Kumar’s Mess and the Changing Face of Indian Food in the Twin Cities Metro (Apple Valley, MN)


We are well into the Golden Age of Indian food in the Twin Cities metro. You might not have a sense of this from the local food media’s restaurant coverage but over the course of the last half-decade or so the Indian population of the Twin Cities metro has been growing steadily and newer restaurants have been opening to cater to this market. As I’ve noted in a number of write-ups on the blog, the new(er) population is likely highly skewed towards South Indians. This can be seen both in what’s on offer in Indian groceries around the metro (see my look at TBS Mart in Bloomington, for example) and in the fact that more and more restaurants have opened in the last few years that have menus focused on South Indian dishes. (I’ve reviewed a few of these—Persis, Bay Leaf, Hyderabad Indian Grill.) Continue reading

A Return to Homi and the Question of Who Makes Money Cooking Mexican Food?


As I have said before, since the demise of La Huasteca, Homi on University Avenue in St. Paul (where else?) has been our favourite Mexican restaurant in the Twin Cities. I’ve reviewed it twice before (here and here). But I like to keep up on the blog with our favourite restaurants, not just eating there but also reporting on their trajectories over time, checking in on how things are going. Accordingly, I have another report today on a recent dinner at Homi. We ate there two weeks ago with friends after a rather disappointing theater outing (The Song of the Summer at Mixed Blood). The dinner, I am glad to say, was much better. Continue reading

Hyacinth II


We first ate at Hyacinth in March. That was a nice dinner but nothing so very special; and on our drive south all four of us agreed that if we lived in St. Paul we’d eat there every once in a while but that it wasn’t anything we needed to drive an hour each way and pay a sitter a lot of money for. Nonetheless, I had wanted to go back in the summer or early fall to see what their kitchen would do with the best of Minnesota produce but, alas, it wasn’t to be. But I did get a chance to go back earlier this month with friends from work (the missus wasn’t along). As it happens, I liked this meal more than our first. Here are the details. Continue reading

Three More Thalis at Kabob’s (Bloomington, MN)


Hello! I ate my first lunch thali at Kabob’s in Bloomington late last month and had to post about it right away. That thali was so good, I pronounced t the best lunch deal and probably the best Indian food in the Twin Cities Metro. I’ve since eaten the lunch thali there on a few more occasions and I stand by both those assertions. If there is a better lunch deal in the area I would like to know what it is. And if there is better Indian food to be had I would love to eat it. In the meantime I find myself manufacturing reasons to drive through Bloomington at lunch time. I stopped in two more times just this week, once with the missus and once alone. Having come upon this unlikely jewel so late I have now predictably turned into a one-man advertising agency for them. They have no idea I am writing about them but I must urge you all to go eat their wonderful thalis. There’ll be no butter chicken, saag paneer or dal makhni; you won’t always know what’s in the bowls (see below for my recent confusion) but if you like delicious food prepared with care you will love it. Continue reading

Tenant IV (Minneapolis)


We went back to Tenant for dinner a week and a half ago. This was our fourth visit. Our previous meal there was just about 6 weeks prior to this one and the one before wasn’t too much longer before that one. Both those meals were very good indeed, catapulting Tenant to the top of our Twin Cities fine dining list. They also took place at the height and end of summer respectively. We were interested to see, going into this one, how the kitchen would deal with the relatively depleted produce options of Minnesota in the late fall/early winter. Well, our experience was a little mixed. This was probably the least of our meals there so far. But only some of this was likely down to the market offerings of the season (no more tomato water!). It’s more the case that going every six weeks or so, as we’ve been doing since mid-summer seems to have resulted in a bit of deja vu. While none of the courses were identical to those at our last meal there was some sameness. Now you might say that this is an odd criticism—most restaurants have far more static menus. But one of the things we enjoyed most about Tenant on our previous visits was surprise and there wasn’t much surprise at this meal. Which is not to say, of course, that it wasn’t a good dinner in its own right—for it was. And keep in mind that this is not a problem you would have on your first visit there or if your visits were spaced further apart. Continue reading

Lunch at the Keg and Case Food Hall (St. Paul, MN)


We visited Keg and Case in March and again in September, both times to eat dinner at In Bloom (reviews here and here). On both occasions we walked by all the other food businesses without paying very close attention to them and on both occasions we resolved to come back soon with the kids for lunch and try some of them. Well, at the end of October we finally got around to doing that. We met friends there for an early lunch on a Saturday. Our main targets were Pimento, a Jamaican counter (and a branch of a more formal restaurant in Minneapolis) and Revival Smoked Meats, an outpost of the Revival empire. We did eat and drink the wares of a few other merchants as well (doughnuts, ice cream, beer, coffee) and after lunch we sauntered around the rest of the complex. I have descriptions and evaluations for you of the things we ate and pictures of everything else. Continue reading

The Lunch Thali at Kabob’s (Bloomington, MN)


Is this the best lunch deal in the Twin Cities metro? I think it might be. It’s certainly the best Indian lunch deal—and for that matter this was the best Indian meal of any kind I’ve had in Minnesota in 12+ years. I ate it at what is almost literally a hole in the wall in Bloomington, in the same large strip mall that houses TBS Mart. I’ve noticed it out of the corner of my eye over the years but always assumed it was a Middle Eastern place; there’s another Indian place right there and I suppose I assumed there wouldn’t be two Indian places right next to each other like that. Anyway, the lesson, as always, is that I am an idiot. And specifically an idiot who has been denying himself not just an excellent lunch thali for almost a decade now but also the nostalgic charge of eating it in a place that evokes the no-frills canteens and mess halls that are a commonplace in Indian cities. Here, specifically, is what I—and maybe you—had been missing. Continue reading

