Dayton's Bluff District Forum
The Voice of the Community
I did it! I met my goal of eating at
every East Side restaurant on the East Side in a single year. They
were local sit-down places. No chains (unless they were
small local ones), take out spots or food trucks. Now there are
fifty-nine descriptions of where I went and saw. Notice I didn’t
say I reviewed them in a critical manner. I described but didn’t
judge. That is your job. A couple of places went out of business,
but two new ones popped up to fill the void.
While the palate parade is over, I will try to keep you up with any new East Side restaurants in an epilogue to East Side Eating 2015. I’m pretty sure there will be a few in 2016 and beyond.
I probably shouldn’t
admit it, but this initial foray
was made because the establishment was offering a free
dinner to senior citizens on New Year’s Day - I did make sure
order a couple of beers so they could have some profit. But maybe
it’s also because they were founded in 1933 and are probably the
oldest East Side restaurant in continual operation. As the name
implies they specialize in Italian food, but they are many things
offered in addition to what I ate. Where else do they offer several
kinds of “Dago” sandwiches? The restaurant has three general
areas - one with a dozen or so tables and booths, a full bar area with
some additional seating and a room off to the side that is available
for groups, such as wedding dinners. The décor is filled with old
photos of Swede Hollow and the Railroad Island neighborhood and the
names of Italian families. However, as my friend Greg Cosimini points
out, his family’s name is missing.
January 14, 2015
neighborhood meeting at night I was hungry so, along
with another political meeting participant and neighbor Jane
Prince, I headed to the St. Paul Saloon on Hudson Road just west
of Earl Street. East River Eats provides the bar food from another
room and sends it through a small window.
On to the menu. There are seventeen different appetizers. You can find beef and lamb dishes as well as chicken and duck items. Seafood offerings include shrimp, prawn, scallops, whole fish and fish fillets. For a somewhat lighter meal, choose from a large number of soups.
There are a dozen special vegetarian dishes
different vegetables or made with tofu. Dim Sum is served on
the weekends. Chef recommended items feature tea-smoked duck, whole
fish stewed in bean sauce and pork with chestnuts and eggplant in
garlic sauce. Most of the main entrees come with white rice, an egg
roll and soup. There are lower cost lunch specials
Monday through Friday from 11:00 to 2:00 with a sizeable list from
which to choose—I’m trying to use the proper grammar stressed by
my fifth grade teacher in Kansas. The menu of the restaurant says
“Authentic Taste of Szechuan” and is careful to clearly mark the
hottest of the Szechuan dishes with tiny red drawings of peppers.
There is a full beer, wine and liquor bar at the back of the dining
area as well as plenty of off-street parking.
March 11, 2015
I decided to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by going out to
eat. Knowing that the later hours of this particular time can get
gets a little rowdy, it might be best to show up for lunch. Of
course I wanted to get corned beef and cabbage, so I had to do
some research and see who was serving this traditional fare on the
East Side. I decided to invite Mike, Tony and Frank to join me,
since none of them had ever been to Governor’s and they needed
to have an East Side experience. Oh, I did have one beer.
They have an old-time meat raffle every
Thursday and karaoke on Wednesday, Friday and Saturdays. They have
sandwiches appetizers, burgers, sandwiches and a classic “sloppy
hot dagos.” According to their menu, popular items at Governor’s
includes garlic toast, “famous cheese bread,” clam or smelt,
chicken parmesan dinner and prime rib dinner. There is also a
small children’s menu. They also have a Friday fish fry
throughout the year.
I decided to have the first lunch on my taste trek but
didn’t want to have a large one and set out for Café La Palma.
The restaurant is inside La Palma Supermercado. I had visited it
and knew there was a restaurant in the back, but I hadn’t
ever gone there. By the time I got in a little after 1:00 there
was a line. It was a cafeteria style arrangement with twenty
pictures on the wall showing what the food looked like. There were
two televisions which, at the time were loudly following a Latino
soccer game, six four-person booths and five tables. In
addition there is a small side room with more tables.
March 28, 2015
Saturday evening and nowhere particular to go. So I
to check out the new offerings at one of the older Payne Avenue
venues. Even if it wasn’t part of the recently declared Payne
Avenue “East Street” locations. New owners have recently been
running the Schwietz’ Saloon. In fact, they are having a one
year anniversary celebration on June 21st. I hadn’t been there
for ages but the insides looked the same. I still like the
century-old tin ceiling. They serve beer as well as liquor. There
are eight tables and seventeen spots along the long bar. There is
one pool table that was in use when I was there and a juke box
that played everything from hard rock to oldies, including Freddy
Fender. There is a new patio with smoking allowed, but this
was inside weather. They also have a second floor banquet/party
April 7, 2015
owner of the pupuseria is Gloria Casas from El Salvador,
who speaks Spanish almost exclusively which, unfortunately, I do
not speak beyond a few words. Her husband Angel Casas is from
the Oaxaca, a state is southern Mexico, which explains the
April 22, 2015
May 6, 2015
Had a notion to chow down on a little bar food, so I headed east on I-94 went north on White Bear Avenue to Minnehaha. I wasn’t sure what I would find, but discovered a more complete menu than expected. There was a full house at 7:30, with a casual crowd where blue jeans were quite evident. There was a rectangular bar with wine and liquor, featuring ten beers on tap and others in bottles. There were maybe thirty stools filled by a diverse crowd and a dozen or more tables. On that night, three different televisions featured professional sports-hockey basketball and baseball. With a jukebox going, it was pretty loud. There is also a sizeable party room in a finished basement. A raised area at the back has pool tables and a dartboard. There is a pulltab booth inside and a large outdoor patio.
Appetizers include wings, curds, and pot stickers. There are some salads and wraps. Sandwiches feature “hot dagos,” Reubens and barbequed pork. There are many kinds of tacos, many well known and others like the wonton taco that sound more unusual. There are an amazing twenty different kinds of burgers. “Signature items,” such as the bleu and bacon burger, are marked with little red cherries.
