Pandemic Takeout 33: Kumar’s (Apple Valley, MN)


The takeout plan for this past Saturday had originally involved picking up food from an Indian restaurant in the western suburbs. But by the time the weekend showed up lunch came under time constraints and it just wasn’t going to be possible to place the order* and make it up to the restaurant and back in time to eat on our deck (an hour’s drive each way). And as the same was going to be true of the places closest to us—Kabob’s and Kumar’s—it didn’t seem like Indian food was going to be on the cards. But the boys had already been promised their tandoori chicken and naans and given how little fun they’re having compared to normal these days, we decided not to disappoint them. Accordingly, I drove up on Friday evening to Kumar’s in Apple Valley—only 25 minutes away—and picked up a large order to heat up at leisure the next day. We were going to be a smaller group than usual—only 4 adults—but to be safe I ordered as I would if we had been 6 or 8. It’s the right thing to do. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 30: Back to Kabob’s Indian Grill (Bloomington, MN)


We got Indian takeout again at the end of last week but not from the place I’d been hoping to finally get to. The plan earlier in the week had been to do our usual weekend family walk in Maplewood and pick up some food from Indian Masala. But as Saturday approached, the forecast sapped our will and we decided we’d spend the day huddled at home. It’s not that we don’t plan to go out at all in the winter but that it’s too soon for temperatures so low. It may be Minnesota but it’s only fucking October, dammit. However, the story ends well. I ended up going to Costco on Friday morning and picked up a large order from Kabob’s Indian Grill in Bloomington. I’m happy to report that they continue to survive the pandemic, that they are now offering their lunch thali to go on weekends and that their food is still very good. Herewith, the details. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 24: Pho Valley (Apple Valley, MN)


This week’s pandemic takeout reports sees us remaining in Dakota County. After last week’s excellent takeout from House of Curry in Rosemount, we move a bit further west in physical terms to Apple Valley and a bit further east in culinary geography to Vietnamese food. On the way back from a Costco run I stopped at Pho Valley in that massive complex between Cedar Avenue and Co. Rd. 42 and picked up some spring/egg rolls, some soups, a banh mi and some grilled meat. It was our first time getting takeout from them, whether during or before the pandemic. I am pleased to report that while nothing was amazing everything hit the spot. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 23: Back to House of Curry (Rosemount, MN)


House of Curry was the second place we got takeout from when the “shelter in place” orders began in Minnesota. That was way back in late March/early April. As our takeout options/range expanded over the months, we somehow didn’t end up going back to House of Curry for our weekly takeout. That streak of neglect ended this past weekend when we stopped on our way home from a walk around Pike Island to get some lunch. As a small restaurant, or perhaps simply because they are appropriately cautious, House of Curry has not reopened for dining in. We were not looking to dine in anyway. Here is what we picked up. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 22: More Heat from Grand Szechuan


It’s been almost two months since my previous Grand Szechuan report but don’t worry, they’re still in business and we’re still eating their food on the regular. As of August 1 they are once again open seven days a week, but they’re still open only for takeout. That takeout business appears to be brisk—at least on weekend evenings. The place was hopping—in a masked and socially-distanced kind of way—when I picked up our most recent meal on a Friday evening. There seemed to be more staff visible as well. I hope they’re doing decent business at lunch and on weekdays as well. But to be safe we should all keep ordering from them. Continue reading

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 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 09: 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 07: 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 05: 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 04: 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 03: 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 02: 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

Pho Valley II (Apple Valley, MN)


There are three dedicated Vietnamese restaurants in the Apple Valley-Lakeville area (that I know of): Pho Everest, Simplee Pho and Pho Valley. I’ve reviewed them all in the past and am now in the process of checking in on them all again. I re-reviewed Pho Everest last year and here I am now with a second look at Pho Valley. It is very conveniently situated for us for lunches on the way back from the Burnsville Costco—though the opening of Kumar’s Mess in the same mega-strip mall has cut a bit into the amount of custom we’ve been giving them of late. Still, in the Minnesota winter it’s hard to pass up a good bowl of noodle soup and Pho Valley’s pho broth has in the past  been superior in our estimation to that at their local competition. Is that still the case? Continue reading