Joan’s in the Park (St. Paul, MN)


The first thing to know about Joan’s in the Park is that it is not in fact in a park. The only park-related space near them is their parking lot. One of the owners, who serves as the maitre d’, is named Joan but the second half of the name comes not from some bucolic setting—they’re across the street from a Domino’s—but from the fact that they’re in the Highland Park neighbourhood of St. Paul. They opened there in 2011, the proprietors having met while working in other restaurants in the Cities. Their food is in the general “New American” genre—which means you can expect to see a bit of everything. We’ve been meaning to eat there for a while but only got around to doing so a couple of weekends ago. We were joined at this meal by another couple who we’ve eaten with before. Between the four of us we ate a goodly portion of their current menu. Herewith my thoughts. Continue reading

Cook St. Paul (St. Paul, MN)


When last seen on these pages Cook St. Paul was the location of Golden Horseshoe, a Sichuan “residency” that ran for two months this summer, whose passing we are still mourning (my second review is here). At the time Cook St. Paul was essentially a diner, with breakfast their largest draw and no dinner service—which left room for them to host pop-ups. Not too long after the end of the Golden Horseshoe run the proprietor, Eddie Wu announced on Facebook that the restaurant was going to change form in October, now serving only lunch and dinner. This was greeted with some ambivalence by their patrons who were attached to their breakfast offerings. We, however, were intrigued. We live too far away to have ever made it there for breakfast and were interested to see what the new incarnation would be. Continue reading

Top 5 Twin Cities Dishes, July-September 2019


A little later than usual, here is my clickbaity list of the five best dishes I ate at Twin Cities restaurants in the last quarter. Same rules as always, except when I break them. That is to say, these lists are supposed to include only one dish per restaurant, and only dishes that are still likely to be available. I’m not breaking the first rule this time but the second one I am breaking in more than one way: there’s a dish from our recent dinner at Tenant on here and if it isn’t already off the menu it will be very soon; and not only do I have a dish on here that’s no longer available, it’s from a “restaurant” that’s no longer available. I put “restaurant” in quotes because I am referring to Golden Horseshoe, the outstanding Sichuan residency at Cook St. Paul that burned like a comet for two months in the summer before disappearing. All five restaurants on this quarter’s list have made an appearance on previous versions of the list. Yes, that means nothing from our dinner at Young Joni in early July made the cut. We’ll have to give them another try next year and see if we can figure out what the fuss is all about. But now, to the list (in reverse chronological order as usual)! Continue reading

The Lunch Buffet at Tandoor (Bloomington, MN)


I was sworn in as a citizen of the US yesterday/today, along with another 999 people—all of us together representing 96 nationalities before the start of the ceremony. Many of my fellow new citizens doubtless come from countries that allow dual citizenship but India does not. India offers a status called “Overseas Citizen of India” but it is not full citizenship and does not come with a passport. Yesterday/today, therefore, was my last day with a valid Indian passport. Despite being someone who is not very persuaded by the claims of nationalism—culture is a different thing and is not tied to citizenship—I found myself somewhat melancholy about this prospect in the days leading up and after my naturalization interview. I’m never going to stop being Indian; despite having lived here for 26 years I’m not able to flip a switch and think of myself as American; but Indian-American I am now for sure. It’ll take a while to sort all this out in my head but to start with I decided to mark this stage in my translation with a lunch buffet at an Indian restaurant and to eat some of the dishes that Americans so love to eat in Indian restaurants. The only question was which one. Continue reading

El Triunfo, 2019 (Northfield, MN)


I may not have much of a readership on my blog but I also am under no pressure to chase novelty. I am free to return to restaurants, either to check in to see if they’re still as good as they were or to continue to shine a (small) light on deserving places that don’t get much if any attention from the professionals. The latter description fits El Triunfo, the best restaurant in Northfield, MN very well. I’ve reported on them twice before in the last five years but that’s not to say we’ve only eaten there twice in the last five years. They are our go to for all our “oh shit, we haven’t cooked” dinners or weekend lunches and I often stop in for lunch from campus as well. I am glad to report that they’re still going strong—though their menu has shrunk quite a bit since my first report—and that their food is still very tasty. Continue reading

In Bloom, Again (St. Paul, MN)


We really enjoyed our dinner at In Bloom this past March and had been talking about going back ever since. Well, it took six months but we finally kept our promise to ourselves. We had dinner there again this past Saturday with a few friends, two of whom had been with us at that first dinner. I was curious to see how the restaurant is doing. The current menu on their website is quite pared down from what we saw in March and I noticed there was absolutely no game on it. I had been under the impression that game was part of their signature—and I’ll admit that part of my strong desire to return was due to having missed out on the roasted leg of venison in March. I hoped therefore that it, and perhaps other game dishes, might make an appearance as specials. Well, it turned out that there were some deviations from the website menu at the restaurant but there was no game of any kind and indeed no specials. It was a fine meal anyway. Details follow. Continue reading

On’s Kitchen IV (St. Paul, MN)


When people ask for recommendations for the best Thai food in the Twin Cities I usually mention Bangkok Thai Deli, and lately Thai Cafe, and then say, but really, On’s Kitchen is the best. It recently occurred to me though that somehow we have not eaten at On’s since my last review and that was in early 2018. Science demanded that we go back soon to check if that recommendation can continue to be issued with such conviction. And so it came to pass that we descended on On’s Kitchen with a few friends last Saturday and ordered and ate an ungodly amount of food. What was our verdict on its current merits? Read on. Continue reading