I decided to try something new—a bacon and peanut butter burger with hot pepper cheese for what was said to provide a sweet and salty taste. I selected tater tots instead of fries or chips. The motto of the establishment that was chosen by owner Nicole Cherry is “waiting for food is the pits,” and even though it was crowded, my food came fairly quickly, even before I was done with my beer.
May 15, 2015
I meet a couple of friends weekly to eat and play bingo. They had heard about Leo’s Chow Mein, but never been there. So we decided to go there for a Dayton’s Bluff lunch. It was somewhat crowded that day, but there were a few open tables. When you enter, there is a counter with a listing of available offerings-but no photos of them. The ordering area is small with two long seats for those waiting for take-out. There is an attached large dining room with booths and numerous tables and some Asian art pieces on the walls. We decided to do the reasonably-priced buffet, a favorite of the locals. The usual buffet items are sweet and sour chicken or pork, lo mein, fried rice, Asian veggies, and pepper pork and chicken—it varies a bit each day. You can also choose from the menu with things ranging from sweet and sour pork or chicken, fried rice, Asian vegetables, egg rolls and even fried chicken. Many people swear by the Special Chicken Chow Mein, whose recipe was once published in a local newspaper. There are soft drinks but no liquor.
The lunch buffet, that goes from 11:00 to 1:00 P. M., is unique. Instead of a cafeteria-style setting, bowls of food are brought from the kitchen and servers take them around for people. There is a back story. When Leo Ng, who was born in China, first opened in this former gas station, it was so small that there was no room for the usual steam table, so the food was brought out. After a large addition, customers urged the owner to keep to the old ways, feeling that food directly from the kitchen was fresher and warmer. With the money he made, Leo brought several people to Minnesota from his homeland and many relatives got their start in the little building.
I arrived at the restaurant in a small strip of establishments just east of the 35E exit at Larpenteur a little after 6:00 P. M. It is fairly small but well put together and clean. There are seats for twenty-plus patrons at the tables. The walls did not have the pictures or photos I have come to expect. There were a few folks there, including an older Asian woman eating a serving of pho and half a dozen high schoolers speaking a mixture of Vietnamese and English. Another diverse group of adults sat near the front of the room. All but the single woman were waiting for take-out and soon left. If I had come during lunchtime, I was told, the tables might have been full.
I went up to the counter to order. The menu was mostly Chinese and Vietnamese, with a few “American” sandwiches. As the name implies, there was a large offering of pho, the name for Vietnamese soup. Some of the pho selections were steak, meatball, well-done brisket. There are several different Vietnamese sandwiches called Banh Mi. No beer or wine, but soft drinks, including American sodas and some Asian drinks as well as seven varieties of smoothies. I almost ordered Thai fried rice, thought about a plate of pork intestine or Szechuan beef, but went with chicken Pad Thai. It was delivered to my table by Candice Vang, the owner’s daughter.
May’s has been open for nine years and gets its name from May Yang. She and her husband Kou Vang came from Laos, were displaced after the war, did time in a refugee camp in Thailand and eventually arrived in California. After living in Colorado for a time they came to Minnesota with its larger Asian population. Having their own business had been a dream and with the help of their children, it became a reality in St. Paul. They initially offered Hmong food but it was not popular enough to keep it on the menu.
East Side Pizzeria been around for five years and is mentioned positively in a lot of Facebook posts. It is a small venue with around 20’ x 15’ floor space with a counter where you order and behind which they are cooking. There are only two tables and six chairs, decent wainscoting and a drop ceiling. There is a TV but it was not turned on.
Appetizers include cheese curds, Italian cheese fries, artichoke spinach dip with fry bread. Some pizza topping choices are artichoke hearts, shrimp, pineapple and white sauce. You can get pan style (thick) crust.
Besides pizzas, there are wings, deep fried tacos, ribs, burgers, hot sandwiches including the hot dago, burritos and shrimp baskets. There are daily specials, such as Taco Tuesday. The kids menu includes corn dogs, grilled cheese or an eight-inch pizza. Each of them comes with fries, a juice box and a cookie. They even have smoothies.
House specials are a Philly cheese steak pizza, chicken Alfredo pizza and a “Classic Eastsider Pizza” containing sausage, onion, mushroom, banana peppers and pineapple. I got one of the self-proclaimed classics--the Chicken and Bacon Ranch Pizza, partly because I wanted to try something new. It featured chicken, bacon chopped tomatoes topped with homemade ranch sauce. They give a portion of cheesy bread for first time customers (with a ten dollar purchase), so I got that as well. They deliver with a $2.00 charge and will cater for birthdays office parties and other events. They take credit cards but no checks. They are on the lookout for a larger place so they could become more of a restaurant. Do you know of a possible spot?
Sadly, by the time you read this, Romolo’s will exist only in customer’s fond memories. Romolo Monda opened this East Side landmark opened in the late 1960’s. He retired in 2007 and his son Jay ran the restaurant until 2011, when he sold it to Fred Richie, one of his father’s oldest friends who was then eighty-one. He kept many of the old recipes and added others. One of the most notable—the “Fred Special”—was a meatball sandwich with red sauce and mozzarella cheese. In fact, Richie’s childhood nickname was “meatball man.”
After the word of Romolo’s closing on June 14, 2015, scads of people streamed to the place for a last visit. I had to hurry to add it to the Taste Trek. I arrived around seven. There were a few open tables in the two dining rooms with their walls filled with historic photos of area families and sports teams.
The restaurant featured many Italian favorites, such as mostaccoli, but also “American” sandwiches, burgers and “American” dinners such as broasted chicken and chopped sirloin. Here is a sampling of the menu: Appetizers, including pizza fries and Italian sausage with green peppers and onions. Antipasto salad, Caesar salad. A plethora of pizza, wings, and spumoni ice cream. Italian sandwiches included “hot dagos” and “saucy hot dagos,” a sausage patty smothered in red sauce.
