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goldenticket
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[Minneapolis / St. Paul]

I'm heading out this weekend for a belated birthday visit with my grandmother (just turned 101 and is still sharp as a tack - she's amazing!) - but would like to have a good meal or two out while I'm there. Anyone have any suggestions? I'll be on the west side of town, in Burnsville, but Minneapolis AND St. Paul suggestions are welcome.

Thanks....

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Well, I didn't get any suggestions from anyone and have done very little dining out, but I'll report on the two meals I have had while here in the Twin Cities.

I had a very nice lunch in the Uptown area (near Hennepin and Lake) at a small Tibetan restaurant called Tibet's Corner. I tried the Sha Tak - spicy sliced beef with soft Tibetan steamed bread. The curry-like sauce was very nice, many layers of flavor that ended with a nice kick of spicy heat. The beef was tender and there were sauteed thinly sliced onions and green pepper, along with ginger, cumin, coriander, chili... The dish was served with a spiral of the steamed bread, perfect to tear off a strip and grab a piece or two of the beef.

We also tried the Lang Sha Momo (steamed dumpling). They looked similiar to Chinese steamed dumplings (crescent shaped), but the meat filling tasted a bit different, perhaps there were a few more aromatics in the mixture. They were served in a bamboo steamer and came with spicy and mild sauces to dip them in. We observed other tables with a different variety of momo - they were round, more like shu mai. The service was pleasant, the setting was cozy and there were several Tibetans at neigboring tables, so I assume the food was authentic (minus the yak meat that the menu said was normally used in the momo).

This meal was preceded by a visit to the neighboring Penzey's Spices store - what a great shop! I just happened on it and had a great time checking out their offerings, which included a variety of spice mixtures.

Brunch today was at Jax Cafe which is an old-school institution of sorts, located in northeast Minneapolis - lots of dark wood and maroon walls. It was your standard brunch with the cold station including a variety of salads (Caesar, chicken, spinach, Asian beef, pasta....), fruit, cheese, shrimp cocktail and oysters (not so good, not loosened from the shell and lacking in -good- flavor), a hot station of bacon, sausage, egg strata, waffles, french toast, carved ham and steamship round, chicken, salmon, potatoes, veg, omelet station, and a table loaded with desserts.

It was a family gathering so it was a good place for that, we weren't rushed, there was a good variety to choose from and it wasn't too loud, even with the piano player in the background. A cute (and kitschy) touch is personally engraved matchbooks for each table - in our case with birthday wishes. There is a very interesting stained glass window in one of the bars that features Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (this is becoming an unintentional theme after my visit to the Old King Cole bar in NYC - anyone know of any other bars with fairy tale-themed artwork?). Not somewhere I would choose on my own, but it was a nice place with decent food and a comfortable setting.

I think I've hit every local grocery store chain - Rainbo, Cub, Byerly's and Lund's (the latter two are now part of the same company), and a Whole Foods. You could pretty much make a meal out of the seemingly omninpresent sample stations at Byerly's and Lund's stores. There are always all kinds of things to try - cheeses, Califonia rolls, fruit, a mixed salad with gorgonzola, candied walnuts and raspberry vinaigrette, brownies.... They also make THE best wild rice soup I've had. The Whole Foods was very nice (included a Jamba Juice) and was on par with the new one in Old Town, with regional differences such as a very limited mushroom selection and several Minnesota-made cheeses.

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I do the same driving trip every year for business. Each year I end up staying at a Marriott in front of the Mall of America, having dinner at one of the restaurants in the Mall. Over time I've tried most of them and usually end up sitting at the bar at the Napa Valley Grille, a mini chain of sorts whose original in Marina Del Rey, CA (Cafe Del Rey) is actually quite good. I've made several stops at Byerly's which is one of the better supermarkets anywhere. Still, I've often thought that I am missing a great deal by not going into downtown Minneapolis like I did many years ago when I first started doing this. It's a beautiful area with warm, friendly people who have a great deal of pride in where they live. There used to be a great night club-one of the best anywhere-called Ruppert's that I would look forward to stopping at. But this was years ago, in the late '80's. More than likely, today, Ruppert's has probably been converted to a big box store of sorts and its 25 piece house band is long gone-probably grandmothers and grandfathers all. Still, I have friends there who survive winters by looking forward to long summers on their boats on one of the area's lakes. Minneapolis is a great American city that doesn't receive the applause that it justly deserves.

