Pandemic Takeout 34: Grand Szechuan (Bloomington, MN)


Well, we are back in quasi-lockdown in Minnesota. I say “quasi-lockdown” because nowhere in the US have we had anything resembling an actual lockdown since the beginning of the pandemic. Perhaps if we’d had one back in the first half of the year things wouldn’t be quite as fucked as they are now, with numbers spiking higher than they were in the first wave. Our own part of Southern Minnesota has been hit particularly hard with our little “metro area” down here regularly showing up once again in the “top 10” rankings for infection rates in the country. At home we have clamped down pretty tight. No more meals on the deck with friends and no more visits/meals inside with those we were podding with. (Alas, this means we’ll be doing Thanksgiving on our own for the first time in more than 15 years. We’ll manage.) I did one large Costco run earlier in the month that should take us through mid-December—it’ll be curbside grocery shopping for the foreseeable future after that. The only indulgence will continue to be weekly takeout runs—though we will be eating on our own for the foreseeable future. Hopefully most places will move to a curbside takeout system; if I need to go in for pickup I’ll double mask it as I’ve been doing in enclosed public spaces for the last month, and as I did at Grand Szechuan this past weekend. For yes, I went back to pick up yet another excessive order from them. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 33: Kumar’s (Apple Valley, MN)


The takeout plan for this past Saturday had originally involved picking up food from an Indian restaurant in the western suburbs. But by the time the weekend showed up lunch came under time constraints and it just wasn’t going to be possible to place the order* and make it up to the restaurant and back in time to eat on our deck (an hour’s drive each way). And as the same was going to be true of the places closest to us—Kabob’s and Kumar’s—it didn’t seem like Indian food was going to be on the cards. But the boys had already been promised their tandoori chicken and naans and given how little fun they’re having compared to normal these days, we decided not to disappoint them. Accordingly, I drove up on Friday evening to Kumar’s in Apple Valley—only 25 minutes away—and picked up a large order to heat up at leisure the next day. We were going to be a smaller group than usual—only 4 adults—but to be safe I ordered as I would if we had been 6 or 8. It’s the right thing to do. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 32: On’s Kitchen (St. Paul, MN)


It took us a while to get to On’s Kitchen on our pandemic takeout outings. We’ve got food from Bangkok Thai Deli and Thai Cafe since the lockdown eased in the early part of the summer but it took us another few months to go back to On’s. This is partly because we’ve been trying a number of restaurants we haven’t been to before or in many years (Vietnamese places like Pho Pasteur and iPho and also Indian places like Indian Masala and Godavari). But to be honest it’s also because we weren’t very enthused by our last pre-pandemic meal at On’s. That was in September of 2019 and after posting that review I learned that On had retired from the kitchen earlier that year—momentous news from the Twin Cities’ best Thai restaurant that you think would have been reported by all the professional critics but who am I kidding? Anyway, given that it had been our favourite Thai restaurant in Minnesota for many years, it didn’t seem right to stay away and so I drove up last Saturday to pick up a large order to eat on our deck with our usual crew. Despite the good weather, or rather because of it, we skipped going to a park for a walk—we figured there’d be larger crowds and so just did a long walk in our own neighbourhood. The walk was good but I’m happy to say the food was better. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 31: Indian Masala (Maplewood, MN)


We were supposed to get food from Indian Masala in Maplewood two weekends ago but winter struck early and we ended up huddling indoors like weenies. This past weekend was quite a bit warmer though and so we revived our plan of walking the loop trail at the Battle Creek Park (the part that has the dog park in it) and then picking up food to bring back to our deck to eat with our usual crew of excessive eaters. I am very happy to report that not only was this meal very good, it was one of the best Indian meals we’ve had so far in Minnesota. That may seem like damning with faint praise but these days it’s really not. As I’ve reported before, the Indian food scene in the Twin Cities metro has improved radically in recent years, keeping pace with the growing Indian population in the area. And as this growing population is both mostly South Indian and mostly in the suburbs, it’s to the suburbs you have to go and the South Indian dishes that you have to order to experience this shift in quality. The mainstream food media in the area remains focused on the North Indian standbys in the Cities proper—this is a shame as both the new(er) restaurants and local diners interested in Indian food need a brighter light shone on these developments than a minor blog like mine can manage. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 30: Back to Kabob’s Indian Grill (Bloomington, MN)


