Bombay Pizza Kitchen (Eden Prairie, MN)


Bombay Pizza Kitchen opened late last summer in Eden Prairie. As their name indicates, their thing is Indian-style pizza, a genre with an established history in India. Indeed, on our family trips to Delhi the boys much enjoy eating Indian-style pizza at outlets of Domino’s or Pizza Hut in malls (take a look at Pizza Hut India’s options here). I would imagine the genre is already quite widespread in places in the US where large populations of Indians and other South Asians can be found. The Twin Cities is increasingly one of those places and so it’s not a surprise that it should be here too now. Of course, they’re not the first such place in the Twin Cities metro; they’re not even the first in Eden Prairie: Pizza Karma, which opened a year or so previous, is less than a 10 minute drive away. We had been planning to go eat at Pizza Karma before the pandemic began and it’s entirely by happenstance that we ended up at Bombay Pizza Kitchen first. We stopped in for lunch with friends this past Sunday, after a 3.5 mile walk around Rice Marsh Lake on the border of Eden Prairie and Chanhassen. We were hungry and got a fair bit of the menu. Here’s how it went. Continue reading

Meritage II (St. Paul, MN)


For the second weekend in a row it seemed like our plans to eat an outdoor meal at a fancy restaurant would be spiked by the weather. You may recall that we tried to eat at Colita the weekend before last but the forecasted rain (which did show up) led to the reservations on their patio being cancelled that morning. (Don’t feel too bad for us: we ended up under the awning on Andale’s patio and ate very well.) Undaunted by this damp outcome I made reservations for the missus’ birthday dinner at Meritage, whose website lists a terrace. Now I couldn’t remember a terrace from the last time we ate there—it turns out they use the word “terrace” for what I would call “the sidewalk in front of the restaurant”. But this is not the season for semantics. Winter is coming and we will take whatever opportunities for outdoor dining as present themselves. As the week went on I checked the forecast every day. Wouldn’t you know it, by Thursday there was rain predicted for the exact time of our reservation. Not wanting a last minute cancellation, I called the restaurant on Friday to see what kind of shelter they might have on their “terrace” and was reassured to be told that our table was under an awning and it would probably take a major thunderstorm for there to be any issues. To be safe, I moved our reservation from 8 pm to 7.15 pm. I am happy to say that there was no cancellation call on Saturday morning. Here is how the evening went. Continue reading

Favourite Dishes Eaten in the Twin Cities Metro: July 1-Sep 30, 2021


A week later than usual, here is my round-up of some of our favourite dishes eaten at/from Twin Cities restaurants in the last quarter of the year (see here for the April 1-June 30 round-up and here for the Jan 1-Mar 31 round-up). At the start of July we expected we’d be back to in-person dining on a regular basis very soon. Indeed, two of the July meals here (at Tenant and Estelle) saw the missus and I dining indoors. But then the Delta numbers began to look worrying and given our not-fully vaccinated family we decided to return to a more cautious posture—which we continue to exhibit now. But that’s not to say that all the rest of our restaurant meals were takeout. There are a number of those, yes, but of late we’ve been eating more and more at places that have dedicated outdoor seating. Winter is coming but it has been a quite warm fall so far. Hopefully the younger boy will get his shots soon and hopefully the Delta numbers will go down soon as well. If that happens you can expect the next edition to feature more in-person dining. Continue reading

Andale Taqueria, Again (Richfield, MN)


We were scheduled for Mexican dinner with friends on Saturday night but not this Mexican dinner. We had reservations at Colita for a four-top on their patio. Alas, as the day approached the weather forecast turned ever dire. We woke up with hope on Saturday as the meteorologists predicted that the rain would end before dinner time. But the meteorologists are dirty liars and as the evening approached the threat of rain remained constant and the restaurant cancelled all patio reservations. We could, of course, have chosen to stay at home but I put it to our friends that we could go somewhere else for a Mexican meal and they were up for it. And so we drove to Richfield and ate dinner on Andale’s patio. It was not the fine dining meal we’d planned but it was a very fine meal. Continue reading

Shopping at El Burrito Mercado (St. Paul, MN)


We ate lunch on the patio at El Burrito Mercado last weekend and after the meal I browsed the mercado itself. The meal was fine but the mercado is truly special. The first incarnation opened in 1979—though not at this location—and as the business has grown over the years it has become a very impressive one-stop shop for Mexican foods (or so I assume anyway). From vegetables to a carniceria to spices to canned foods to prepared foods to pastries they’ve pretty much got you covered for all but the most esoteric needs. If you haven’t been—or haven’t been in a while—go take a look and buy a little—or, even better, a lot. Continue reading

El Burrito Mercado (St. Paul, MN)


