Pandemic Takeout 46: El Triunfo (Northfield, MN)


It’s been a while since I’ve checked in on Northfield’s house of Mexican deliciousness, El Triunfo. Which is not to say that we hadn’t eaten their food since my last report. Indeed, today’s pandemic takeout report covers things eaten over four meals. Since my previous report they’d opened for dining-in, closed it down again when the governor mandated it (not a given in these parts) but have not yet restarted it after the restrictions were once again loosened in January. They are still ticking along but business is not exactly booming. The food is as delicious as ever though and if you are in town or within easy reach I urge you to give them a call. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 45: Bangkok Thai Deli (St. Paul, MN)


It has somehow been three whole months since our last Thai meal. That was from On’s Kitchen on University Ave. in St. Paul (the Twin Cities’ true Eat Street, as I never get tired of repeating) and was a very good meal. Here now is a report on a large meal brought home from their peers, Bangkok Thai Deli, a little further up (or down, depending on your perspective) University Ave: Bangkok Thai Deli. We’ve got food from them earlier in the pandemic as well—back in the summer when it was possible to eat outside with friends. Now it’s best not to be outside in Minnesota. The last week and a half has been unfeasibly cold (the minimum today/Sunday is forecast for -24f and the maximum only at -7f). Thankfully, at a maximum of around 0f things weren’t quite that bad on Saturday when I drove up to pick up this meal. Here are the details. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 44: Fasika (St. Paul, MN)


I’ve been going on for a long time about how I’ve been jonesing for Ethiopian food. But it took almost a whole year of since pandemic restrictions hit the US before we finally got around to going up to the Twin Cities for some Ethiopian takeout. I’m not sure why it took so long but I’m glad we finally got around to it. In a sad twist, however, the dish that I have most been wanting to eat is one that we did not end up eating at this meal. Why not? You’ll have to read on to find out. Where did we get the food from? Quite appropriately from St. Paul’s Ethiopian institution, Fasika. Despite the missing dish it was a good meal. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 43: Pho Everest (Lakeville, MN)


We’ve been trying very hard through the pandemic, even in the winter, to get in a long family walk every weekend before picking up takeout. We’ve managed it most weeks, though sometimes a bit farcically. Two weeks ago, for example, we arrived at a park in Richfield to find the walking trails entirely covered in sheet ice—we ended up walking a couple of miles on very unattractive sidewalk through the adjoining neighbouhood instead. Some weekends, however, we succumb to laziness. And so even though this past weekend was warm by January in Minnesota standards the family ended up vegging indoors while I drove a scant 20 minutes to Lakeville to pick up Vietnamese food from Pho Everest in the Crossroads strip mall at the corner of Dodd and Cedar Avenue. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 42: (Mostly) North Indian Food at Kabob’s (Bloomington, MN)


When I came upon Kabob’s Indian Grill in late 2019 they immediately became my favourite Indian restaurant in the Twin Cities—not that that was saying very much. This was largely on the strength of their weekday lunch thalis—my favourite restaurant meal in Minnesota. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy their a la carte menu as well. We got food from them a couple of times last year as well after the pandemic started and mostly enjoyed those meals too. However, when it came to my first-ever rankings of Indian restaurants in the Twin Cities metro, I couldn’t put them into the top tier—where sit Godavari and Indian Masala. My rankings last year were driven largely by the South Indian offerings on the new(er) places that have opened in the last few years. Kabob’s focus too is on South Indian food, particularly Chettinad food. In 2021, however, my goal is to expand the rankings with an evaluation of the North Indian food scene in the Twin Cities metro, the food more familiar to most American diners. Before I get to the North Indian specialists proper, however, I’m scoping out the North Indian offerings at the South Indian specialists. I’ve already reported on our recent meal from Indian Masala in this genre. Here now is my take on some of  Kabobs’ North Indian offerings. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 41: Nawal (Burnsville, MN)


It has been almost five months since our pandemic takeout runs took us anywhere but to an Asian restaurant, be it Indian, Chinese or South East Asian. But this week finds us some distance away, in terms of culinary distance if not driving miles: at Nawal, a Somali restaurant in Burnsville. I last reported on a meal there almost exactly four years ago. That was right on the heels of the announcement of Trump’s first Muslim ban. It feels very good to be posting this review just before President Biden will finally nullify all of that nonsense. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 40: Back to Indian Masala (Maplewood, MN)