Kabob’s: Beyond the Weekday Lunch Thali (Bloomington, MN)


Late last year I posted a couple of reviews of lunches I’d eaten at Kabob’s in Bloomington (here and here). Those were the best Indian meals I’d yet eaten in Minnesota, I said; indeed, I went so far as to say that I’d be happy to eat those meals in India as well. Having just got back from four weeks in India, I’ll admit that last is slightly hyperbolic—there are far better South Indian thali meals to be had even in Delhi, which is not exactly in South India. But only slightly hyperbolic. It would be far from the best South Indian restaurant in Delhi (and yes, I know “South Indian” is an overly general category) but it would do well enough. I say this with confidence because a couple of weeks before leaving for Delhi I finally ate a non-thali meal there with some friends, and I can tell you that the weekday thalis aren’t the only reason to eat there. Continue reading

Three More Thalis at Kabob’s (Bloomington, MN)


Hello! I ate my first lunch thali at Kabob’s in Bloomington late last month and had to post about it right away. That thali was so good, I pronounced t the best lunch deal and probably the best Indian food in the Twin Cities Metro. I’ve since eaten the lunch thali there on a few more occasions and I stand by both those assertions. If there is a better lunch deal in the area I would like to know what it is. And if there is better Indian food to be had I would love to eat it. In the meantime I find myself manufacturing reasons to drive through Bloomington at lunch time. I stopped in two more times just this week, once with the missus and once alone. Having come upon this unlikely jewel so late I have now predictably turned into a one-man advertising agency for them. They have no idea I am writing about them but I must urge you all to go eat their wonderful thalis. There’ll be no butter chicken, saag paneer or dal makhni; you won’t always know what’s in the bowls (see below for my recent confusion) but if you like delicious food prepared with care you will love it. Continue reading

The Lunch Thali at Kabob’s (Bloomington, MN)


Is this the best lunch deal in the Twin Cities metro? I think it might be. It’s certainly the best Indian lunch deal—and for that matter this was the best Indian meal of any kind I’ve had in Minnesota in 12+ years. I ate it at what is almost literally a hole in the wall in Bloomington, in the same large strip mall that houses TBS Mart. I’ve noticed it out of the corner of my eye over the years but always assumed it was a Middle Eastern place; there’s another Indian place right there and I suppose I assumed there wouldn’t be two Indian places right next to each other like that. Anyway, the lesson, as always, is that I am an idiot. And specifically an idiot who has been denying himself not just an excellent lunch thali for almost a decade now but also the nostalgic charge of eating it in a place that evokes the no-frills canteens and mess halls that are a commonplace in Indian cities. Here, specifically, is what I—and maybe you—had been missing. Continue reading

The Lunch Buffet at Tandoor (Bloomington, MN)


I was sworn in as a citizen of the US yesterday/today, along with another 999 people—all of us together representing 96 nationalities before the start of the ceremony. Many of my fellow new citizens doubtless come from countries that allow dual citizenship but India does not. India offers a status called “Overseas Citizen of India” but it is not full citizenship and does not come with a passport. Yesterday/today, therefore, was my last day with a valid Indian passport. Despite being someone who is not very persuaded by the claims of nationalism—culture is a different thing and is not tied to citizenship—I found myself somewhat melancholy about this prospect in the days leading up and after my naturalization interview. I’m never going to stop being Indian; despite having lived here for 26 years I’m not able to flip a switch and think of myself as American; but Indian-American I am now for sure. It’ll take a while to sort all this out in my head but to start with I decided to mark this stage in my translation with a lunch buffet at an Indian restaurant and to eat some of the dishes that Americans so love to eat in Indian restaurants. The only question was which one. Continue reading