Pandemic Takeout 25: Godavari (Eden Prairie, MN)


In my review of meals at Kumar’s last fall, I noted the huge blind spot in the mainstream (read: white) press when it comes to coverage or indeed awareness of the Indian food scene in the Twin Cities metro. Their focus remains on places in the Twin Cities proper: North Indian curry houses and the occasional upscale place with a p.r push. Meanwhile the real action, along with most of the region’s growing South Asian population, is in the suburbs. The opening of the local franchise of Kumar’s in Apple Valley—at the top of the Cedar Avenue corridor that is being filled in with new residential developments seemingly every month—was one (more) sign of this. Here now is another: a local franchise of Godavari which opened in Eden Prairie just about a month ago, pandemic be damned. We picked up a large amount of food from them last weekend and ate it on our deck with some friends. Here’s what we thought of it. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 24: Pho Valley (Apple Valley, MN)


This week’s pandemic takeout reports sees us remaining in Dakota County. After last week’s excellent takeout from House of Curry in Rosemount, we move a bit further west in physical terms to Apple Valley and a bit further east in culinary geography to Vietnamese food. On the way back from a Costco run I stopped at Pho Valley in that massive complex between Cedar Avenue and Co. Rd. 42 and picked up some spring/egg rolls, some soups, a banh mi and some grilled meat. It was our first time getting takeout from them, whether during or before the pandemic. I am pleased to report that while nothing was amazing everything hit the spot. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 23: Back to House of Curry (Rosemount, MN)


House of Curry was the second place we got takeout from when the “shelter in place” orders began in Minnesota. That was way back in late March/early April. As our takeout options/range expanded over the months, we somehow didn’t end up going back to House of Curry for our weekly takeout. That streak of neglect ended this past weekend when we stopped on our way home from a walk around Pike Island to get some lunch. As a small restaurant, or perhaps simply because they are appropriately cautious, House of Curry has not reopened for dining in. We were not looking to dine in anyway. Here is what we picked up. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 22: More Heat from Grand Szechuan


It’s been almost two months since my previous Grand Szechuan report but don’t worry, they’re still in business and we’re still eating their food on the regular. As of August 1 they are once again open seven days a week, but they’re still open only for takeout. That takeout business appears to be brisk—at least on weekend evenings. The place was hopping—in a masked and socially-distanced kind of way—when I picked up our most recent meal on a Friday evening. There seemed to be more staff visible as well. I hope they’re doing decent business at lunch and on weekdays as well. But to be safe we should all keep ordering from them. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 21: Homi (St. Paul)


Our takeout range has expanded a fair bit in the last few months of the pandemic. At the end of June we finally made it to the Twin Cities’ true “Eat Street” to pick up Thai food from Bangkok Thai Deli. We then went back for more Thai food from Thai Cafe. And last weekend we finally got back to our favourite Mexican restaurant in the Twin Cities: Homi. I’ve reviewed meals at Homi thrice before (first in 2016 and then in 2018 and 2019). After our trip to India in January we had been looking forward to going back and then the pandemic hit. We’d have liked to have supported them through the early months of the stay at home orders but living 50-60 minutes away, as we do, it just wasn’t on the cards. I am glad to be able to report therefore that they have made it through the pandemic so far and that the food we picked up from them on Saturday to eat with friends in their backyard in St. Paul was perhaps the best meal we’ve had from them in some time. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 20: Back to El Triunfo (Northfield, MN)


I am very glad to report that our favourite restaurant in our little town, El Triunfo, seems to have weathered the pandemic fine so far. Business seems to be steady—makes sense as their food is as good as ever. I haven’t reported on our meals there since mid-May but we’ve been picking up food every once in a while, even as we’ve expanded our takeout range quite a lot since then. Their socially distanced pickup routine has changed a bit since my first pandemic report. Curbside pickup now happens via the front entry of the restaurant. Everything else more or less remains the same. You can still pay over the phone if you prefer to (as we do) or you can go in—with a mask on, naturally—and pay and pick up your food. The phone number and pictures of the menu are included in the slideshow below. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 19: Thai Cafe (St. Paul)


We are big fans of Thai Cafe, which was recently named the Twin Cities’ “Best Thai Restaurant” by City Pages. These awards, like all such in the genre, should not be taken too seriously—they name Magic Noodle the “Best Restaurant in St. Paul”, for example—but Thai Cafe is indeed a deserving contender: we’ve consistently ranked them third behind Bangkok Thai Deli and On’s Kitchen, and with On’s retirement they may have moved up a spot (though Krungthep Thai, Bangkok Thai Deli’s satellite location is also a contender). They’ve been closed for most of the pandemic and have not reopened now either for in-person dining. The restaurant is just too small for social distancing. As of a week ago, Monday, however, they are open for curbside/parking lot takeout. We’ve been missing their sour pork rib a lot and so Saturday found us in their parking lot waiting for our order. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 18: More Ramen from Bull’s Horn (Minneapolis)


