Sole Cafe (St. Paul, MN)


Here is a report on one of the last meals we ate out in the Twin Cities before I left for my current trip to Hong Kong and India (I’m now on the last leg, in Delhi after a week in Hong Kong and five days in Bombay). This was a rare Korean outing for us, at Sole Cafe. Sole Cafe is located on Snelling, a few blocks from University Avenue—which was, as you may recall, proclaimed by plebiscite the Twin Cities’s true eat street (or at least unilaterally by me). We have not been inclined to eat Korean out much since we got here. The reasons for this are two-fold: 1) the missus cooks it at home; 2) the places that were described to us as the Twin Cities’ best we found to be just about whelming—such were Hoban in Eagan and the food counter attached to Dong Yang in Columbia Heights. The less said about the erstwhile Rabbit Hole‘s Korean food the better. However, in recent months a number of people have recommended Sole Cafe to us and so we decided to finally give it a shot. We were very pleasantly surprised by the meal.  Continue reading

Midtown Global Market (Minneapolis)


The Midtown Global Market was the first place I ever ate at in Minnesota. This was a little less than a year before we moved to Minnesota, and just a few months after it opened in May, 2006. I was visiting St. Paul on work and my friend Mike and I drove over to check it out. I got some wonderful octopus tacos from La Sirena Gorda and Mike got tacos from Los Ocampo’s counter, if I remember correctly. It was a vibrant, fun space and it made an impression on me that was quite different from the image of Minnesota I’d put together from my years in the western US. (This impression was bolstered later that weekend at a meal at Saigon in St. Paul.) A few months later we had to decide whether to remain in Colorado or make a jump to Minnesota, and this impression of a culturally diverse Minnesota helped make up our minds—it also probably didn’t hurt that it was very warm in the Twin Cities during my visit in early November, 2006.

Well, November isn’t always warm here, and La Sirena Gorda, alas, is long gone—as are some of our other early favourites there—but the Midtown Market is still going strong, with new food outlets and merchants who are excellent in their own right; indeed, it seems very entrenched now in the local scene. Here is a quick look at it for the benefit of those who have somehow never been, or have not been in a while. Continue reading

Joy’s Thai (Lakeville, MN)


We ate at Joy’s Pattaya Thai in Richfield last year and thought the meal was decent enough. However, it is still far enough away from us that it never quite made sense to go there over our favourites on University Avenue in St. Paul (shout out once again to the Twin Cities’ true Eat Street). Imagine our surprise then to discover that a second location of Joy’s has been open for almost three years, just off Cedar Avenue in Lakeville, and just about 15-20 minutes from us. This is yet more evidence that you should not look to me as someone who is very up on Twin Cities restaurant openings and so forth (as with whisky, I have lots of opinions but very little information). But while may be slow to learn about restaurants, once we do we are quicker to go out and check them out. Accordingly, a couple of weeks ago we descended on Joy’s Thai with a number of the friends who’ve joined us on our University Avenue outings. Herewith, an account of our meal.  Continue reading

Tay Ho (St. Paul, MN)


At the end of October I published a little tribute to University Avenue in St. Paul—in my opinion the Twin Cities’s true “Eat Street”. My post covered a three mile stretch from just west of Snelling to just east of Western, stopping at Bangkok Thai Deli. In the comments, Ed Bast recommended Tay Ho, a Vietnamese restaurant just a little further east from Bangkok Thai Deli. Embarrassed that I’d never eaten there, I resolved to fix that right away. Accordingly, we descended on them on the following weekend with two of our friends who often join us on our weekend eating jaunts. Here’s how it went down.  Continue reading

Holy Land Market (Minneapolis)


Holy Land, located on Central Avenue in Northeast Minneapolis, is a Twin Cities institution. It is not only one of the most iconic immigrant markets in the area, it is one of the most iconic markets period. When I began my series of posts on immigrant markets I didn’t think I would ever profile a place like Holy Land because, after all, anyone interested in finding out more about these markets wouldn’t need to be told about Holy Land. But then in the last few weeks I had conversations with a number of people who’ve lived here longer than we have and who’d never been to Holy Land. In the hope therefore of reducing by even a little the numbers of the sorry people of whom this is true, here is an extensive look at what you can find in Holy Land and why you should go shop there this weekend.  Continue reading

Ansari’s (Eagan, MN)


Ansari’s has been around in Eagan for almost as long as we’ve been around in Minnesota and yet I was not aware of their existence until I saw them included a month or so ago on some website or the other’s list of “hidden gems” of the Twin Cities’ east metro. I was chagrined to discover that we’ve been driving past them on a near-weekly basis  for the last 10 years! They are located in a strip-mall right where Cliff Rd. hits the 35E. In our defense, they’re not visible from the freeway, and I don’t think too many people have ever driven to Eagan expecting to find a Middle Eastern restaurant there. Well, this one is there and—based on our recent lunch—while I would not drive to Eagan expressly to eat there, I am happy to add them to my list of south metro establishments to eat at on the way back from the airport or from Ikea or similar. That is to say, the food was not amazing but it was more than serviceable. Details follow.  Continue reading

In Praise of the Twin Cities’ True Eat Street


Minneapolis and St. Paul may be referred to as the Twin Cities but they do not wield the same cultural power. Yes, the actual state Capitol may be in St. Paul but as far as Twin Citizens and the world outside are concerned, the cultural capital of Minnesota is Minneapolis. And this is true of the reputation of the two cities’ food scenes as well. I don’t know if denizens of Minneapolis feel smug about this; I do know that many denizens of St. Paul feel angsty about it. Thankfully, I, a resident of a small town 50 minutes south of both Minneapolis and St. Paul am here to settle this once and for all: the best food in the Twin Cities is in St. Paul, and what’s more, it’s on and around one 3 mile stretch of University Avenue, from just west of Snelling to just east of Western. You may disagree but I hope you like being wrong.  Continue reading