I chose baked lasagna with bread. Since it was an Italian restaurant, I had a Peroni beer. They did have wine and locally brewed Flat Earth beer, so they were keeping up with the times. I also ordered a Fred Special” to take home for the next day’s lunch. When Fred died a little over a year ago one of his five children took over, but after a family vote, they decided to sell the business. While there are no details, it may become an Asian restaurant. “I’ll leave you with a slogan Fred printed on his menu: “Amilizie e maccheroni, sono meglio caldi,” which translates “Friendship and macaroni are best when warm.”
It would be hard to think of anything nicer than being treated to a Father’s Day dinner by my son. He suggested Italian food and was willing to leave Nordeast Minneapolis and come to the East Side so I could add the visit to the Taste Trek. Angelo’s has been around for thirty-eight years, so they had to be doing something right. I asked and found out that no one named Angelo’s owns it—maybe in the past?
We came in around 7:00 and took one of the ten booths in back instead of one of five tables near the door. The place was fairly full and illuminated by colorful hanging lamps. The walls were covered in classic wood paneling. On one wall near the entrance had an original mural of various Loony Tunes cartoon characters—Sylvester and Tweety, Elmer Fudd and others. Another wall featured kid’s coloring pages. There was a shelf of trophies from many winning teams of Angelo’s-sponsored softball. There was also a lone pinball machine.
Angelo’s does not have a large menu. There were pizzas ranging from mini to 14 inches with options of double crust and gluten-free. Appetizers include hot pepper rings and pizza fries with sauce and garlic toast. Other options included salads, hoagies and “Angelo’s meatball sandwich.” For drinks a person can choose Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, milk, lemonade, coffee or tea. I had a Miller’s beer, because my choice was either Miller’s Draft or Miller Lite.
My son was hungry so he opted for a “Sunday Spaghetti Special.” He could eat as much of the pasta (with two meatballs) that he wanted and it was accompanied by garlic bread, a small salad and a bowl of ice cream. I decided to sample their Hot Dago, but didn’t add cheese. It came with sauce on the side and potato chips. They do deliver, but I’m not sure of the area covered.
How could I refrain from going to a restaurant whose menu proclaims “Best Delicious Chinese Food?” Ming is the family name of the owners who came from a small village near Beijing. The spot has been open for a decade. I came in on a Friday night and there were no other customers. The pink and gray tiled floor was bare, with tables and a limited number of chairs along the walls. It seemed to be a take out or delivery venue, but I asked if I could eat there and they said yes.
There were many photos of the food that were affixed on the walls. They also had a folding paper menu. On one side of the room was a three year old Chinese girl who had two tables put together covered with jigsaw puzzles underneath a very large photo of a large waterfall. She is the daughter of one of the workers. N
Here’s a selection from the menu: Appetizers included Pu Pu Platter and bacon-wrapped crabmeat. Some of the soups were egg drop and seafood vegetable. I was told there were both Cantonese and Szechuan dishes and a little green pepper next to the name was there for spicy foods. They had most of what you expect at a Chinese restaurant, but there were some interesting dishes such as Mei Fun which uses soft thin noodles and Buddhist Delight, listed as vegetarian.
There were a few “Combo Specials” that came with an egg roll and pork fried rice and several “Chef’s Specials.” I decided on one of the specials—Mongolian Beef with lots of onions, both green and white. I turned down the option of spicy sauce. There was a side of white rice. My meal came in a plastic bowl. It was a nice container to bring home.
While I was there quite a few deliveries went out the door and three people came for take-out. There are lunch specials Monday through Saturday between 11:00 and 2:30. They have party trays that can be delivered for special events and you can order “Family Specials” designed to include enough for four, five or six people. They will bring you food (with $15 minimum) to the East Side, North St. Paul, Oakdale and Maplewood.
Running a bit behind on my Taste Trek pace, I needed to add an additional visit before the end of June. They describe themselves as a Mexican Grill, and are located inside a building named Plaza Del Sol. It is owned by Sonia Ortega, an amazing Mexican woman who bought and restored the Payne Avenue structure. It was festively decorated with art work and banners. I could hear Latino music in the background. It was busy on the Sunday afternoon.
There are attractive wooden tables, one seating at least twenty people and several booths. In the back is Sidhe, a new woman- owned brewery. You can buy their ales, or have one of the unusual Mexican beers, or try Senor Sol’s homemade sangria.
some of their large
selection: Botanas (appetizers), including nachos and fresh raw
shrimp. There are tacos, burritos, crab, shrimp and chicken. There
are also desayuno (breakfast) burritos, quesadillas, tortas
(sandwiches) and caldos. Weekends only there is menudo (tripe) soup.
The tortillas are all hand made.
I had never been to Tongue in Cheek before, but it has been getting good reviews in newspapers and on Facebook. So off I went. It was often crowded at night and suggested reservations, so I chanced the brunch. I arrived around 1:00 and it was not crowded, though I was told it had been until noon. The restaurant has two sections. You enter the bar area with several stools and a few tables. You can eat there, but most go into the connected room.
It seemed like the dining room had somewhat of a black motif: three black booths that could seat four or five people, twelve tables-eight of them for two- neatly covered with black tablecloths and one small black candle. The walls were brightened up with oil paintings done by the late Jack Erickson, an artist friend of one of the owners.
The brunch menu contains nine items including pork belly and hash poached eggs and grits. I had the Farmers Market Omelet. It was made of eggs and stuffed with shredded cooked-down mushrooms, cotiga cheese, arugula with Hollandaise sauce on top. The plating included cubed potatoes, fried with small pieces of carrots, celery and onions as well as two pieces of toast with strawberry jam on the side.