It’s hard to talk about positive things coming out of the last few months, especially in the context of the restaurant industry. As you all know, restaurants have been hit very hard by the (necessary) restrictions on dining-in and it remains an open question as to how many of them will make it to whenever it is we return to whatever normal will be when this is over, or at least when this is better.. We’ve managed to eat well so far via takeout and support many of our favourite places in this difficult time. The only new thing we’ve encountered was Doug Flicker’s foray into ramen via “take home and prepare” kits back in May. I previously reported on our very first Bull’s Horn ramen experience right after that first week in May. We got another set of kits the following week but then the ramen thing went on hiatus for a while. It’s now back again. Takeout ramen kits are available every day they’re open and since they’re now also open for dining-in on their parking lot patio they also have special ramens available on Wednesday’s only for people eating on the patio. I can report that no matter which way you go, the ramen will be excellent. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 17: Beirut (St. Paul)


It took the pandemic but I finally made it to Beirut, a Lebanese restaurant in West St. Paul that people have been telling me we should eat at for years. They’ve been open since 1983 (in the same spot? I’m not sure). That makes them older than Babani’s but a few years younger than the original Mediterranean Cruise Cafe, which opened in 1979 in Eagan (though the current location in Burnsville is of a later vintage as is the spin-off Ansari’s in Eagan).  As per this write-up in City Pages from a few years ago, in their early years they served a largely American menu with a few Lebanese dishes that got few takers. Now, it’s all Lebanese food all the time, and as far as I can make out, they are a neighbourhood fixture—still run by the same family though I believe the interior has gone through some changes. They are open for socially distanced dining-in but I was there this on Saturday to pick up take-out dinner. Here’s a brief report on what we got. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 16: Smoke in the Pit (Minneapolis)


Smoke in the Pit is located at 3733 Chicago Avenue in S. Minneapolis, just a hundred feet or two from 38th St.. Even if you don’t know South Minneapolis you should know that intersection. It was right by it, in front of Cup Foods, that George Floyd was murdered on May 25 of this year. The protests and unrest that followed, coupled as they were with various revelations and confirmations of racism within the industry’s own precincts, led to an outpouring of declarations of affiliation with Black Lives Matter from most of American food media. Almost two months on, it’s not very clear what’s become of all those declarations, what their afterlife will be or what forms it will take. One hopes that there will be more to the statements than a few weeks or months of conspicuous coverage. We’ll see, I guess. Continue reading

The Twin Cities Food Scene (as Seen Through Where the Star Tribune’s Food Critics Have Been Eating)


We resubscribed to the Star-Tribune this year—we’ve had an on again/off again relationship with the newspaper over the years but decided to re-up for the pandemic coverage. As we have a digital subscription we receive emails daily with highlights from the paper and one of the features that’s been getting pushed regularly is a series called “5 best things our food critic ate in Twin Cities this week”. I think this was a new feature that debuted in February—at least I don’t remember it from the last time we had a subscription. The first entry featured only selections by the paper’s lead food critic, Rick Nelson, but he’s since been joined by another food writer, Sharyn Jackson. I’ve been reading it first with interest, then with increasing amusement and also a bit of exasperation. The series, you see, may provide an inadvertent window into how the Star Tribune sees the Twin Cities food scene. What do I mean? Read on! Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 15: Kabob’s Indian Grill


If you are so deviant as to read this blog on a regular basis then you know that I came across Kabob’s Indian Grill in Bloomington late last year and very quickly pronounced their food the best Indian food I’d yet eaten at a restaurant in Minnesota. This excitement was centered largely on their lunch thalis, with a revolving selection of small bowls of goodness, which are also simultaneously the best lunch deal in Minnesota. I did also like almost everything I ate at a non-thali weekend lunch meal in December. And you’ll get a sense of how much I like their food when I tell you that I chose to eat more of it just a month after returning from a trip home to India—I never wrote that meal—another thali lunch—up before the pandemic hit but it’s covered in this write-up. When the pandemic did hit, Kabob’s closed down rather than go to a takeout-only model. I was very worried that they might not re-open. And so when I was at TBS Mart a few weeks ago for a spot of shopping (they’re just a few doors apart in the same strip mall) I was excited to see that Kabob’s is open again. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 14: Grand Szechuan Again


