Pandemic Takeout 15: Kabob’s Indian Grill


If you are so deviant as to read this blog on a regular basis then you know that I came across Kabob’s Indian Grill in Bloomington late last year and very quickly pronounced their food the best Indian food I’d yet eaten at a restaurant in Minnesota. This excitement was centered largely on their lunch thalis, with a revolving selection of small bowls of goodness, which are also simultaneously the best lunch deal in Minnesota. I did also like almost everything I ate at a non-thali weekend lunch meal in December. And you’ll get a sense of how much I like their food when I tell you that I chose to eat more of it just a month after returning from a trip home to India—I never wrote that meal—another thali lunch—up before the pandemic hit but it’s covered in this write-up. When the pandemic did hit, Kabob’s closed down rather than go to a takeout-only model. I was very worried that they might not re-open. And so when I was at TBS Mart a few weeks ago for a spot of shopping (they’re just a few doors apart in the same strip mall) I was excited to see that Kabob’s is open again. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 14: Grand Szechuan Again


The pandemic may have fucked up all our lives but it’s not stopped us from eating the food of our favourite restaurant in Minnesota: Grand Szechuan. There are a few fine dining restaurants we like a lot but—as I’ve said before—no restaurant in the state makes us happier as a family than Grand Szechuan. Ironically, we’ve been eating their food more since the pandemic began than we otherwise would have been. We normally hit them up on a monthly basis but have been going to get their food almost every two weeks since dining out became first an impossible and now a dubious proposition. Grand Szechuan, by the way, has not yet opened up to dining in. I laud them for their good sense in not doing so; at the same time, I worry about a possible hit to their business now that others have in fact opened up. There were far fewer people there picking up food this past Sunday than I’ve seen on all our takeout trips previous. Then again, it was a holiday weekend and people may have been out on their boats or grilling at home. At any rate we had another excellent meal. Here is a report on that meal and the one previous, from just about two weeks ago. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 13: Bangkok Thai Deli (St. Paul, MN)


We began the pandemic getting takeout food only from places in our town or within a 20 minute or so drive. We then expanded our range to Bloomington and then to South Minneapolis. Now, more than three months in, we’ve finally made it up to St. Paul; and—with apologies to Joy’s Thai of Lakeville—we’ve finally eaten really good Thai food for the first time since this madness began. Yes, I drove up to University Avenue and picked up a box full of food for another socially distanced lunch on a deck with friends. A 50 minute drive to get there only to turn around and drive another 50 minutes back: but it was worth it. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 12: Kumar’s (Apple Valley, MN)


Last year I wrote up a couple of meals at Kumar’s in Apple Valley—a local outpost of Kumar’s Mess, a popular Texas-based franchise that specializes in Chettinad food (though their menu has more than just Chettinad food). That write-up from December—which included my thoughts on developments in Indian food in the Twin Cities metro that seem to have eluded the professional critics—focused on what is normally Kumar’s specialty: thali-based meals. They’ve been doing takeout through the pandemic but I doubt thalis have been involved. They are now open for socially distanced dining-in but we only stopped in on Sunday to get some takeout for another socially-distanced meal on a deck with friends. The dining room is restricted to 24 guests only, and it’s a large space, but it’s going to take me a long while to get comfortable with eating in at a restaurant—and frankly, the sight of customers going in and out without masks, as we were waiting in our car outside for curbside pickup, did not help. The food, however, was pretty good. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 11: Tenant (Minneapolis)


Last week I had a review of takeout barbecue from a restaurant in South Minneapolis. Today I have a review for you of takeout barbecue from another restaurant in South Minneapolis. The two restaurants could not, however, be more different. Ted Cook’s 19th Hole is a 51 yo Black-owned restaurant that is takeout-only and which serves no-nonsense barbecued meats and sides. Tenant, on the other hand, is a 3 yo hard-to-get-into, cheffy prix fixe restaurant in what I call the Global Cosmopolitan school. That’s in normal times. The pandemic has caused a temporary convergence as Tenant, like most other local fine dining restaurants, has pivoted to a takeout model to keep its doors open and its staff employed. The restaurant’s bare bones structure—very few people in the kitchen, doing all the jobs—has perhaps allowed it to be more flexible in this regard than most of its fine dining peers. They’ve not, however, been serving the food people normally book six weeks in advance to eat. For the first couple of months of the pandemic they were selling takeout soup and sandwich packages; as of about a month ago they’ve pivoted to barbecue. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 10: Ted Cook’s 19th Hole (Minneapolis)