I studied the dinner menu. It starts with “tasters” including sweetbread, which I had not seen since looking at 1920’s cookbooks. Another was “East Pride Fried featuring pork belly. The “Piece de Resistance” had main dishes ranging from a cheeseburger to pasture pork belly and roasted duck bobb—I forgot to ask about “bobb.” Desserts were under “Let Them Eat,” (perhaps a reference to Marie Antoinette). Two interesting ones were “Chocolate Ode to the Dome” and “Mascarpone Cheesecake.” (Mascarpone is a special Italian cheese).
As a historian, I was happy to find that my server had a degree in history and Black Studies. Our discussion was not about food, except she did say it was a great place to work. They have a new patio, a happy hour at the bar from four to seven and parking behind the building. The restaurant states that it uses “only animal products that are raised or caught in a humane & sustainable manner.” Both of the owner-operators have been living on the East Side for a few years. After working for other places, decided to open their own restaurant here.
The motto of the Minnesota Music Café (MMC) is “Where the food is great and the music is cookin.’” To the right as you enter there is a small area with comfy chairs and boots and tables. You next come to a long triangular bar with seating for a couple of dozen. There was only a handful of people there when I arrived a little before seven PM. In a large back room back room where there is a sizeable stage a lot of tables and stools, arranged to face the stage.
As you might guess, there was recorded music in the background and music photos and authentic memorabilia on the walls, a lot of it signed. Some of the groups honored —many Minnesotans- were Raggs, the Hoop Snakes, Mary Jane Alm, Joe Juliano, Bob Dylan and Johnny Lang, who used to show up to jam when he was in town.
On to the food: appetizers include cheese curds, nachos and a veggie plate. A MMC Sampler Platter includes chicken tenders, wings, onion rings egg rolls and sweet potato fries. There were MMC specials, such as Jazz Jerked Chicken Skewers and Flat Earth battered mushrooms-using our local East Side craft beer. Philly Sandwiches, a beef taco basket, Walleye and fries and BLTs are all on the dinner menu.
The happy hour menu, served from 4:00 to 7:00 is limited. It contained a cod basket, chips and fries a basket of boneless wings, a French fry basket and a few other bar food items. I settled on a quarter pound burger with extra onions and fries. Since it was happy hour, I got my second MGD free. On my way out I noticed an area with tee shirts, books and assorted music cds for sale. They have a nice patio that is heated in the winter.
The structure has seen a lot of owners. It was Gentile’s, where Vic Tedesco first played his saxophone. Then it was Flaherty’s which had pizzas and an indoor volleyball court. In December of 1997, the MMC was established to honor Minnesota musicians. Karen Palm, an East Sider, was there from the beginning and is still an owner. Because of the bands, there are cover charges on some nights.
Carbone’s started as a small Italian grocery/confection shop with a small near beer bar during Prohibition. In 1954, when its founder died, his widow Nana gathered traditional recipes from the south of Italy and with the help of her sons, opened what is considered St. Paul’s first pizzeria. It was a family-friendly restaurant that has grown into a small local chain-and this one is still operated by Carbone members.
While it has entered a sixth decade, the place has a modern look with paneling, composite table tops, matching flower-etched glass separating the half dozen booths. There are two tables that seat six people. I was surprised there were no Italian paintings or family photos. It was a weekend night, but there were only a few people there. Maybe its because all of the construction at Metro State and the scarcity of parking.
On to the menu. Appetizers include toasted Italian cheese bread, pizza fries and garlic toast. There were different sizes of pizzas, mostly with the usual toppings. A few interesting ones were hot pepper rings, fresh garlic and shrimp. There is also a veggie pizza. The entrees include “Italian special” spaghetti, lasagna, mostaciolli. There are Hot hoagies made with a variety of possible ingredients and seven kinds of sandwiches, such as Italian style chicken and Philly Beef. And Italian specialties. of course, a Hot Dago (Nana’s recipe)
I decided to try Nana’s creation. It came on thick bread with a meat patty inside and sauce on the side along with a serving of hot banana peppers. I added an order of garlic bread. Of the three beer choices, I took Michelob. A person can also have wine. There are servers, but you pay at the counter. There are lunch specials that can be taken out. Carbone’s web site includes monthly coupon deals. Their motto is “Pizza the whole family loves.”
277 McKnight Rd S
St. Paul, Mn 55119
Mon-Sat 11:00-8:00 PM Closed Sunday
Menu on urbanspoon.com and www.yelp.com
I pulled up in a small business strip at the corner of McKnight and Lower Afton Roads around 7:30 PM. Upon entering, the ordering counter I there. To the right is a sit-down area with four tables, two of them seating eight. It was clean with a few Asian-inspired prints on the wall.
They have both “quick service” chow mein and “cooked to order chow mein.” The latter was more numerous, with shrimp subgum and shrimp and vegetable. The main focus is the offering of Cantonese Stir Fry with an astounding twenty-nine types chicken, beef, pork and shrimp and vegetable and vegetable tofu stir fry. There are six kinds of lo mein, five sweet and sours and three egg foo young choices. The do have fried chicken and five combination platters. The symbol * is in front of spicy dishes.
I had one of the combo plates. It contained sweet and sour pork, an egg roll and fried rice that contained chicken and onions. I sat alone but while I was eating around 7:15 quite a few people came in and bought take out orders.
It seemed that their major business was around the noon hour. There is a lunch buffet weekdays from 11:00-2:00 PM. It has a dozen items, including lo mein, beef steak, pork chops, spring rolls and fried chicken.
Mei Mei—the name of one of the owners-has been there for twelve years. The family came to St Paul from a village near Hong Kong and for quite a few years worked at Leo’s Chow Mein. In fact. Mei Mei’s husband is Leo’s brother and much of their food is reminiscent of the restaurant on Earl Street. They do not accept checks. On a personal note, the owners remembered me from Leo’s. Their daughter was a school friend of my daughter, so we had a nice chat.
The restaurant has modernist look inside. Clean and understated with black tables, chairs, booths and ceiling, with its exposed ductwork. Blue walls were without art or photos, at least now. There are five booths, six family style tables for eight or more.
