Smoked Fish and Fudge (Grand Marais, MN)


No, not at the same time. Just a quick look at two quick stops we made in Grand Marais at the beginning and end of our North Shore sojourn in early July.

Dockside Fish & Seafood was actually originally on my list of places to stop at for lunch—friends who’d eaten there some years ago recommended their fish and chips highly. However, on a Facebook group a number of people said that ownership had changed and that quality had dipped and so we opted to eat lunch at the Angry Trout right alongside instead. And I wish we’d eaten lunch at Dockside on our second day instead of at the Naniboujou Lodge—there’s no way it could have been more underwhelming than that meal was. Continue reading

Cheng Heng II (St. Paul, MN)


One of my favourite meals of 2018 was eaten very early in the year, at the Twin Cities’ premier Cambodian restaurant, Cheng Heng on University Ave. in St Paul (where else?). We went there with a lot of friends and we all loved the food. It had taken us more than 10 years to get there and we resolved to come back very soon. Of course, as happens with most of our resolutions, we didn’t end up actually keeping it. We did make it to St. Paul’s other excellent Camboadian restaurant, Kolap, later in the year but it wasn’t until this past weekend that we finally made it back to Cheng Heng. There isn’t much of a point to this lead-up except to say that I hope you are better than us at going to Cheng Heng because it really is a very good restaurant and we really should all go there more often. Yes, we liked this lunch a lot too. Continue reading

Lunch at the Naniboujou Lodge (Grand Marais)


The Naniboujou Lodge is located about 15 minutes north of Grand Marais proper. Granted I had not really looked into the North Shore until days before arriving there for the first time earlier this month, but I have to say that I am a bit surprised I had not previously heard of the Naniboujou Lodge. This because it’s a place that might be best described as…unusual. And in the recent/current cultural climate in the US it might also have been expected to have become a bit controversial. But as far as I know, this hasn’t really happened. Now, I’m not wishing controversy on the place or its owners, but when you read up on its history and look at the pictures below of the design of its dining room you might get a sense of why I wouldn’t have been surprised to see it caught up in cultural appropriation discussions. Continue reading

Tenant II (Minneapolis)


Tenant opened in the old Piccolo space, just a month or so after that great restaurant closed in the spring of 2017 (though in Minnesota it may still have been winter). We tried to go eat there a few times that first year but it wasn’t until the fall of 2018 that we finally managed it. We really liked that meal and wanted to go back a lot sooner than in another year and a half. Alas, between our schedules, travel and the difficulty of scoring seats at the tiny restaurant it was almost another year before we made it back for our second meal. That was last weekend. We liked this meal even more and I think we are both ready to say that it may in fact now be our favourite and quite likely the best fine dining restaurant in the Twin Cities metro. Depending on your view of fine dining in the Twin Cities you may think this faint or high praise but either way Tenant is very good indeed. And we are already plotting a return in September. Continue reading

The Crooked Spoon Cafe (Grand Marais, MN)


Back to the North Shore. My previous review of a Grand Marais restaurant really bothered a few people on a North Shore Facebook group. I thought it was a positive review with a couple of caveats but it appears that for some people anything short of a rave qualifies as a pan. One of them went so far as to tell me that I should preface all my reviews with the phrase, “I have no credibility but this is my opinion…” Accordingly, I inform you that I have no credibility but this post contains my opinions of our lunch at the Crooked Spoon Cafe, eaten a couple of days after our lunch at the Angry Trout. Please don’t take it too personally but I liked it.  Continue reading

Golden Horseshoe II: Sichuan Boogaloo (St. Paul, MN)


I have a double bill for you today. Having already posted a pan of a bad meal at an inexplicably praised restaurant let me now counter the negativity with a rave for a very good meal at an inexplicably ignored restaurant: Golden Horseshoe, the Sichuan residency at Cook St. Paul. I have already posted a longer review of our first dinner there. This will be a much shorter post with the aim of urging those of you who have not yet gone to go. And to inform/remind you that time is running out on the possibility of going. The residency was supposed to run through the end of August but is now terminating at the end of July. Sunday, July 28 will be the last service. As they only do dinner Thursdays to Sundays (5-9 pm) this means you have eight opportunities left to go. Go this week if you can; you’ll probably want to go again and will kick yourself if you don’t leave yourself the opportunity. Continue reading

Dim Sum at Mandarin Kitchen (Bloomington, MN)


Oh boy, this post is going to win me even more friends and well-wishers in the Twin Cities food world.

My views on dim sum in the Twin Cities have never been popular. Many people here say that the dim sum scene in the Twin Cities is very good. In this they are supported by members of the local food media. Exhibit A for this position is Mandarin Kitchen in Bloomington, a restaurant whose dim sum selection has recently been described by one critic who dislikes me intensely as “dizzying, dazzling”. Alas, our opinion—the missus and mine—has always been that Mandarin Kitchen is in fact the worst of a ho-hum lot. We liked Jun Bo in Richfield better (before it closed) and still prefer Yangtze in St. Louis Park and the far less written about A&L Chinese in Inver Grove Heights. However, our last meal at Mandarin Kitchen was some years ago. That meal was so bad we’d sworn to never go back; but my parents are in town again and they always want to go to dim sum and Mandarin Kitchen is the most conveniently located of all dim sum houses for us. And so we decided to go back and see if things have improved. Here are our findings. Continue reading

Angry Trout (Grand Marais, MN)


