the interim they’ve stopped lunch service and are now only open for dinner. Our plan had actually been to eat dinner that Sunday at Kyatchi’s St. Paul location but they closed unexpectedly for a few days for Covid-related reasons. Our kids had been promised Japanese food and so we pivoted to Sakura. I am glad to report that it didn’t disappoint on this occasion either. Continue reading

The Return of the Weekday Lunch Thali at Kabob’s Indian Grill (Bloomington, MN)


Let joy be unconfined: the Twin Cities metro’s greatest lunch deal is back! Yes, I refer to the weekday lunch thali at Kabob’s Indian Grill in Bloomington. I have reported previously on these excellent thalis that I first ate in 2019 (see here and here). In late 2020 it was still available in to-go format (which I duly took advantage of). But then it went away. And even when in-person dining returned to Kabob’s last year, the weekday thali did not—though it was replaced by a new weekend thali served on banana leaves. I don’t mean to suggest that this was the worst restaurant-related development during the pandemic but it certainly was the one that impacted my life the most. Imagine my excitement then on seeing the restaurant announce on its Facebook page a couple of weeks ago that the weekday lunch thali was returning. I showed up as soon as I could to eat one and then again a week later. Here is my brief report on those meals. Continue reading

Khâluna (Minneapolis)


In December 2019—just a few months before you-know-what happened—we ate dinner at Lat14 in Golden Valley and rather enjoyed it. We’d planned to go back but then ended up spending most of the next 2 years at home. By the time we began to get back into the dining out groove in Minnesota, the chef/owner of Lat14, Ann Ahmed, had a new restaurant in South Minneapolis: Khâluna. We had quite enjoyed our meal at Lat14 and so were looking forward to eating her food at Khâluna as well. Reservations, however, were hard to come by until I managed to score one for mid-January. And then the omicron spike happened in a big way and we had to cancel. It took another three months for me to finally make it there. I ate dinner there for the first time in early April along with some colleagues. I liked it so much that I immediately made another reservation to go back with the missus and some of our regular dining crew. We ate that meal this past weekend. I’d originally thought I’d post an account of both meals at the same time but after resizing 45+ photographs from the first meal, I gave that up. So what follows is an account of my first meal there. You’ll have to wait a few weeks for the second. Continue reading

Las Islas (South St. Paul, MN)


I have lived in southern Minnesota for almost 15 years now but I’m only just beginning to really get a sense of the suburban geography of the Twin Cities metro. For example, for many years when I’d hear names like West St. Paul or South St. Paul I assumed people were referring to the western or southern bits of St. Paul. Now I know they’re actually referring to what are officially separate towns—both of these towns, by the way, have populations close to that of the town I live in, about 50 minutes south of the Twin Cities. And the demographics of these suburbs can vary quite a bit. South St. Paul, for example, has a large Hispanic population. Indeed, people of Hispanic descent are the second largest group in the city at nearly 15% of the population. I bring this up because it might explain why a Mexican seafood restaurant opened here, just about two years ago, during the pandemic and has managed to weather it so far. I’m not sure if there’s been much coverage of it elsewhere but I saw a reference to Las Islas on the excellent East Metro Foodies Facebook group a couple of weeks ago and my interest was piqued by their seafood-centered menu, heavy on ceviches and the like. And so this past weekend we descended on them with a couple of friends. Here is what we found. Continue reading

Mucci’s Italian (St. Paul, MN)


As those who read my restaurant reports regularly know, our kids eat out with us whenever we go out to lunch. It’s rare though that they accompany us to dinner (unless we’re traveling). A big part of this is that it’s nice to have adult time away from your children; a not insignificant part of it is also that at fancier restaurants it’s harder to find dishes that young children will eat wholeheartedly without performing surgery on plates to remove unwelcome components. Our boys are more adventurous eaters than the average upper midwestern kids of their age but vegetables—for example—remain a hard sell for them; and so the question of taking them to places where they would discard 50% of what’s on their plate just doesn’t arise. At the same time, however, they are more aware each year of how much their parents enjoy eating out and with every year their desire to participate more fully in this grows stronger. And so we’ve come to the slightly reluctant conclusion that the money we’ve been saving on babysitting since the older boy became a teenager will have to begin to be spent on initiating them more fully, if slowly, into the world of fine(r) dining. Which is how we ended up eating as a family at Mucci’s Italian in St. Paul this past weekend. Continue reading