Even the menu was on black plastic. It started with Mion an khai vi (appetizers), with spring rolls, cream cheese wontons and sweet potato fries. It continued with four kinds of Banh mi (Vietnamese sandwiches) and “regular sandwiches” of grilled pork, chicken and other fillings.
There were seven kinds of Pho-- a rice noodle soup-including a choice of meats--beef meatball, chicken, seafood-with crab, shrimp, fish balls and squid-or tofu. They have one kind of Bun bo Hue, which is Hue style soup and was explained to be a denser bowl of food. The drinks (Nuic uong) are sodas, limeade, coconut drink, tea, soy bean, milk and tea. There are seven flavors of bubble tea and for 50 cents you can add pearls, lychee jelly or tri color jelly.
I had eye of round steak pho in a large bowl that was accompanied with a dish of thai basil and bean sprouts to immerse. I shared egg rolls with two neighbors who were with me. Chris had seafood pho (hold the crab) and Taro bubble tea. Linda had a grilled pork Banh mi and coconut bubble tea with pearls. Both were satisfied and Linda especially liked the thick crusty bread of her sandwich. There are servers but you pay at the back counter. They accept credit cards and parties of four will have a 15% gratuity added to their bill. There is plenty of off-street parking.
July 21, 2015
It was a little difficult to find the entrance until an onlooker helped out. You go through the door for a tobacco shop, which is #1375 and take a left to the door for #1373. I arrived around 6:30. It was not real busy, but there were people at a few of the nine tables that each seat four. It’s a medium-sized establishment with a clean new look with wainscoting and painted walls with a few framed drawings of plants. Soft Hmong music was playing in the background.
Appetizers include chicken stuffers, sugar puffs and wings. There are eight seafood dishes mostly of shrimp, but there was a “Queen mussel curry.” Pad Thai, pad see and seafood lab. There is a “Palace Special” with shrimp, pork, meatballs and beef and two special vegetarian dishes including “vegetable garden.” There are three Thai curry dishes and three breaded chicken offerings. Salads feature “Mama’s salad” with romaine, cilantro, bean sprouts, tomato peanut and her special dressing.
House soup “Special” has tripe, tendon and thin sliced beef in beef broth topped with cilantro, green onion chopped mints and pea pods. There are a few Hmong offerings including grilled sausage and grilled chicken or pork-both with purple sticky rice. I had Thai style fried rice with peas, eggs, carrots, green onions topped off with a sunny side up egg. I also ordered two egg rolls and had to wait a bit for them. The must have been making them on the spot because the came out piping hot and crunchy.
I talked to Hmong owner Yer Her for a time. After fleeing Laos, she and her husband were in the Ben Vinai Refugee Camp in Thailand and for several years after that stayed in that country. They came to Minnesota in 1986 and opened their restaurant in 2006. As the name implies, the business initially had pizza but couldn’t compete with chain restaurants. It is still listed on the menus, and while I was there, a Caucasian couple came to order pizza. They were a little befuddled, but did stay and seemed to be enjoying their Asian food as I left for home.
July 28, 2015
I had been to the Little Oven, but not lately. When a friend suggested lunch, I suggested the corner of Minnehaha and White Bear. We entered through a stone-like entrance with the pizza ovens behind a counter. There were seven booths and one that could seat six or more people. Recently remodeled, the glassed in “smoking room is now gone. A dozen or so tables, some for two and some that can be pushed together for larger groups.
The Appetizer Platter featured almost all of those available--beaded zuccini, mozzarella cheese sticks, onion rings, mezzaluna chese bread and deep fried ravioli. Breakfast is served until 2:00 and there are quite a few choices. They don’t start with pizza until 11:00 a.m. They have a few less-usual ones , such as a garlicky chicken and Steak. Two specials are the “Little Oven Deluxe Pizza” and “Little Oven Meat Lovers” with sausage, pepperoni, Canadian bacon and hamburger.
Under the heading “Pasta Classico” were baked penne, ravioli, fettuccini Alfredo and the “Pasta Speciale,” starred penne diavol (hot and spicy) and chicken marsala. They have a sandwich that seems to be a “hot dago’” but call it a “Hot Piasano.” It is an Italian restaurant, but there are many other items—steaks, shrimp, chicken, fish dishes and burgers. For desert there is spumoni or cannoli with a scoop of ice cream. I had the “Farmers’ Breakfast,” comprised of eggs and a filling of hash browns and ham and cheddar cheese, topped with three scrambled eggs and some toast
Jimmy Morelli opened the restaurant, originally called The Italian Oven, in 1990. When an Eastern pizza chain with the same name wanted to open outlets in Minnesota, Jimmy agreed to switch to the current name. You cannot use credit cards--payment is only by cash or check; however there is an on-site ATM. There is a large parking lot across Minnehaha, a small area on the side of the building. The large web page lists a dine-in menu, takeout menu, wine list, catering menu and banquet service. Prepare to eat a lot or take some away. After all, their motto is “Home of large portions and small prices.”
July 31, 2015
I walked into Savoy’s a little after 700P.M. on a Friday. It was busy, but I only had to wait around ten minutes to be seated. There are two sections. One is a full bar with stools (you can eat at them) and a dozen booths. The second space is a dining area separated from the bar area by a very large aquarium. It has tables for eight and around seven comfy booths, one of which I plopped down in. it was noisy. Three TVs in the restaurant and all were tuned to a Twins Game.
Starters: wings, garlic toast sauce jalapeno poppers and even tater tots.
There are twelve standard pizzas on the menu as well as a build-your-own option. The “Tom Barnard Pizza” with Sausage, Pepperoni, Green Olives and Sauerkraut. It turns out that Barnard mentions Savoy’s on his radio show. The “Savoy House Special” has the restaurant’s “famous sausage,” pepperoni, mushrooms, onions, green pepper and green olives. If sauerkraut is added, it becomes “The East Sider.”