As I mentioned in my write-up on Sunday of Spice Bazaar, currently the major/only Indian grocery in Woodbury, that we were up that way on account of having a date to pick up more takeout from Indian Masala. Yes, Indian Masala is in Maplewood but Maplewood is a very weirdly shaped town and for all intents and purposes you could say that Indian Masala is in Woodbury. We first got food from Indian Masala in October. I gave it a glowing review and later in the year placed them, along with Godavari in Eden Prairie, in the top tier of my rankings of Twin Cities Metro Indian restaurants. We’ve been planning to go back for more for a while. And given how much we enjoyed their South Indian offerings I’ve been keen to try their North Indian dishes even though that’s the genre that has soured me on Indian restaurants in the US for almost three decades now. Here now is a report on one such meal of North Indian dishes. Continue reading

Spice Bazaar (Woodbury, MN)


Yesterday we went back to pick up takeout from Indian Masala (at the southern end of Maplewood where it’s almost Woodbury). As we did on our last takeout run there, we stopped first for a walk on the trails by the Battle Creek dog park. Here we discovered that those trails are now closed for anything but skiing. Luckily, the walking trail on the other side of Upper Afton road was open for regular bidness and we got in a nice walk around that area with friends we’ve met for these walks a few times during the pandemic. When we got done with the walk we still had 30 minutes before our takeout pickup time (I’d placed the order the night before) and so we repaired to Woodbury proper to check out a South Asian grocery there that I’d read about on the excellent East Metro Foodies Facebook group: Spice Bazaar. There were some things I needed to buy—curry leaves, ginger etc,—and it seemed like a good opportunity to see what else could be combined with Indian Masala outings in the future. Herewith a quick look at the store. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 39: Grand Szechuan to Start the New Year


Can a year that begins with mapo tofu as excellent as the one pictured at left possibly be bad? Of course it can. We ate Grand Szechuan’s mapo tofu several times last year and it was a shit year anyway. So while I am very happy to have started 2021 with Grand Szechuan as our first pandemic takeout meal I’m not taking this as a portent of anything. Cheerful bastard, aren’t I? But a thing to be very happy for, regardless of your outlook, is that Grand Szechuan is still in business and that, if the number of people arriving for pickups while I was waiting outside this Sunday is any indication, they are not in danger of closing any time soon. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 38: Cheng Heng (St. Paul, MN)


I posted my roundup of the year in pandemic takeout on Sunday and noted that I still had one full report to come. This is that report, of our last takeout meal of 2020, picked up from Cheng Heng in St. Paul (on the real “Eat Street”, where else?) on Saturday.

Cheng Heng—in case you live in the Twin Cities metro and still don’t know—is our premier Cambodian restaurant. This may seem like damning with faint praise as there may only be one other Cambodian restaurant (the smaller but also worthy Kolap) but it’s not meant to be. The food at Cheng Heng is very good and they are a true Twin Cities treasure, and at almost 25 years of age, also an institution. Of course, we hope for the best for all restaurants in this challenging time which has seen minimal true support from the federal government for restaurants—especially small, truly independent restaurants—or their workers; but I particularly hope that restaurants like Cheng Heng will manage to survive. Continue reading

The Year in Pandemic Takeout


The year is almost done. It’s hard to say when the pandemic will be done though. I’m guessing we’re going to be in the mode we’ve been in for the last nine months till at least the start of the summer before vaccination gets more widespread and infection rates drop meaningfully. There will therefore be more accounts of pandemic takeout meals before it’s all over and we can go back to eating in restaurants with friends. Hopefully, the restaurants will all still be there too. There have been a number of closures in the Twin Cities over the course of the year but as far as I can make out the toll has been heaviest at the high end where there are higher overheads and tight margins. The smaller, immigrant-owned restaurants that we eat at most of the time seem to have mostly weathered the storm—so far (though it’s hard to tell with the minimal coverage of these places in the local media outlets which, by and large continue to identify the local food scene with high-end and white restaurants). And some new places have even opened at the height of the pandemic. Continue reading

A Highly Subjective Ranking of Indian Restaurants in the Twin Cities Metro Area


I have argued before that we are currently in a new era of Indian food in the Twin Cities metro. Indeed, I’ve gone on about it on more than one occasion (most recently, here) and so I will spare you yet another replay of the whole dissertation. Suffice to say, there’s been a quantum leap in the last few years in the quality of Indian food available in the metro area and that the mainstream food media in the Cities has been all but completely quiet about it. This development—the former, not the latter—took us by surprise. When we arrived in Minnesota in 2007 the Indian food scene was quite bleak. In those pre-blog times we tried a couple of the North Indian places everyone recommended to us and were never moved to go back. Then in 2014 I first attempted a survey of the scene to see where things stood then and had to abandon it after the second stop. The last half-decade or so, however, has seen an influx of white collar Indians to the area and specifically people from the South Indian states. This has been reflected in the offerings at Indian groceries around town and in the arrival of a number of restaurants that are parts of franchises that operate elsewhere in the country where large populations of Indians can be found: Bawarchi, Hyderabad House, Kumar’s, Godavari. All in all, a new Indian food scene has emerged, one that exists in parallel with the old one of North Indian curry houses, which continues to be what the local food media and non-Indian reviewers on Yelp etc. largely focus on. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 37: Back to Bawarchi (Plymouth, MN)