Restaurant Alma, Spring 2022 (Minneapolis, MN)

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Basil Cafe, In Person (St. Paul, MN)


We first happened upon Basil Cafe during the height of the pandemic, almost exactly one year ago. They’d only opened in 2019 and we hadn’t had a chance to eat there before everything closed to in-person dining in 2020. Thankfully, they survived not only that first year but also the next and seem to be going strong now as things slowly return to something approaching normalcy. We too have been eating out more often this year—and so while our 2021 meal had been takeout, this past weekend we finally made it in to eat there in person. Here’s how it went. Continue reading

Favourite Dishes Eaten in the Twin Cities Metro: Jan 1-March 31, 2022


Well, it isn’t March 31 yet, but I’m not going to be eating out in the Twin Cities metro between now and then and so I may as well put this list up now. I got back from Delhi on Friday: 24 hours of travel, counting airport time, 16.5 hours of that one flight from Delhi to Chicago; all of it with a mask on. It was not fun. But it’s good to be back home (and it was very good to be at my other home as well). I ate out a fair bit in Delhi and will be posting all of those reports in the next few weeks (the first one already went up last week and the next will go up this Tuesday). In April I’ll get back to the usual weekly reports from the Twin Cities. Until then here are my favourite restaurant dishes eaten in the Twin Cities metro in the first quarter of 2022. As always, every restaurant I ate at is represented. I didn’t like every one of those meals equally—and there was one I did not care for much at all (saying so made me lots of new friends online)—but there were things I liked at every meal and so everyone gets a look in. That’s the kind of guy I am: generous of spirit. Continue reading

Owamni (Minneapolis, MN)


Owamni opened last July in Minneapolis and quickly became one of 2021’s most acclaimed restaurants, both locally and nationally. It has featured on a number of lists of the best/most exciting/most important restaurants in the country and so forth. And more recently the restaurant made the James Beard Awards long list for “Best New Restaurant” and the chef, Sean Sherman was likewise on the long list of nominees for “Best Chef, Midwest”. It is a restaurant helmed by a Native American chef, which aims to foreground/promote indigenous ingredients and to present what it calls a “decolonized dining experience”. All of this is urgent, important and exciting. And so it gives me no pleasure to say that we enjoyed very little of the food at our recent dinner there. Continue reading

Godavari, Finally in Person (Eden Prairie, MN)


I had Godavari at the top of my Twin Cities South Asian/Indian restaurant rankings in both 2020 and 2021. And that was based only on takeout meals brought home and reheated during the height of the pandemic. We’ve been looking forward to eating in there for a while and a week ago Saturday we finally managed it. It was just the four of us and one friend but we still managed to do quite a bit of damage. We mostly ordered things we hadn’t got from them before, including some things we hadn’t ordered because they hadn’t seemed like good bets to survive a long drive and reheating. I am pleased to say that if Indian Masala’s weekend buffet a week earlier had not impressed overmuch, this meal validated our already high opinion of Godavari. Herewith the details. Continue reading

The Weekend Buffet at Indian Masala (Maplewood, MN)


I’ve had Indian Masala—along with Godavari—at the top of the 2020 and 2021 editions of my Twin Cities Indian restaurant rankings but until last weekend we had never eaten in the restaurant. We first ate their food in late 2020—during what we’d then naively thought was the height of the pandemic—and then again as takeout in 2021. On the first occasion I’d gone in to pay and the long-neglected interior had not looked very prepossessing. Once they opened back up I had reports of the dining room having been more or less redone and looking much shinier. I also heard lots of promising reports of the special buffets they’d begun to run. (Most of these reports came to me via Mike McGuinness—the man behind the excellent East Metro Foodies group on Facebook and almost certainly Indian Masala Fan #1.) They now have special vegetarian/vegan buffets during the week and occasional Indian Chinese buffets as well. And on Saturdays and Sundays they put out what they call their Grand Weekend Buffet. Given our high opinion of the food from their regular menu, this seemed like a promising situation and so—having made our return to in-person dining last weekend at Grand Szechuan—we showed up last Saturday to partake of it with a couple of friends. How was it? Read on. Continue reading