Pastas: spaghetti, baked rigatoni with mozzarella ravioli and others. They also had a “Savoy Sampler” of pastas, with small portions of rigatoni, spaghetti, ravioli and two meatballs. There are a few salads that come with breadsticks.
and fish and chips. Sandwiches include grilled chicken, bacon and Swiss and a meatball hoagie. Burgers are available, including Bacon Deluxe Burger, an Italiano Burger and a Hot Dago. Tiramisu was among the desert options. They also have “take and bake” pizzas you can take home and make later. No checks, but most credit cards and cash are fine.
I had a ten inch “meat lovers pizza,”
featuring pepperoni, sausage Canadian Bacon. Honey Weiss was on tap
so I ordered one-or was it two? While I was at my table a group of
folks next to me were entertaining travelers from Italy. All of them,
including children “talked with their hands.” Part way into my
“za,” Ric Cardenas, a friend who grew up on the East Side, came
in and I joined him. He remembered when there were two separate
businesses here that abutted each other. One was Matt and Gene’s
Pizzarama. The other was Morelli’s Bar that served food from the
pizza place through a connecting window.
August 8, 2015
I remember when a Baker’s Square was here with its legendary drive-through pie window. The first thing you come to is a full bar and at least fifteen wooden chairs. The rest of the room is filled with around twenty tables, with some for six or eight people. There is a side room with booths that is where you should go if you want to have a quieter experience. Several large windows look out on a huge patio with lots of tables with large umbrellas.
There are nine appetizers (antojitos) such as wings, mini taquitas and a sample platter, six kinds of ensaladas and five soups (soupas). The menu lists seven sandwiches (tortas), including Cubano, and Pescado--breaded white fish with cabbage, and a salsa. Dinner entres feature Carne Puerco--sliced pork smothered in our green salsa and served with a Mexican salad as well as Chuletas de Cerdo- two deep-fried pork chops finished on the plancha-a special mode of grilling They mark the spicy level by putting drawings of differently-colored peppers on the menu. There are soft drinks and three Mexican flavored waters. Dessert choices include fried ice cream and platano con lechera in cream and sugar.
I had Bisteca a La Mexicana that was small pieces of beef cooked with a mixture of green pepper, onions and tomato. Like all dinner (cena) meals it came with fired rice, refried beans (or black beans) a small salad, a cup each of sour cream and guacamole and flour or corn tortillas. Had a Modelo, a Mexican beer. They bring good-sized portions, so I took home lunch for the next day. The owners have a couple of other Los Ocampos, including an Arcade location, but this one is the largest by far. When I got there around 6:00 there were a few folks there, but it gradually filled up. They offer free refills of soft drinks. A 10% discount for people over 55. Oh, on weekends a man walks around and makes balloon animals and other figures for children.
I arrived at the restaurant at 6:15 on a Wednesday. I had tried to get in on week- ends and there were waiting lines. But this night there were only a dozen or so groups. The interior was very new and it was “a clean, well lighted place,” as Ernest Hemingway once wrote in a short story. There were nine large booths as well as more than twenty tables - four of them are long enough to seat at least twelve people. The décor featured many large and small live plants and several wide windows.
A new dish called Hli Xiab - meat with sweet sauce- was displayed on front of the menu. On the inside appetizers were first: egg rolls, steamed rice rolls, papaya salad –Lao or Thai style. There were sixteen kinds of chicken, duck spicy red curry (keng) seafood sour soup (tom yam). Main dishes such as laab beef-raw or cooked-Hmong sausage, roast duck and a dish I just couldn’t bring myself to order-Nyuv me Nyuam Npua which is pig uteri. There is seafood - “Destiny Sweet and Spicy” and four different talapia dishes.
Rice dishes include fried rice with beef, pork or shrimp or combo. Several choices of pho (soup) including “Destiny Baby Destiny” Lub Paj, which consists of beef broth and a combination of several meats. Pad thai comes with a choice of big or small noodles. Beverages range from domestic to Asian beer, wine, a dozen flavors of bubble tea, milk, lychee drinks and sodas.
I had beef brisket with sticky rice and a familiar Asian beer, Tsingtau. Later on I saw a brew named Lao Beer that was new to me, so I just had to have a second beverage. While I was chowing down, I saw someone eating something from a white round object. It turns out it was a topless coconut wrapped in paper. You can buy them to take with you. Other take-home items sitting by the entrance included chicken, sausage, eggroll, roasted duck and bbq pork belly.
A Monday afternoon text from a friend suggested we meet for dinner at the nearby restaurant, so I jumped in my car for another adventure. The area after the entrance features a dozen tables. There is a rectangular full bar in the middle of the room with twenty seven different beers. There is a recent addition with some fifteen tables. On the east side of Obb’s is the original dining area. If there are any teams playing sports they are on one of the nineteen high definition flat screen TVs.
Appetizers feature steak tips. There are home made soups and Rosie’s homemade chili. Sandwiches include Obb’s “Famous Cuban.” There is a BLT, a Clubhouse and others, like traditional hot turkey or meat loaf open faced sandwiches with mashed potatoes. Hot Dagos? Obb’s has two. The basic on grilled French bread and a “Sicilian Dago” that has added sautéed onions, peppers, melted mozzarella on a chibata bun.
There are many entrees-steaks, walleye, deep fried fish, baby back ribs, and country fried steak the which I fondly remember from Kansas. There are a few surprises, such as Mexican omelet with taco meat jalapenos and hash browns or a Belgian waffle topped with strawberry sauce. There is even a kid’s menu with mac-and-cheese and mini corn dogs. Desert choices could be turtle cheese cake or key lime pie. Friday evenings always feature fish fry and the week-end specials are popular-prime rib and pot roast.