My ranking of Twin Cities metro area Indian restaurants is coming next week. Before finalizing it I wanted to get back to Bawarchi in Plymouth and we managed to do that last weekend. We were last there more than six years ago, back when I last tried to do a survey of local Indian restaurants, a survey that came to a grinding halt after a disastrous lunch at the now defunct Dosa King. We’d liked that lunch at Bawarchi quite a bit though. At the time I’d noted that while it was good it wasn’t quite good enough to justify the two hour round-trip drive for us. However, I was curious to see how they would stack up to the new(er) competition. And so we went back last Saturday to pick up a large order that we ate by ourselves first for lunch last Saturday and then over a few more meals in the ensuing days. Herewith a quick report. Continue reading

A Love Letter to Favorite Recipes of Rice County Extension Homemakers 1965 (Volume IV)


A week ago, Sunday our friends Daniel and Emily dropped off a plate of cookies at our door. Like many others, they’ve apparently been baking a lot during the pandemic. There were some Moravian wafers on the plate and some Swedish almond rusks. I enjoyed one of each greatly with my evening tea, especially the rusk. I Whatsapped Daniel later with compliments and learned that the Moravian wafers were out of a Maida Heatter book but that the rusks were from something called Favorite Recipes of Rice County Extension Homemakers 1965 (Volume IV). This, he said, was a book they’d literally found on the street and that it was a trip. He sent me some pictures. I asked if either or both of them might be interested in writing up a review or appreciation of it for the blog at some point. Emily would, he said. And a few emails and a scarily short amount of time later this wonderful essay landed in my inbox. Continue reading

Saigon Market (Burnsville, MN)


On Tuesday I posted a quick review of takeout lunch from Saigon Deli in Burnsville. The restaurant, as I noted then, is attached to the larger Saigon Market. When we got to Minnesota the market used to be in Eagan, right off Cedar Avenue and we shopped there often—mostly for whole fish and ataulfo mangoes. Some years ago they moved a few miles west to their current location on Highway 13 in Burnsville. That location took a while to open and after a few thwarted attempts to shop there in the early going I lost track of them. This was a mistake. As I discovered when I stopped in a week ago, the store is much larger than the previous incarnation and more fully stocked with a lot more than just Vietnamese ingredients. And, of course, it helps that their restaurant makes very good food as well. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 36: Saigon Deli (Burnsville, MN)


The original plan for last weekend had been to drive up to St. Paul for a walk and pick up either Cambodian or Ethiopian takeout from one of our favourite places on/off University Ave. But things didn’t quite pan out that way. Instead I went a little closer to home: to Saigon Deli in Burnsville. This is the restaurant attached to the Saigon Market. We have not yet eaten there. We used to shop regularly at Saigon Market when they were located in Eagan, a hop, skip and a jump from The Cellars. A few years ago they moved to their new digs on Highway 13 in Burnsville. I’d made a few forays to check out the new space at its scheduled opening but it took them quite a while longer to actually get going and by the time that happened they had completely slid off my radar. I have to thank my friend Pierre therefore for mentioning the store in an email last week. I finally stopped in and picked up a bunch of frozen fish and quite a bit of food from the restaurant. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 35: Hyderabad House (Plymouth, MN)


My survey of the new wave of Indian restaurants in the Twin Cities continues. Next up, the Plymouth location of yet another US franchise that has come to the Twin Cities suburbs in the last few years: Hyderabad House. Well, I guess their full name is Nawabi Hyderabad House Biryani Place but that’s a bit of a mouthful and “Hyderabad House” is how they answer the phone. They have actually been around in the area longer than both Godavari—which opened this September in Eden Prairie—and Kumar’s—which opened last October in Apple Valley. Hyderabad House first opened in early 2018 in Minnetonka and then in late 2019 they opened this second branch in Plymouth. That should give you a sense of the likely presence of the intended desi market in the general area, given that the two locations are just about 10 minutes drive from each other. The first wave of the pandemic resulted in both locations closing at the end of March and then in May only the Plymouth location opened back up, first to take-out, then to dine-in and now back to take-out only. As to whether the Minnetonka location will reopen, I don’t know but I’m hoping it will as we quite liked the food we picked up from the Plymouth location last weekend and the other location is 10 minutes closer to us. Continue reading

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