We’re back from our five day sojourn on the North Shore. We’d rented a cabin a little north of Lutsen and descended on it with our brats, our dogs, and my visiting parents. The cabin was lovely, literally right on the water; the mosquitoes decidedly less lovely and literally right on us. (We will definitely go back to the North Shore in less than 12 years but we’re never going in July again.) As our cabin had a fully equipped kitchen, and as we’d taken provisions with us, we cooked and ate breakfast and dinner in but went out for lunch every day. And as the cabin was just about a 20 minute drive from Grand Marais, we visited and ate there more than once. On our first full day there we stopped in at the Angry Trout, a restaurant that will be recommended to you by pretty much everyone to whom you mention that you are looking for places to eat at within hail of Grand Marais. Herewith the details. Continue reading

Young Joni (Minneapolis)


This has been our year of catching up on buzzy restaurants that have opened or been re-tooled in the Twin Cities in the last year or three. Such have been our meals at Hai Hai, Grand Cafe, Hyacinth, Popol Vuh, In Bloom, Handsome Hog and now Young Joni. The restaurant has been open since late 2016. We’ve wanted to eat there for a while but they started out without reservations and those who read my local reviews know what our problems are with no reservations restaurants: our long drive and our young children. But like Hai Hai (and Saint Dinette), Young Joni has relaxed its “no reservations” policy. This may have happened a while ago, actually, but it has only recently flashed on my consciousness. And so we decided to go. Right around then, Ann Kim got nominated for “Best Chef: Midwest” at this year’s James Beard awards. Also nominated were Jamie Malone of Grand Cafe and Christina Nguyen of Hai Hai and we liked both those meals very much. The odds therefore seemed very much in our favour; especially when Kim beat out Malone and Nguyen, and the rest of the competition, and took the award home. How did things pan out in reality? Well, it was a fine meal but, on the whole, not as good as our dinners at either of those places or some of the other new openings. Continue reading

OMC Smokehouse (Duluth, MN)


It only took 12 years but we’ve finally gone further north in Minnesota than Minneapolis. Quite a bit further north, actually—all the way past Duluth, almost to Grand Marais, to a cabin right on Lake Superior. I usually take listing descriptions such as “a cabin right on Lake Superior” with a huge pinch of salt but when we got here we were pleased to discover that if this cabin were any more on Lake Superior it would be in Lake Superior. It was a four and half hour drive in total to the cabin from our little hamlet in southern Minnesota. Easily manageable as a straight shot but with our kids, our dogs and also my parents in the van, we decided to stop in Duluth for lunch at the three hour mark and do a short hop up to the cabin after that. A recommendation from Joe (who often comments on the blog) put us in OMC Smokehouse. And, on the whole, it was a successful family-friendly meal. Herewith the details. Continue reading

Golden Horseshoe at Cook St. Paul (St. Paul, MN)


Though you wouldn’t know it from the silence of the “major” Twin Cities food critics and reviewers*, there is currently a very interesting set of Sichuan meals to be had in St. Paul, at Golden Horseshoe, a “residency” at Cook St. Paul (on Payne Avenue in East St. Paul) that will be running through early September. Cook St. Paul is an interesting concept—a diner most of the time, and host to various pop-ups at other times. As far as I know, Golden Horseshoe is the first extended engagement they’ve hosted. It got going a week or two ago with a small number of dishes available at dinner (Thursdays through Sundays, starting at 5 pm as long as the residency goes on). Each week a couple of new dishes join the menu. The plan is for there to be almost 20 dishes on the menu by the time the residency comes to an end. Is this something worth going to given that we have the excellent Grand Szechuan available to us every day of the year, to say nothing of creditable Sichuan food at Szechuan Spice and Tea House? Yes, I’d say it is. Continue reading

Top 5 Twin Cities Dishes, April-June 2018


After the double-bill that covered October 2018-March 2019 here is a regular top 5 list for the second quarter of 2019. I was out of town for a week in here too but we ate out quite regularly in the Twin Cities in the last three months (and have already gone out to eat once since i got back) and so I have no difficulty filling out this list. We ate at a number of highly regarded new(er) Minneapolis restaurants in this period and they show up in this list, as does the St. Paul branch of a Minneapolis favourite and a somewhat unusual residency at Cook St. Paul. Together they span a range of cuisines, genres and price-points. And they provide more evidence I think of the diversity and growing vibrancy of the Twin Cities’ dining scene, as recently celebrated by Rick Nelson in the Star-Tribune. Okay, let’s get to it. Continue reading

The Lunch Buffet at Hyderabad Indian Grill (Bloomington, MN)


Another week, another Indian lunch buffet in Bloomington. I’ve been meaning to check out Hyderabad Indian Grill* in Bloomington since trying some of their food at India Fest, 2018 at the St. Paul Capitol last August (the next edition is on August 10). And on a trip up to Minneapolis this week I managed to stop in. They’re located further north than Surabhi and on the other side of the freeway (at the intersection of American and Penn, in the big strip that includes a Fresh Thyme market). They opened a year and a half or so ago—fitting well with my hypothesis that a new wave of South Indian-leaning restaurants have been opening in the Twin Ciites metro in recent years following an increase in the South Indian population in the area. Apart from the name of the restaurant there aren’t so very many nods to the South Indian connection in the lunch buffet (and even the a la carte menu seems less South Indian-leaning than at Persis) but they don’t put out the standard North Indian curry house spread. And on the strength of my meal today I’d recommend it for those looking for a good Indian lunch buffet in the area. Continue reading

The Lunch Buffet at Surabhi (Bloomington, MN)


My renewed survey of the Twin Cities Metro’s Indian restaurant scene took an unexpected turn last week. I had an appointment in Minneapolis that ran a little longer than I’d expected and I found myself on the highway, approaching Bloomington and feeling too hungry to wait to get home to eat lunch. I remembered just in time that I’d been told that there was an Indian restaurant named Surabhi right off the exit at 98th street that was supposedly quite good. And so I did something I rarely choose to do: I stopped at an Indian restaurant for their lunch buffet. Did I regret this as soon as I started eating? Read on. Continue reading