It was Monday so I had one of the two the specials-a shrimp basket accompanied with French fries, cole slaw and Texas toast and purchased a draft beer. Since it calls itself a sports bar, I felt I had to at least glance at the Twins game. Albert “Obb” Jensen started it as a grocery in 1919 and it was one of the first bars in St. Paul to be licensed after Prohibition. Albert’s sons Bob and Glenn eventually took over. Bob’s wife Rosie has worked there for over fifty years and, now in her nineties, is still a server at lunchtime. Her son, Jim Jensen, currently owns Obb’s, but insists that Rosie “Is still the Boss.”
My eighteen-year-old neighbor Henry had never been to a drive-in restaurant so I took him and his mother Heather on the Taste Trek. We went to the Dari-ette-where else? It’s a third-generation Italian-owned restaurant that was originally a small hot dog spot in 1951. A small dining area was added later. There are about thirty parking spots, each with a menu and speaker for ordering. People can eat in the vehicle, outside on one of the three stone tables or inside an area decorated with lots of vintage photos that contains with three large and two small booths.
The Dari-ette could be seen as the love child of Dairy Queen and Yarusso’s—an unusual mixture of Italian food and ice cream treats. You might start-with a Caesar or antipasto salad or maybe pasta fagioli, an Italian bean soup. Sandwiches include the Burger-ette, the Italiano, a BLT, hamburgers and a Gondola, made of cold cuts and served on Italian bread. They have rigatoni, spaghetti with meatballs. You can buy take-home spaghetti sauce. Fountain treats such as milk shakes sundaes, soft serve dipped cones, and floats are available .
“Specialty Dishes” include fried sausage, Italiano, Meatball Sandwich. There is homemade fried chicken and you can order a quarter or half and there are family packs of eight, twelve sixteen and twenty pieces. There are also grilled pork chops, fish and chips, shrimp dinner and meatloaf dinner. All baskets have cole slaw, French fries or spaghetti. There are hamburgers and you can add sides of French fries or onion rings.
I had a Dari-ette sandwich with and a caramel milk shake. Teen-age Henry went for a bacon cheeseburger and ditto on the shake and his mother, Heather, opted for the possibly more healthy antipasto salad, but couldn’t resist having a butterscotch sundae. The Dari-ette was featured and praised on the television show ”Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” It is open from April through October.
My daughter Meridel, now living in Chicago, was in town for the weekend. Along with her husband Wes and children Lila and Sammy, they wanted to have breakfast on Labor Day before returning to the Windy City. We headed up Payne Avenue to the old Serlin’s building, which once housed the legendary East Side restaurant. The interior has been totally remodeled. There are a dozen or so tables ranging from two to four seats and a larger one in the back corner. It is sparsely decorated with a few old maps of St. Paul. Kids' drawings were on one wall and my three year old granddaughter added her own.
Cook describes itself as having traditional American breakfast and lunch diner foods with some Korean fusion dishes for variety. They also say that everything is made from scratch or locally- sourced with preference for organic ingredients. Some of their “Starters” are cinnamon rolls with a glaze or vanilla yogurt topped with Keikeu granola. They serve fresh orange juice, milk as well as soy and almond substitutes and fresh seasonal fruit with whipped cream. They also feature River City Root Beer.
The “Cook Combo” has two eggs however you want them with hash browns, toast & choice of sausage, duroc bacon, or ham. You can “build your own omelet”- three eggs with your choice of twelve different ingredients including Duroc Bacon, sausage, ham, sharp cheddar, green onion, roasted peppers, mushroom, Jalapeno peppers, tomatoes and two ingredients that I had to Google- Fontina, a cheese made in the Alps and Asiago, a crumbly Italian cow's milk cheese. All omelets are served with hash browns and toast.
Owner Eddie Wu has introduced some Korean inspired dishes and sometimes has pop-up dinners with a one-night-only menu. The restaurant has been busy and doesn’t take reservations, but we got on a list and only had to wait for twenty minutes or so to get a table. I had two regular-old pancakes with scrambled eggs and Duroc bacon. Beer is available, but it was too early in the day for me. Meridel and family had regular pancakes and shared some of the Korean pancakes, which they liked. After finishing the stop on the Taste Trek, we left and bade farewell to the roomful of eaters, most of whom, on this morning, seemed to be hipsters.
The building originally housed a White Castle. Some of the local old-timers remember getting hamburgers for five cents. The building was enlarged, and became the Radar Chef. It had a number of different owners until Dan Hanf took over in 1984 naming it after the street on which it sits. I headed there for breakfast with my next-door-neighbor. We arrived, a bit after 9:00 to experience the meal said to be one of the best. It is served throughout the day.
It’s a classic old-style East Side spot with an updated interior sporting several examples of Georgia O’Keefe-style framed art. There are two areas: The front with around eight booths, several tables and one very long table. Another section was in the back with several tables. The interior décor also included several hanging baskets of plastic flowers in the full windows looking out on Payne Avenue. It was pretty full at 9:30 A.M.
There a lot of breakfast choices that usually include eggs: “Western Breakfast” has two eggs on hash browns with cheddar cheese covering ham, onion and green peppers. The “Lumberjack Breakfast” features hash browns with cheddar cheese topped with two sides of meat. There are also veggie omelets. Different home-made soups are available every day.
There are a lot of lunch and dinner entrees. Where’s the beef? There are t-bones, petite sirloins and a Magnolia burger. And sandwiches galore: Clubhouse, fish sandwich, hot turkey or beef sandwiches with “real mashed potatoes,”
not to forget the Reuben with “our special sauce.” Kids can choose between macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese sandwich, mini corn dogs and Magnolias chicken breast strips.
There are daily specials and featured meals of the month that come with free pie. Some desserts are cream pie, fruit pie and cheesecake. There is an eight piece chicken meal for take-out that includes a pint of mashed potatoes, a pint of gravy, pint of coleslaw and four baking powder biscuits. Magnolia’s also will do catering. They have free WI-FI but we didn’t use it and talked instead, including asking our server questions about the restaurant
I had country-fried steak and eggs, one of my nostalgic-for-Emporia dishes. Instead of toast, a fresh muffin can be substituted, and on this day it was blueberry. My neighbor polished off an Italian breakfast with eggs and Italian sausage. Maybe I should have tried their chicken. After all, their slogan about it on the menu says: “If the Colonel had our recipe, he would have been a general.”
this leg of the Taste Trek, I decided to visit a little-known spot.
