Desi Brothers (Bloomington, MN)

Here is the latest in my series of looks at grocery stores in the Twin Cities metro that serve the area’s immigrant communities. In January I posted a look at one of the metro’s most established South Asian groceries, Pooja Grocers—way up in Hilltop. Here now is a look at a more recent arrival in the south metro. It is located in Bloomington, in the same general complex at the intersection of Penn Ave. and American Blvd. that is also home to Itton Ramen. And, indeed, we stopped in there after our lunch at Itton Ramen a couple of weeks ago. That lunch disappointed more than a little but I am glad to say that the market did not. Continue reading


Itton Ramen (Bloomington, MN)

I recently got a tip from a reader about a new’ish ramen place in Bloomington. Ramen is big in our family and so we were glad of the news. While there is good ramen to be had in Minneapolis and St. Paul, it’s would be very nice to have some a bit closer to us. And so on Saturday we showed up at Itton Ramen with a couple of the friends we often eat out with. As I also like to support small restaurants, I would love to tell you that we found it to be an unsung gem. But, alas, that was not our experience. While the meal, on the whole, was not bad per se, it was more than a little underwhelming on most counts. Herewith, the details. Continue reading

Legendary Spice (Minneapolis)

I said at the start of last week’s Twin Cities Metro review that it was and was not my first review of Pho Tempo. Similarly, this is and is not my first review of Legendary Spice. In the case of Pho Tempo it was because the restaurant (attached to Saigon Market) had undergone a renovation, menu makeover and name change since my first review. The story with Legendary Spice is a bit more complicated. They opened in 2017 as a Minneapolis franchise of the Chicago-based Lao Sze Chuan group. It was in that avatar that I reviewed them in 2018. The next year they split from the Lao Sze Chuan group, changing the name to Legendary Spice, now with a link to a Chengdu-based restaurant. They remained in the same space and have many of the same dishes. Back in 2018, we liked our meal fine but, as I said at the end of that review, we didn’t think it was anything that warranted driving a further 20 minutes north past the exit for Grand Szechuan or, for that matter, picking them over Tea House, which is just a minute or so away. This meal, however, was a different story. We liked it a lot more. Continue reading

India’s Gandhi Tandoori Bollywood Mahal (Minneapolis; One Night Only)

Earlier in the month I’d announced that I’d be doing a pop-up dinner with Restaurant Alma in Minneapolis, centered on Indian cooking of the type I mostly do at home. The pop-up took place this past Friday evening. 70 diners, spread across two seatings, ate a range of dishes served over four courses. I was very nervous going into this project—though much less so the closer we got to the night of—but I thought it went very well. Not all the diners may agree, of course, but I was very happy with the food as cooked by the restaurant under my direction and thought the menu hung together well.

If you follow me on Twitter or on Instagram, you may have already seen/scrolled past my recap of the experience, but I thought I’d put it together on the blog as well in one, more readable package. Here it is. Continue reading

Pho Tempo (Burnsville, MN)

This is both my first review of Pho Tempo in Burnsville and it is not. That is because Pho Tempo is the new name of the restaurant attached to Saigon Market (in the Towne & Country shopping centre, where Highway 13 meets Cliff Ave.). I posted a pandemic takeout report on it back when it was still called Saigon Deli (that name persists in the check printouts at Pho Tempo). But it’s not just the name that has changed. The space—still open to the market on two sides—has been renovated and the menu too has been given a refresh. The result is what is probably the best Vietnamese restaurant in the South Metro, and one that, in my opinion, gives many of the better places in the Twin Cities proper a run for their money. So we thought, anyway, after two meals eaten there this past week. Continue reading

Dong Yang (Hilltop, MN)

When we first moved to Minnesota in 2007 we did all our Korean food shopping at the venerable United Noodles in Minneapolis. Then we happened on Kim’s in St. Paul and that became our go-to store. (United Noodles’s pan-Asian selection goes wider than it does deep.) At some point after that we heard tell of a larger and better store up north on Central Avenue in Minneapolis. And that is how we happened on both Pooja Grocers and Dong Yang. Back then, they were both located in the same unattractive large strip mall in Hilltop. Pooja Grocers eventually moved out to their own digs but Dong Yang is still where they were. And they’re still the largest Korean grocery in the Twin Cities. We don’t shop there very much any more—Hana Market is smaller but is much closer to us—but there’s something comforting about knowing that they’re still there and still thriving. Here now is a very belated look at the store, via pictures taken on a shopping excursion after our second meal at NY Gyro in December. Continue reading

An Annoying Pop-Up at Cafe Alma, Friday Feb 24

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you may already have caught a whiff of what may well be the beginning of the end of fine dining in Minnesota. I will be collaborating with the fine chefs of Alma on an Indian pop-up dinner in the Cafe Alma space. The pop-up is named India’s Gandhi Tandoori Bollywood Mahal and will take place on Friday, February 24. There will be two seatings: one at 5.30 pm and one at 8 pm. The cost is $60/head before drinks, tax and the 21% hospitality charge.