Viet Hoa Lao (Eagan, MN)


We lunched yesterday at Ansari’s Mediterranean Grill in Eagan (writeup coming in a week or two). On the way out of the strip mall we noticed a sign for the Viet Hoa Lao market and decided to stop in and and see if they had one of the brands of white rice we like. They were out but I took the opportunity to take a look around the market for future reference. There used to be another Vietnamese grocery in the area—very close to The Cellars, a liquor store I used to stop in at (which seems to have turned into Atomic Liquors at some point*)—but it moved further west to Burnsville. The presence of another viable market where we could pick up rice and Asian vegetables and coconut milk and fruit and so forth without having to go very far from the highway would be a good thing. I am glad to report that Viet Hoa Lao fits the bill.  Continue reading

Martina (Minneapolis)


Martina opened just under a year ago in the tony Linden Hills  neighbourhood of Minneapolis. The restaurant occupies the (redone) space of the erstwhile Upton 43. We were never particularly moved to visit Upton 43 and so I cannot speak to how the interior has changed, but what is there now is a pretty standard issue contemporary “fine dining” space. That is to say, open ceilings, open kitchens, no tablecloths and a lot of sound. Unlike at a place like Spoon and Stable, the cocktail bar is right in the middle of the restaurant and seems to serve as its focal point. More than any expensive restaurant we’ve been to in the Twin Cities in a while, Martina seems like a spot for the young and well-heeled of the Twin Cities; it was still hopping when we left close to midnight on the Saturday of our visit—with the bar as crowded as when we’d got there at 9—and that’s not always the norm here. And the food? It was pretty good too.  Continue reading

Thai Cafe, Again (St. Paul, MN)


We ate at Thai Cafe for the first time late in 2017, really liked the meal despite a major misstep (a number of dishes came out sans heat), and vowed to come back again soon. Predictably, it took us almost another year to make it back, but make it back we did. With us were most of the people who had joined us on the first occasion. We were a large group—eight adults and our two brats—and we got a large number of dishes that we hadn’t tried on that first visit (please read that review if you have not already done so). I am pleased to report that the second meal was not a letdown—in fact, it was better than the first.  Continue reading

Peninsula, Again (Minneapolis)


I recently re-reviewed Homi two years after my first report. Next week I’ll have a return visit to a Thai restaurant in St. Paul that I first reviewed last year. In between those here is a second review of a restaurant in Minneapolis that I first reviewed four years ago. Peninsula remains the pre-eminent Malaysian restaurant in the Twin Cities metro area—though it must be admitted that that is not saying very much. Of the two other Malaysian places we’ve been to here, one is just about passable (Satay 2 Go in Apple Valley) and our meal at the other was atrocious (Singapore in south Minneapolis, now closed). As far as I know, there are no others; please correct me below if this is incorrect. Anyway, Peninsula, I am glad to report, remains pretty consistently what they were four and even ten years ago and if you navigate their menu carefully it is very possible to eat a good meal.  Continue reading

Top 5 Twin Cities Dishes, July-September 2018

It’s October and therefore it is time for my list of top 5 dishes eaten in the Twin Cities metro in the third quarter of the year. The ground rules for this series of posts are a) that the dishes have to be ones that are either regularly available at the restaurants or still available at the time of the post; and b) that only dish will be listed per restaurant. Rule 1 prevents me from listing our favourite dishes from our dinner at Tenant in early September—their menu turns over every six weeks. And Rule 2 prevents me from listing three dishes from our recent lunch at Thai Cafe. The observant Twin Cities reader will notice that there are four restaurants in this list that are not just located in St. Paul but are located along one street in St. Paul. University Ave. in St. Paul is, in my opinion, the greatest food street in the area—I may have a separate post this month extolling its virtues. But to be fair, we just happened to not eat very much in Minneapolis in the last few months. Minneapolis may be better for high-end food but the food we crave most is more recent immigrant food, especially from Asia, and St. Paul is, on the whole, far superior to Minneapolis for those cuisines.  Continue reading

Homi, Again (St. Paul, MN)


A nice thing about reviewing restaurants on your own blog is that there’s no compulsion to only go to new(er) places—you can go back and revisit places and see if they’ve maintained their standards (and in some cases, to see if they’ve gotten better). I’ve done a fair bit of that this year with returns to Tilia, Hmongtown Marketplace, Bangkok Thai Deli, Szechuan, Tea House, House of Curry, Spoon and Stable, A&L Chinese, On’s Kitchen and Grand Szechuan. Here now is my second report on what is now probably our favourite Mexican restaurant, Homi, on University Avenue in St. Paul. I posted my first write-up just over two years ago. We’ve eaten there a few more times since and this seems like a good time for a re-visit on the blog. This report covers meals eaten over the last year and a half, though the pictures are all from two dinners, one last summer, and one two weekends ago. I am happy to report that Homi is still very good.  Continue reading

Tenant (Minneapolis)


We have been trying to get to Tenant for a while now. They opened in the Spring of 2017, while we were in London for three months. When we got back we cut back on our eating out for a while on account of the reckless eating we’d engaged in for an extended period abroad. And because of their limited seating and their constrained reservation system we couldn’t find a date that worked later in 2017. We finally made reservations this April but just a few days before the weather took a turn for the worse, a blizzard was predicted and we had to cancel (the blizzard did come to pass).
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