I had planned to post this review of this large takeout barbecue meal earlier this week. But the prefatory comments I’d wanted to make about American food media and race became a much longer thing, and rather than have this review disappear into that I posted those as a separate piece on Thursday. One of the things I noted in that post was how little awareness I have of Black-owned/run restaurants in the Twin Cities metro beyond Somali and Ethiopian places. Indeed, the other two that I have reviewed—Big Daddy’s* and Handsome Hog—are also barbecue restaurants, albeit at different ends of the price and ambience spectrum. Ted Cook’s 19th Hole is even more informal than Big Daddy’s—it’s takeout-only here and things are as functional as you might imagine for a takeout-only establishment: a counter where you order and pay, the kitchen behind and a few seats in the bare bones room in front for people waiting (in non-pandemic times) for their orders. There is little here that signals the history of the restaurant—it’s been around since 1969. You pick up your food, you pay, and you go on your way. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 9: Simplee Pho (Apple Valley)


As I’ve noted before, we live in probably the only college town in the US—one with two colleges, in fact—that has no Thai or Vietnamese food on offer. There is serviceable Thai food available within 20-30 minutes drive (Taste of Thaiyai in Apple Valley, for example, or Thai Curry House in Burnsville or Joy’s Thai in Lakeville—where we recently got some pandemic takeout from); but in normal times we prefer to drive further to the Twin Cities’s real “Eat Street” for food that is substantially better. For Vietnamese food, and pho in particular, the gulf is less wide and we’re happy to eat at Pho Valley and Simplee Pho in Apple Valley when taken by a sudden urge for a good bowl of noodle soup. And so it was that after doing curbside pickup of Indian groceries at Mantra Bazaar on Saturday, I stopped at Simplee Pho to pick up a few things. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 8: Back to Grand Szechuan


It’s been two months since restaurants closed to dining-in and I am very glad to say that Grand Szechuan is still open for takeout. This is not to say that they’ve not been affected severely, of course. Though I do see more people picking up food each time I go, business is obviously down drastically: they’re now closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. I do hope that the staff—most of whom must have been laid off or furloughed when this began—are doing well and have managed to get access to financial support; I haven’t read much about what support systems are in place for restaurant workers in Minnesota, and have generally not read much about what programs/support networks there are for restaurants outside the high-end in general. (It’s quite possible I’ve missed things that are out there—if so, do point me in the right direction.) Against all hope I hope that we will see all the familiar staff again when restaurants can open fully and we feel confident enough to go back and eat in again. In the meantime, we also hope to be able to continue to get Grand Szechuan’s food as takeout. As I said in my first pandemic takeout report on them, we get a huge order from them once every two weeks and eat it all slowly over four or five days. This report is of our last two orders. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 7: Back to El Triunfo


El Triunfo, as I noted last week, is the place we’ve been ordering the most takeout from during the quarantine. Both because we like the food and because we want to support this immigrant family business that is such an important part of our town as far as we are concerned. I’m glad to say that, at least as far as I can tell, they are doing decent business during the pandemic. We get food from them about once a week and each week it’s seemed like there have been more people waiting outside to pick up orders. I do hope they will make it through. Here now is a brief report on what we’ve been getting from them over the last month. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 6: Flickeramen from Bull’s Horn (Minneapolis)


Okay, so it’s not actually called Flickeramen. But maybe it should be.