Both seatings will feature the same set menu of 7-8 dishes presented in a few courses along the lines of the restaurant’s current dinner model. There will be no choices available, which means this will not be appropriate for vegans, vegetarians or people with dairy or gluten restrictions (and I should note that the menu will include pork). Nor will there be choices offered on spice/heat levels in any of the dishes (though I don’t think anything will be very hot). Continue reading

Pooja Grocers (Hilltop, MN)

No restaurant report this week. Instead, I have for you a look at one of the Twin Cities’ premier Indian grocery stores, Pooja Grocers in Hilltop. Pooja Grocers was already around when we arrived in Minnesota in 2007, though not in the same location. It was in Hilltop then as well but in the massive strip mall that also contains the venerable Korean grocery, Dong Yang. Pooja Grocers was a large business then too and I’m not sure what occasioned the move to the new location some years later. And I’m not sure when exactly the move took place either, as by then we were not doing our Indian and Korean food shopping at the north end of the metro. By the early mid-2010s, more and more Indian groceries had opened up around the south metro, and once we happened on Hana Market in Bloomington there really wasn’t any need for us to make the longer trek to Hilltop. Yes, both Dong Yang and Pooja Grocers are larger than their south metro counterparts but we can pretty much get what we need there. Continue reading

Trieu Chau, The Return (St. Paul, MN)

My report on El Triunfo last week was supposed to have been my last/only Minnesota food report in January but, yet again, I fail to keep my word. Our older boy spent the second half of last week at a gathering of juvenile nerds in the Twin Cities called Youth in Government and we had the opportunity on Saturday to tour the capitol and see the kids in action. Our own boy, being an 8th grader, wasn’t actually at the Capitol but it was still cool and not a little ironic to see a bunch of high-school kids doing a better job of modeling American democracy than actual Republican members of the House of Representatives in Washington DC. And since the tour was at 1, we decided it would be easiest to have a quick lunch down the road in St. Paul beforehand. Which is how we found ourselves once again on the Twin Cities’ true Eat Street, at one of our favourite Vietnamese restaurants, Trieu Chau. Continue reading

El Triunfo to Start Another Year (Northfield, MN)

My first restaurant report of 2022 was a brief round-up of a few meals eaten at El Triunfo in 2021. And my first restaurant report of 2023 is of a few meals eaten at El Triunfo in 2022. El Triunfo, as you may remember, is a small Mexican restaurant in our town of Northfield, Minnesota. When I first wrote them up on the blog, many years ago, I referred to them as our favourite restaurant in our town. This is still the case. The restaurant scene in Northfield has not remained static in the past decade but that’s not to say it’s improved radically—though there have been some welcome additions (Tin Tea and Coco’s Place among them). El Triunfo remains, however, and it remains reliably dependable for what it does: putting out an edited menu of basic Mexican fare; they push no boundaries and follow no trends, but the food is predictably tasty and always a good deal. And they remain an essential part of our town’s cultural geography. Continue reading

Grand Szechuan, 2022 (Bloomington, MN)

As I have said many times before, Grand Szechuan in Bloomington is probably our family’s favourite restaurant in Minnesota. It is the place we eat at the most, the place we’ve eaten at the most with the largest cross-section of our Minnesota friends, and the place we’ve probably taken more out-of-town guests to than any other. Through the first two years of the pandemic we got takeout from them at a steady tick, and this February they were the first Minnesota restaurant all four of us ate together at. I’ve previously chronicled that happy return on the blog. This report covers three other meals we ate in at Grand Szechuan over the rest of the year, mostly in the company of our usual Grand Szechuan crew. I can’t think of a more appropriate restaurant with which to close out my year in restaurant meal reports/reviews. Continue reading

Twin Cities South Asian Restaurant Rankings, 2022 Update

Here is the third edition of my Twin Cities Metro Indian/South Asian Restaurant Rankings. I posted the original in December 2020 and the follow-up in December 2021. At the end of that 2021 update I promised various things that I would do before the 2022 update. These included checking out the a la carte offerings from a couple of places I had only tried the lunch buffets at; trying the prominent Nepali restaurants in the metro; checking out Raag, Pizza Karma and the Muddy Tiger food truck; and checking out a location each of the Taste of India and India Palace chains. I am pleased to tell you that I only got around to doing one of these things: getting takeout from the India Palace in Burnsville. We had plans to eat at Everest on Grand and Himalayan that fell through at the last moment on a couple of occasions; and I only discovered at the end of the year that Muddy Tiger had been showing up regularly outside a bar in our town! I would promise that in 2023 I will keep the promises I made for 2022 but best not to over-extend myself. Continue reading

NY Gyro (Columbia Heights, MN)