1979 appears to have been an important year in the history of Twin Cities dining. It is the year in which Saji-Ya opened in St. Paul and it is also the year in which El Burrito Mercado—perhaps the Twin Cities’ most iconic Hispanic business—opened. It opened however entirely as a mercado/market; it wasn’t until 1983 that they started serving food. And it was in 1995 that they moved into the massive space they currently occupy on Cesar Chavez avenue and which they have added to steadily over the years. This expansion has largely taken the form of ever-greater dining space. The complex now contains a large market (with prepared foods and a butcher shop), a counter-service cafe, and a  bar/restaurant space with two dining rooms and a large adjoining patio which features live music and so forth. We ate lunch on this patio this past Saturday with the same crew that had joined us at Mañana two weeks prior. Here’s how it went. Continue reading

Saji-Ya (St. Paul, MN)


My last dine-in meal before the pandemic closures first hit Minnesota in March 2020 was eaten at the sushi bar at Sakura in St. Paul. That meal surprised me by being completely decent—my history with sushi in the Twin Cities, you see, has been less than inspiring (see my accounts of meals at places like Kado no Mise, Sushi Fix and Origami which have all been or are local critical darlings). It wasn’t the case that I found the sushi at Sakura to be of a very high quality but that it was all fine! Fine is good. At the time a number of people told me I needed to also get to Saji-Ya. And then the plague intervened. A year and a half later, I’ve finally made it there. We had a family dinner on their patio last Saturday and once again the experience was far better than I’d feared it would be. I know this sounds like damning with very faint praise but we enjoyed the meal on the whole. Continue reading

Mañana (St. Paul, MN)


As I’ve noted before, the Twin Cities metro has a much larger Hispanic population—and by extension, a much larger Hispanic food scene—than a lot of people outside Minnesota realize—and, for that matter, probably a much larger population than a lot of people inside Minnesota realize. Certainly, the Twin Cities food media only fitfully remembers that there are Mexican restaurants outside the few relatively recent high-end places that are part of the pr-driven ecosystem. And if the established Mexican places outside that ecosystem don’t get very much attention non-Mexican Hispanic places seem to get even less attention. Well, to be honest, I’ve not done such a great job myself either of seeking out and covering these places over the years (though to also be fair to myself I’m a one-man operation here). But I hope to be doing more of that in the next year or two, especially in the major Hispanic neighbourhoods of St. Paul. This week’s review comes from one of those neighbourhood, on 7th St., and from what is probably the standard bearer of Salvadoran food in the Twin Cities; Mañana. We ate a very good lunch indeed there this Sunday. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 68: Original Mediterranean Grill (New Brighton, MN)


Despite the name of the restaurant this is actually a review of a Pakistani restaurant.

At the end of my rankings of Indian restaurants in the Twin Cities metro, posted late last year, I’d said that in 2021 I would try to finally get up to the Pakistani restaurants in the North Metro I’d heard tell of. Original Mediterranean Grill is one of them. It is one of a few (several?) Pakistani restaurants in the area that trade on Mediterranean, which is to say Mediterranean Arab branding. This may be a kind of allegory for Pakistani food in most of the US: usually elided by the relentless focus on Indian food but not able yet to proclaim its own name as a marketable category. And so in the Twin Cities—at least—it can be found in a few restaurants whose main hustle is a cuisine the mainstream market can recognize: gyros, shawarma, hummus, falafel etc. Elsewhere on the menu are some Pakistani dishes for those who know to look for them. So it is at Original Mediterranean Grill in New Brighton. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 67: Krungthep Thai (St. Paul, MN)


Having gone back to Grand Szechuan for our previous pandemic takeout outing it followed naturally that this weekend’s takeout would be Thai. It was tempting to just go back to one of our University Ave. standbys—Bangkok Thai Deli, On’s or Thai Cafe—or to hit up newcomer Basil Cafe again; but in the end we decided to return to Krungthep Thai where we had an excellent meal back in late 2019 and which we’d inexplicably never gone back to. Well, it’s not that inexplicable, I guess—they’re a bit further out for us than the University Ave. stalwarts. Anyway, we did go back to pick up some food and bring it back to eat on our deck with friends. And I am pleased to report it was again an excellent lunch and perhaps the best of our recent takeout Thai meals. Details follow. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 66: Grand Szechuan (Bloomington, MN)


It’s been just about a month since my last pandemic takeout report. At the time of that post (a brief write-up of takeout from Matt’s Bar) I’d begun to think we were done with mostly takeout meals. We ate dinner in at Tenant, we ate in at all our meals in Kansas City, and we came back to the Twin Cities and ate in at Estelle. The coda to that Estelle meal, however, was a call from the restaurant the next day alerting us that a server had tested positive for covid and that they’d be shutting down for a few days as a result. A bad omen it seemed like and so it proved to be. With the rapid spread of the delta variant we’ve gone back to our previous cautious posture. We did not eat in anywhere in Madison and are unlikely to be eating in anywhere until either the numbers approve or vaccines are approved for <12 yos. We’re happy to eat at places with outdoor seating (see Taco Madre) and we’re happy to bring food back to eat with cautious and vaccinated friends at home. And that is what we did this past weekend with a a takeout order from Grand Szechuan. Continue reading

Taco N Madre (St. Paul, MN)


