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

Tenant 3 (Minneapolis)

I said in my review of our second dinner at Tenant—in July—that we were already planning a return trip in September. And for a change I was not a liar. We made reservations for the first weekend of September as soon as spots were available, and so it came to pass that at 6 pm last Saturday we sat down at their counter once again. Our second dinner had surpassed the first and we were curious to see what we would make of our third. Sorry to kill the suspense so soon but we thought it was excellent and perhaps, top to bottom, an even better meal than the previous. Indeed, it’s becoming hard to see how we will give our fine dining dollars to any other Twin Cities establishment. Herewith the details.

Continue reading

Lake Ave. Cafe (Duluth, MN)


Here is my last meal report from our trip up to the North Shore in early July. As my trip reports go, I’ve managed to get these done pretty quickly. We timed our departure from our cabin near Lutsen so that we’d be in Duluth at lunch time. I think everyone in the van would have been very happy to go back to OMC Smokehouse but I wanted to try a new place. My first choice was the New Scenic Cafe, a little north of Duluth, which had been recommended on Twitter. But the evening before we left friends who go up to the North Shore every year said New Scenic was inconsistent and recommended that we get sandwiches instead at Northern Waters Smokehaus in Duluth. We went with that suggestion. Things went wrong very quickly. First, there was a huge traffic jam heading to Northern Waters Smokehaus. Then when we did get there we discovered that it is not a sit-down restaurant but a counter. And there was a long line. This was not going to be feasible with my parents in tow—one of whom has mobility issues—and so we had to switch the call at the line. We went with the sit-down restaurant right opposite: Lake Ave. Cafe. Here is what we found. Continue reading

World’s Best Donuts (Grand Marais, MN)


For a small tourist town Grand Marais engenders quite a lot of disagreement about its restaurants. For every person who told me we had to be sure to eat at Angry Trout, another said it was overrated; some said the Dockside Fish Market was great, others said it had declined in the last few years; a few said the Naniboujou Lodge‘s dining room was a must-do, others advised steering clear. There were only two places that rose above this discord: Crooked Spoon Cafe and the provocatively named World’s Best Donuts. As it happened, we enjoyed our lunch at Crooked Spoon more than any of the other sit-down meals we had on our brief sojourn in the North Shore; but the only place we went to more than once was World’s Best Donuts. Here’s a quick look at why. Continue reading

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