I’ve been planning to eat at NY Gyro for a few years now. I heard about them about the same time that I heard of Original Mediterranean Grill in New Brighton: two restaurants whose names indicate Mediterranean menus but which in fact are also Pakistani restaurants. Original Mediterranean Grill’s Pakistani fare—especially their halwa-puri—did not disappoint in the second year of the pandemic; and I cannot explain why it took me another year to finally eat at NY Gyro. Well, actually, I can: with the opening of desi and Korean groceries south of the river (TBS Mart, Mantra Bazar, Hana Market), we have had very little motivation for a long time now to make the trek up to Columbia Heights as we once used to do regularly to shop at Pooja Grocers and Dong Yang. But now NY Gyro might become a reason in its own right. I first ate there by myself a couple of weeks ago. I liked what I got so much that I dragged the family and some friends there with me this past Sunday for a meal that became a very good celebration of Argentina’s World Cup win. Herewith the details. Continue reading

Favourite Dishes Eaten in the Twin Cities Metro: October 1-December 31 2022

It’s only the middle of December, but we’re off to Los Angeles in a few days and done with eating out in Minnesota in 2022 (with one caveat—see below), and so here is my list of favourite dishes eaten in Twin Cities metro restaurants in the last quarter of 2022. Unlike in the summer, I went nowhere in the fall and nor did we do go anywhere more than once, and so there are a lot of different places to report on. As always, the meals run the gamut from the casual to the high end, with most in the casual end of the spectrum. There are quite a few restaurants in the list that we visited for the first time as well as some of our very favourite restaurants. Not all our outings were great, but I am happy to say that only one was a true disappointment. This was more than made up for by the places we ate at for the first time that were very much not disappointments. As I have been doing throughout the pandemic, I am listing here at least one dish from every restaurant we ate at—even the one that was a disappointment. You can see my fuller reviews of each by clicking on the links in the list. Keep in mind that a couple of the places in the list are there for meals I haven’t reviewed formally yet—those reviews will be coming in the weeks ahead. Continue reading

Spoon and Stable IV (Minneapolis)

We went two and a half years between our first and second meals at Spoon and Stable, and three and a half years between the second and third. We ate our fourth meal there, however, only a little over a year after the third. That third dinner was eaten on their sidewalk at the end of October last year. This was a December meal though and there was no outdoor seating and no question of our wanting to sit outside. We were scheduled to eat there with friends but they ended up having to punt. We considered cancelling and then seeing if we could cut the reservation down to a table for two. In the end, we decided to stick with the table of four and take our boys along with us for their first look at the true high-end in the Twin Cities. A good decision too as the meal was very good and we had a great time together. Continue reading

Eating at Hmongtown Marketplace, November 2022 (St. Paul, MN)

In mid-November I posted looks at the greenmarket and the food court at Hmong Village in St. Paul. That outing was with a few friends, sans the family. Here now is an account of a visit with the family to the OG Hmong market and food court, Hmongtown Marketplace. I’ve reported on visits there before, in 2014 and 2018. I didn’t mean to go four years between reports—it just sort of happened. Well, we enjoyed our meal enough that it’s more than likely that we’ll be back in far less than four years. I’m pleased to report that while many things have changed at Hmongtown Marketplace, it has nonetheless remained more or less the same; and it remain an essential Twin Cities institution—one that anyone interested in broadening their sense of what it means to be Minnesotan, or just anyone interested in Hmong food, should be familiar with. Continue reading

The Weekday Lunch Buffet at Kumar’s (Apple Valley, MN)

Sometime in the next few weeks I’ll be posting the 2022 edition of my Twin Cities South Asian/Indian restaurant rankings. Those who’ve read the original list and my 2021 follow-up will recall that I placed Kumar’s in the second tier in both. In the interim their profile seems to have gone up a bit. I believe they were named the best Indian restaurant in the region in some poll or the other—and I’ve been seeing their name pop more and more on food groups on Facebook. Not having visited or gotten takeout from them yet this year, it seemed appropriate to check them out once more before updating my 2022 list. I’d hoped to get the usual crew together for a weeknight dinner but when I found myself in the area in search of a meal at lunch time last week, I decided to stop in by myself. Here’s how it went. Continue reading

Double Dragon Foods (St. Paul, MN)

My recipe post this week was two days late. To make up for the heartbreak this undoubtedly caused you, here is a bonus post, a look at another of the large Asian groceries in the Twin Cities metro: Double Dragon Foods in St. Paul. It was brought to my attention by frequent commenter, steveinmn, in the comments on my look at Ha Tien Supermarket back in September. The name didn’t register then when he mentioned it but as we approached it this past week, I realized I’d passed it a couple of times on the way to Krungthep Thai, which is located just a hop, step and jump from the intersection of Rice and Maryland where Double Dragon occupies all of one large strip mall in the northeastern quadrant. It’s not the largest of the Asian groceries in St. Paul but it’s quite comprehensive and does have some things to recommend it over the larger outfits (such as Ha Tien and Dragon Star). Continue reading