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Late January found me making my annual mid-winter trip up north - further north than in past years due to a move by family members. Getting where I was heading involved flying into Duluth, where I found a groovy local coffee shop/bakery called Amazing Grace*. One of the few places in the Canal Park area that was still open after 10:00 pm on a Thursday night, they were serving up several varieties of home[house]made soup and bread. I tried a lentil/vegetable soup and a curry french bread - both hit the spot. They also had a case full of baked goods, including some tasty -and not dry - cupcakes. We tried lemon and carrot cake - both were very good - the lemon was topped with a delicate icing that was almost the consistency of whipped cream. They serve breakfast as well, which we unfortunately didn't get try, but wished we had. The menu included a variety of omelets, pancakes, quiches and everything was well under $10. The place was packed with students from UMD and had lots of books and games available.

In Grand Rapids [birthplace of Judy Garland], I was delighted to find one of those rare (at least around here) places that actually serves BroasterTM chicken - I believe it was the Rapids West End Store. While it was pretty darn good, probably since I haven't had it since Whitey's closed their doors, it wasn't fresh out of the broaster and so not quite as juicy as I would have hoped.

Grand Rapids is also home to a pleasant coffee shop called Brewed Awakenings. They make a damn good latte, had some interesting baked goods, and free internet. Located on a downtown corner, the space is large and bright, with plenty of tables for relaxing.

Bixby's Cafe looked to be a locally-owned place trying to fill a breakfast/lunch niche - ultimately it is a bagel place with pretty mediocre bagels and was rather disappointing (and expensive for what it was).

A family meal at the Wendigo Lodge Fairways Restaurant was not bad. Given the size of the party (20+), the service was very good, with everyone being served at approximately the same time. I have a soft spot for the places that still start a meal with the 'relish tray' of a couple of olives, carrots, celery, baby corn, crackers, cheese cubes, and a (random) small cup of cottage cheese. Popular choices were the ribs and the "wilderness chicken" over wild rice. The ribs were a mammoth portion, falling off the bone, and heavily sauced in a tangy-sweet sauce. The chicken breast was tender, smothered in a creamy mushroom sauce, and accompanied with a wild rice pilaf of sorts. Walleye wasn't available :lol: , but my uncle sent us home with a few fillets.

* The website is pretty limited and is much more focused on the live music than the food.

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The recent post about Chef Gillian's Colorado Kitchen fabu-burger reminded me that I wanted to post about what we ate in St. Paul for Christmas. Ever since my parents moved there, I've been wanting to try a local specialty called the Juicy Lucy: a hamburger with cheese melted on the inside. Yummmmmmm. I got the pepperjack version both times we went to the Nook, where we sated our burger needs, and it was so good! It's a smallish burger, but full of oozing, melty, yummy cheese. I ate mine plain, with just ketchup, but you can have onions (fried or raw, or even onion rings) or pickles, and you can ask for tomato/lettuce. The first night we were in town, Tripewriter and my parents and I had juicy lucies (at the Nook called juicy nookies) with fries and some chipotle dipping sauce, a couple pitchers of Hamm's, and the Wings/Wild game (Wing! 4-1) on the flat screen. Rock!

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Well, as long as I've been moved to the Minnesota thread, I might as well post about Hell's Kitchen. This is a restaurant in Minneapolis that I first read about in Salon.com and have been agitating for ever since. We made it there for a pre-Christmas brunch with my parents and two vegetarians and we unanimously declared it Best Brunch Evar. I think that even with all the tempting items on the menu, half of us got the huevos rancheros and half got the amazing lemon ricotta hotcakes. We also got sides of bacon (wow -- so good), Mahnomin porridge (oh Lord, I can see why the bears went after Goldilocks: wild rice, cranberries, hazelnuts, blueberries, heavy cream, and pure maple syrup), the best caramel pecan roll you could imagine (light and fluffy but so rich a bite would satisfy), and rosti potatoes. I wanted a charbroiled slab of pit ham, but we ran out of room on the table :(

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