A Quick Lunch at Moroccan Flavors at the Midtown Global Market (Minneapolis)


I was up in Minneapolis for some annual medical appointments earlier this week. Due to some scheduling complications what was supposed to have been a few appointments in the mid-morning became appointments before and after lunch. I wasn’t sure where I could go for an outdoor bite in the area and so rolled the dice and decided to walk to the Midtown Global Market. Early lunch on a weekday, I reasoned, was not likely to find the market crowded and thankfully this proved to be true (well, the vendors at the market would probably prefer it otherwise). There were other people there eating but there was plenty of space and most people seemed to be masked when not eating. I knew where I was headed: to Moroccan Flavors. I last reported on a meal there in early 2017 (they’d opened the previous year). We really enjoyed that meal and I cannot explain to you why we haven’t been back. Well, I went back on Tuesday and had another excellent meal. After the meal I wandered the market a little, noting some changes. Here is a quick look at it all. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 48: Gyros Grill (Bloomington, MN)


We have been aware of the existence of Gyros Grill (on Old Shakopee Road in Bloomington) ever since we started shopping for Korean staples at Hana Market a couple of storefronts over. But for some reason we had never gotten around to checking them out. We finally fixed that this past weekend. We took a family walk around Lake Nokomis and then stopped at the little strip that houses them. While the missus went into Hana Market to pick up a few items I picked up the order I’d placed at Gyros Grill the evening before. I found a space much larger and brighter than the exterior might indicate and some very nice people behind the counter. The large order was ready and waiting and after the agony of smelling it in the car while waiting for the missus to get done at Hana Market and then on the 30 minute drive home I was starving by the time our pod-mates arrived for lunch. I am very glad to say that the food did not disappoint at all. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 17: Beirut (St. Paul)


It took the pandemic but I finally made it to Beirut, a Lebanese restaurant in West St. Paul that people have been telling me we should eat at for years. They’ve been open since 1983 (in the same spot? I’m not sure). That makes them older than Babani’s but a few years younger than the original Mediterranean Cruise Cafe, which opened in 1979 in Eagan (though the current location in Burnsville is of a later vintage as is the spin-off Ansari’s in Eagan).  As per this write-up in City Pages from a few years ago, in their early years they served a largely American menu with a few Lebanese dishes that got few takers. Now, it’s all Lebanese food all the time, and as far as I can make out, they are a neighbourhood fixture—still run by the same family though I believe the interior has gone through some changes. They are open for socially distanced dining-in but I was there this on Saturday to pick up take-out dinner. Here’s a brief report on what we got. 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

Babani’s Kurdish Restaurant (St. Paul, MN)


Babani’s claims to be the first Kurdish restaurant in the United States. I say “claims” not because I have any reason to doubt them but because their origin story starts with the wonderful first sentence, “There was, there wasn’t…” This origin story, which is plastered on their website and on their menu (you can read it below) may be—despite some poor proofreading—the most original in the admittedly not-very studied genre of restaurant origin stories: charming despite presenting some rather old-fashioned views of the relationship between men and women; substituting for desultory listings of kitchen antecedents and wealthy backers, a playful tale of immigrant movement and desire that is as touching as it is tall.

A Kurdish restaurant in Minnesota? Why not? There are plenty of us here who never expected to end up in a place like this, so different from the climates—emotional and physical—we grew up in. The story of what it means to be Minnesotan is still being written. Continue reading