The pandemic may have fucked up all our lives but it’s not stopped us from eating the food of our favourite restaurant in Minnesota: Grand Szechuan. There are a few fine dining restaurants we like a lot but—as I’ve said before—no restaurant in the state makes us happier as a family than Grand Szechuan. Ironically, we’ve been eating their food more since the pandemic began than we otherwise would have been. We normally hit them up on a monthly basis but have been going to get their food almost every two weeks since dining out became first an impossible and now a dubious proposition. Grand Szechuan, by the way, has not yet opened up to dining in. I laud them for their good sense in not doing so; at the same time, I worry about a possible hit to their business now that others have in fact opened up. There were far fewer people there picking up food this past Sunday than I’ve seen on all our takeout trips previous. Then again, it was a holiday weekend and people may have been out on their boats or grilling at home. At any rate we had another excellent meal. Here is a report on that meal and the one previous, from just about two weeks ago. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 13: Bangkok Thai Deli (St. Paul, MN)


We began the pandemic getting takeout food only from places in our town or within a 20 minute or so drive. We then expanded our range to Bloomington and then to South Minneapolis. Now, more than three months in, we’ve finally made it up to St. Paul; and—with apologies to Joy’s Thai of Lakeville—we’ve finally eaten really good Thai food for the first time since this madness began. Yes, I drove up to University Avenue and picked up a box full of food for another socially distanced lunch on a deck with friends. A 50 minute drive to get there only to turn around and drive another 50 minutes back: but it was worth it. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 12: Kumar’s (Apple Valley, MN)


Last year I wrote up a couple of meals at Kumar’s in Apple Valley—a local outpost of Kumar’s Mess, a popular Texas-based franchise that specializes in Chettinad food (though their menu has more than just Chettinad food). That write-up from December—which included my thoughts on developments in Indian food in the Twin Cities metro that seem to have eluded the professional critics—focused on what is normally Kumar’s specialty: thali-based meals. They’ve been doing takeout through the pandemic but I doubt thalis have been involved. They are now open for socially distanced dining-in but we only stopped in on Sunday to get some takeout for another socially-distanced meal on a deck with friends. The dining room is restricted to 24 guests only, and it’s a large space, but it’s going to take me a long while to get comfortable with eating in at a restaurant—and frankly, the sight of customers going in and out without masks, as we were waiting in our car outside for curbside pickup, did not help. The food, however, was pretty good. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 11: Tenant (Minneapolis)


Last week I had a review of takeout barbecue from a restaurant in South Minneapolis. Today I have a review for you of takeout barbecue from another restaurant in South Minneapolis. The two restaurants could not, however, be more different. Ted Cook’s 19th Hole is a 51 yo Black-owned restaurant that is takeout-only and which serves no-nonsense barbecued meats and sides. Tenant, on the other hand, is a 3 yo hard-to-get-into, cheffy prix fixe restaurant in what I call the Global Cosmopolitan school. That’s in normal times. The pandemic has caused a temporary convergence as Tenant, like most other local fine dining restaurants, has pivoted to a takeout model to keep its doors open and its staff employed. The restaurant’s bare bones structure—very few people in the kitchen, doing all the jobs—has perhaps allowed it to be more flexible in this regard than most of its fine dining peers. They’ve not, however, been serving the food people normally book six weeks in advance to eat. For the first couple of months of the pandemic they were selling takeout soup and sandwich packages; as of about a month ago they’ve pivoted to barbecue. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 10: Ted Cook’s 19th Hole (Minneapolis)


I had planned to post this review of this large takeout barbecue meal earlier this week. But the prefatory comments I’d wanted to make about American food media and race became a much longer thing, and rather than have this review disappear into that I posted those as a separate piece on Thursday. One of the things I noted in that post was how little awareness I have of Black-owned/run restaurants in the Twin Cities metro beyond Somali and Ethiopian places. Indeed, the other two that I have reviewed—Big Daddy’s* and Handsome Hog—are also barbecue restaurants, albeit at different ends of the price and ambience spectrum. Ted Cook’s 19th Hole is even more informal than Big Daddy’s—it’s takeout-only here and things are as functional as you might imagine for a takeout-only establishment: a counter where you order and pay, the kitchen behind and a few seats in the bare bones room in front for people waiting (in non-pandemic times) for their orders. There is little here that signals the history of the restaurant—it’s been around since 1969. You pick up your food, you pay, and you go on your way. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 9: Simplee Pho (Apple Valley)


As I’ve noted before, we live in probably the only college town in the US—one with two colleges, in fact—that has no Thai or Vietnamese food on offer. There is serviceable Thai food available within 20-30 minutes drive (Taste of Thaiyai in Apple Valley, for example, or Thai Curry House in Burnsville or Joy’s Thai in Lakeville—where we recently got some pandemic takeout from); but in normal times we prefer to drive further to the Twin Cities’s real “Eat Street” for food that is substantially better. For Vietnamese food, and pho in particular, the gulf is less wide and we’re happy to eat at Pho Valley and Simplee Pho in Apple Valley when taken by a sudden urge for a good bowl of noodle soup. And so it was that after doing curbside pickup of Indian groceries at Mantra Bazaar on Saturday, I stopped at Simplee Pho to pick up a few things. Continue reading