If you’d told me in 2017, when Doug Flicker closed Piccolo, our favourite restaurant in the Twin Ciites, that it would take us 3 years to finally make it out to his next spot, Bull’s Horn, I would not have believed you—even though I was ambivalent then about seeing Doug Flicker putting out diner food (like watching Michael Jordan play HORSE). And if you’d told me that when we did finally get around to Bull’s Horn it would be during a pandemic when takeout would be all they would be offering AND that what we’d get from them would be home assembly ramen kits I’d have thought you were crazy. But that is what we did, that is what we got and that is what we ate. And it was good. More than good: it was the best ramen we’ve yet had in Minnesota. That may seem like damning with faint praise but it’s not. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 5: Quarterback Club (Northfield, MN)


It took a pandemic and a “stay at home” order but I finally have a review of the food of Quarterback Club, possibly the most iconic restaurant in our small town of Northfield, Minnesota. This is not because we’ve never eaten their food before. We’ve stopped in a few times over the years for their signature fried chicken; and that same fried chicken features every year on the table at our neighbourhood’s annual fall potluck, paid for by some communal pool of money that the neighbourhood was bequeathed at the time it was incorporated by the city. This fried chicken is quite good but it never seemed like enough of a reason to write them up. And with El Triunfo at the other end of the large parking lot they anchor, we never quite seemed to make it to Quarterback Club very often. But now that our options for food made outside our house have shrunk—long round-trip drives to the Cities don’t appeal for take-out—the variety offered to us by Quarterback Club seems more appealing. Here therefore is a quick write-up of a recent meal of fried chicken and more. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 4: Joy’s Thai (Lakeville, MN)


An unexpected aspect of the pandemic is that it has led me to realize that I miss some flavours so much that I am willing to eat replacement-level food in order to be able to taste them. The flavours of Thai food are the major ones in this category. We’re covered at home for most Indian and Korean food; Grand Szechuan and El Triunfo scratch our Sichuan and Mexican itches very satisfactorily. However, there is no Thai food in our town, we don’t have a pantry or fridge stocked with Thai ingredients, and our favourite Thai restaurants in St. Paul are a two-hour roundtrip, which—at least for now—seems like a bit much for takeout (check in with me again after a few more weeks of isolation though). As a result, I went to Lakeville last weekend to pick up a large order from Joy’s Thai. We’ve eaten in there before and it’s not normally a place that we’d choose over a longer drive to the University Ave. stalwarts. But these are not normal times and any acceptable Thai food is more than acceptable. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 3: Grand Szechuan (Bloomington)


We’re almost into the second month of the quarantine with no clear end in sight. Our governor, the excellent Tim Walz, has extended Minnesota’s “stay at home” order through May 4. Will it end there? I doubt it even though it appears that the state has done a fairly good job so far with social distancing and flattening the curve (two terms I never want to hear again once this is over). Even if the stay at home order does end, however, I don’t think there’s much chance of restaurants reopening to dining in for a good while yet. I’m certainly not going to be comfortable going out to eat in May. As supportive as I am of the industry as a whole, and especially of the places closest to our hearts/stomachs, I think it’s going to take a while for us to feel comfortable again with the notion of dining in close proximity with a bunch of strangers. I do miss that buzz and energy of eating out that takeout can never even begin to approximate but we’re going to be cautious going back, as I think we all have to be. In the meantime, however, takeout has meant we can continue to enjoy the food of some of our favourite places and help support them. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 2: House of Curry (Rosemount, MN)


This is day 14, 21? 28? 245? of the quarantine and there is no end in sight. Technically, Minnesota may end its “shelter in place” order this Friday but I’ll be surprised if Governor Walz—who is doing an amazing job—does not extend it. Even if he doesn’t, we will continue to shelter in place at our home until that curve has well and truly flattened. Restaurants will not, in any case, be re-opening for normal business for a good while yet. Well, when I say that we will continue to shelter in place at our home, I should note that we are leaving the house for certain things. We go out for full family walks with the dogs every evening, and I leave the house once or twice a week to pick up takeout from some of the places within a 30 minute drive radius that we would be the most shattered to see become victims of the pandemic. El Triunfo, our local house of Mexican goodness, continues to be the place we get food from every week (we got some more good stuff yesterday); and this past weekend I also picked up a large order from House of Curry, the excellent Sri Lankan place in Rosemount. Continue reading