We had been slated for several weeks to eat dinner at Petite Leon this past Saturday. But with the Delta variant spreading quickly in Minnesota—and reports that the Pfizer vaccine may not offer very strong protection against breakthrough infection—and August 2021 beginning to feel increasingly like August 2020, we decided to be cautious. And so we cancelled our plans for fine dining Mexican dinner in Minneapolis and instead went for casual, outdoor Mexican lunch in St. Paul. Our port of call? The relatively new Taco N Madre on St. Paul’s West Side (I think). Here is how it went. Continue reading

Estelle (St. Paul)


Estelle opened a couple of years ago in St. Paul in whatever that neighbourhood right by Macalester is called. It got rave reviews from the local press and despite my suspicion of the local press—whose excitement often seems to me to have as much to do with the idea of a place as with the food itself—we’d planned to eat there in early 2020. But you know what happened next. I don’t know if they had a takeout pivot through the pandemic but with the exception of one occasion with Tenant our pandemic takeout meals skipped the high end. But we finally made the return to dining-in last month (yes, at Tenant) and Estelle was the next place we made reservations at. We were joined by friends we eat out with regularly—and with whom we ate a number of takeout meals in the last year and a half. This is how it went. Continue reading

Tenant V (Minneapolis)


It took till mid-July but we finally ate a meal inside a restaurant for the first time since March 2020. Sakura was the last time I ate inside a restaurant. That was not planned. We could tell restrictions were looming but we didn’t know when they would come or how long it would be before in-person dining would again become viable. Of course, in-person indoor dining’s been back in Minnesota for a few months—but we didn’t start to get comfortable with the idea until the end of June. Once we were ready to take the plunge there was not much doubt where we would go first. Tenant has become our favourite fine dining restaurant in the Twin Cities—as their predecessor, Piccolo was before them—and it was only appropriate that our return to dining in happen there. (Grand Szechuan would have been even more appropriate for the whole family but it’s only on our recent outing to Kansas City that we’ve finally taken the boys indoors to eat.) I’m happy to report that our first fine dining meal since the pandemic began was a very good one. Herewith the details. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 65: Matt’s Bar (Minneapolis)


I have a confession to make. Despite living in Minnesota—and in the greater Twin Cities metro area—for almost exactly 14 years now, I’ve never had a Jucy Lucy at Matt’s Bar, or for that matter at any other restaurant in the area. Yes, I’ve made my own versions at home but I’ve never eaten it at Matt’s Bar or at any of the other places that claim to make the ur version. If you’re not from Minnesota and not up on your Twin Cities cliches you may not know what a Jucy Lucy is: it’s a cheeseburger where the cheese is in a hollow inside the beef patty, where it melts as the patty cooks and comes oozing out when you bite into it. Sounds a bit repulsive, yes, and it is but there are contexts in which it makes sense. And at any rate the Fifth Law of Thermodynamics states that one must not enter one’s 15th year in a region without having eaten all of its iconic, if occasionally dubious, culinary specialties. Having now eaten a Jucy Lucy from Matt’s, I believe I have all the local iconic specialties covered but long time Minnesotans and Twin Citizens should feel free to test me. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 64: Karen Thai (St. Paul)


It had been more than two months since our last Thai meal (at Basil Cafe on—where else?—University Ave. in St. Paul) and that seemed like a dangerous situation to be in. Accordingly, on Saturday I drove up to Exit 110A on Highway 35E to Karen Thai in St. Paul for our latest pandemic takeout meal, bringing food back to eat on our deck with friends just as we had been doing last summer. The restaurant has been open for three or four years and I first heard about them about two years ago. I’m not sure why it took us so long to get there but multiple nudges from people online finally saw us fixing that oversight. Here is how it went. Continue reading

Surya India Foods (Arden Hills, MN)


A week ago Saturday we drove up to Arden Hills to pick up takeout from Namaste India Grill & Brewhouse (the report on that meal is here). On the way up we stopped at Surya India Foods, an Indian grocery that is located just a few blocks south in another strip mall off Lexington. I don’t really have a handle on the South Asian population in the suburbs in that part of the Twin Cities metro—I am eagerly looking forward to reading the census data when it is available. I assume the opening of this store and Namaste India—both in the last 2-3 years, if I remember correctly what I was told by staff at both places—is an indication that the population is growing. Then again there may be more South Asian restaurants and stores in the general vicinity than I am aware of—I also don’t have a handle on the northern part of the metro more generally. Anyway, here is what you can expect to find if you visit Surya looking for Indian/South Asian groceries. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 63: Namaste India Grill (Arden Hills, MN)


The Zeroth Law of Ordering at Indian restaurants in North America says that if the person taking your order asks you if you want your dal makhani “mild, medium or spicy” you should give up hope and head for the exit. I have to confess that when the person taking my takeout order on the phone on Saturday mornign at 11 asked me this question I was tempted to hang up. But the boys had been promised tandoori chicken for weeks now, and I’d also committed to reviewing more North Indian restaurants in the Twin Cities metro this year—and so I said a little prayer to my many-armed gods and placed the rest of the order. This is how it went. Continue reading