We got Indian takeout again at the end of last week but not from the place I’d been hoping to finally get to. The plan earlier in the week had been to do our usual weekend family walk in Maplewood and pick up some food from Indian Masala. But as Saturday approached, the forecast sapped our will and we decided we’d spend the day huddled at home. It’s not that we don’t plan to go out at all in the winter but that it’s too soon for temperatures so low. It may be Minnesota but it’s only fucking October, dammit. However, the story ends well. I ended up going to Costco on Friday morning and picked up a large order from Kabob’s Indian Grill in Bloomington. I’m happy to report that they continue to survive the pandemic, that they are now offering their lunch thali to go on weekends and that their food is still very good. Herewith, the details. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 29: Pho Pasteur (St. Paul, MN)


The plan for this past weekend had originally been a walk around a park in Maplewood followed by takeout from Indian Masala, an Indian restaurant in Maplewood that’s been recommended highly to me by Mike McGuinness (who runs the excellent East Metro Foodies Facebook group). But the plan never quite came together and we ended walking around Como Lake instead and picking up more Vietnamese food to take back to the yard of the friends in St. Paul we often do these walk+meals with. On the last occasion we’d picked up lunch from iPho by Saigon; this time we hit up Pho Pasteur, which is very close to their house. Here’s how it went. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 28: Szechuan Spice (Minneapolis)


I don’t know how much longer we’ll be able to keep up our long family walks on Saturday mornings in parks in the Twin Cities Metro. It’s about to start getting pretty cold. The maximum for this coming Saturday is forecast to be 46f, which means it’ll be in the high 30s at the time we usually start our walks. This past Saturday, however, was not quite so chilly and we went for a walk around Bde Maka Ska in Minneapolis. It’s a 3.2 mile look around the lake but we managed to get off-track right at the start and added another .3 miles on to it. Which meant that by the time we picked up our lunch and took it home to eat with friends on our deck we were good and hungry. A good thing then that we picked up a lot of food. Where did we get it from? Szechuan Spice, which is just a few minutes drive from the lake. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 27: India Spice House (Eden Prairie, MN)


On Sunday I had a quick look at the India Spice House grocery store in Eden Prairie. We were in the general neighbourhood again for yet another walk in the excellent Hyland Lake park in Bloomington. The last time we were there—two weeks ago—we picked up a large takeout order from Godavari, the new Twin Cities metro outlet of a popular US-based South Indian franchise. That was a very good meal. This time we picked up food from India Spice House’s restaurant, which has been around since 2008. I don’t know if the restaurant or the grocery store came first but they’re right next to each other—you can even enter the restaurant directly from the grocery store. We once again picked up a large order to eat with friends on our deck. Was it as good a meal as the one from Godavari? Read on. Continue reading

India Spice House, Grocery (Eden Prairie, MN)


We are coming to the end of our 13th year in Minnesota and it’s only this year that we’ve begun to explore the many parks in the Twin Cities metro in a concerted way. This is, of course, related to the pandemic. We’ve been at home with our boys since March—we’ve been teaching from home and they’ve been attending school from home. It’s been going a fair bit better, on the whole, probably than we had feared—our profession and privilege does make it much easier. But we’ve needed to get exercise, and more importantly, to make sure the boys get exercise so we don’t end up murdering them. Through most of the early summer that meant long family walks in town every day. The start of the school year has shortened those daily walks but we’ve been compensating by going for walks in various parks on the weekend. Two weekends ago found us in the expansive Hyland Lake Reserve park in Bloomington (we picked up an excellent lunch from Godavari right after). We liked that park so much—and there was so much of it left to explore—-that we went back again today for a ramble through another part of it for. After a three mile walk to perk up our appetites, we picked up another Indian lunch from an Eden Prairie restaurant and took it home to eat on our deck with friends. Our port of call this time was India Spice House. I’ll have a report on that takeout meal on Tuesday. Here now is a look at their adjoining grocery store, where I stopped in briefly to buy some ginger and curry leaves. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 26: iPho by Saigon (St. Paul, MN)


After four weeks of eating food from restaurants in the South and West Metro (from House of Curry, Grand Szechuan, Pho Valley and Godavari), we finally made it back to St. Paul this weekend. Not surprisingly, we ended up on University Ave.—the Twin Cities’ true “Eat Street”—not too far from Homi, our last port of call in St. Paul. It was another Vietnamese meal, this time from iPho by Saigon. As it happens my very first meal in Minnesota was here when I visited friends in the November of 2006—it was then called just Saigon. We ate there after we moved here the following year as well but somehow not since I started reviewing restaurants on the blog. I’m not sure at what point they tacked on the “iPho by” to their name but it’s been several years. We’ve been tempted over the years but somehow when looking for Vietnamese food in that neck of the woods we usually end up at Trieu Chau. This weekend, however, was iPho by Saigon. How did it go? Continue reading

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