Few people know there is a restaurant inside the Holiday Inn at I-94
and McKnight. I showed up there a little after 7:00 on a Tuesday and
went through the separate outside entrance. Inside was a classic
hotel restaurant, clean and somewhat dimly lit
It was sort of standard hotel eating. Appetizers include coconut chicken, a slider platter mini crab cakes. There were a few salads and soups made in house and vary from day to day. Two of the more interesting soups at the time were Italian sausage and shrimp Caj’un. Some of the sandwiches included steak, walleye, cornmeal crusted Po Boy, “Build a Burger” and the “The Firecracker” made with jalapeno and ghost peppers. There are even hand-made pizzas such as a Meat Lovers as well as a Veggie Special.
Entrees grilled New York strip, Sticky St. Louis Style Ribs, almond crusted walleye and all were accompanied with either potatoes or wild rice.
I decided to have a Monte Cristo sandwich since was introduced to them in the Minneapolis Technical School dining room where they were deep-fried. Mine on this night featured egg battered sourdough bread with ham, turkey and Swiss cheese, but it was grilled instead. There was a strawberry sauce on the side as well as a pickle spear. Since everyone else in the place was drinking, I joined in with a Summit Pale Ale. I was told there was a banquet room for weddings. My server, a woman who came to Minnesota from Korea, suggested that I should come by on a Saturday when there was Karaoke.
The Dancing Goat’s building was constructed in 1909 by John Doeren for his cigar factory. Their name comes from a legend about an Ethiopian shepherd who noticed the way his goats were jumping around after eating the fruit of a bush. It was the discovery of coffee. I was at a meeting there and decided to stay for lunch. Although it is a coffeehouse, it offers a modest menu of food. Inside there are seven tables, a sofa and two easy chairs. There are a few seats at the counter, behind which is the menu on the wall. You order and pay for the food at that time. There is free Wi-Fi, a large patio and a second story conference room, but there is no elevator.
Of course there is a lot of coffee-ten hot drinks like latte and five iced drinks. Drinks other than coffee include hot chocolate, soy or almond milk “kiddy cocoa” and a large number of smoothie flavors. “Early Bird Specials” include 20% off all beverages and $1.00 off many sandwiches. There is a Happy Hour from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM with 20% off all coffee beverages.
Here are some of their sandwich offerings: “The Bluff,” a turkey, zucchini, tomato and provolone and “Veggi Vento” with hummus, cucumber, zucchini tomato spring mix—a fancy name for a combo of lettuce and spinach- and provolone. They have a number of “bagelwiches” and “B-Fast wraps”, some salads and soups. Want something sweet? There are cookies, brownies, bars banana bread, biscotti and parfait.
I decided to have an “East Sider,” a sandwich comprised of roast beef, onion, cheddar cheese, spring mix and a horseradish sauce. I added a banana strawberry smoothie. Too early for beer plus they don’t even have any. While I was there, Tom O’Connell walked in and we enjoyed chatting about the old days of teaching together at Minneapolis Community College and Metro State as well and discussed some of our current shared ventures.
While at an event in Indian Mounds Park, I was given a Mississippi Market coupon for two dollars off a ten-dollar purchase. It was good until September 30th, so I had to hustle off see what was there for lunch. The co-op was a long-time dream that was originally spearheaded by a local group. Then Mississippi Market-which had two other stores-stepped and the hopes were finally realized this year. I know that that the recently-opened natural food co-op had a deli and juice bar addition to groceries so I wanted to check things out. There are five tables with four chairs and a counter seating for ten with a long window that has a clear view of Maple Street. They also have a classroom for public cooking classes, but I was focused on the Taste Trek.
Salad makings on a buffet. You choose your own and the weight determines the cost. The hot bar is also a weight-based buffet item. On the day I was there I saw Ethiopian cabbage and carrots, chicken tikka masala, baked salmon patties, roast chicken pilaf, Kung Pao chicken and even childhood favorite mac-and -cheese. There are several Panini sandwiches. Among them, I saw a Creole Club made with creole yams, a salmon cake sandwich and a roast beef and blue cheese. There is a soup bar, with different offerings through the week. Some of the choices at the juice bar include apple zinger as well as coffee au lait, tea and smoothies like cherry lime. Yes, the Market emphasizes healthy food, but that doesn’t mean no sweets. Try peanut butter cookies, apple turnovers, muffins, scones and more.
I zeroed in on a Cubano sandwich that was made with Beeler’s ham, Swiss cheese, a pickle spear and home made mustard on New French focaccia roll. I also accompanied it with a small Mango Dreams Peachy smoothie that had added soy milk and cinnamon. When I went to the eating area I ran into the director of the Dayton’s Bluff Block Nurse program and one of my fellow board members and sat with them.
Ward 6 is owned by two people who live in Dayton’s Bluff. I’ve been there before, but not in 2015, so I had to make a return trip to make this part of the Taste Trek. Eric got involved in home-brewing around twenty years ago is now a National ranked judge. Bob, a world-class bartender has worked at training for restaurants and bars all over the country. It’s often very busy, but when I arrived at a Monday at 7:40, it was not real busy and got a table right away.
It is a historically-restored building with an original ornate wooden bar, ceiling fans and some East Side memorabilia on the walls. There are five booths and seven tables for four or five people and you can sit at the full bar with a large wine list and some special cocktails such as rhubarb gin and spiked lemonade. There is a patio as well.
The appetizers or “Food for Drinking” section of the menu, includes fries, mixed nuts, Lahmacun (Turkish stew) and poutine, a Canadian import. Sandwiches include burgers, a veggie burger, a Ward 6 Reuben, a shrimp banh and a grilled cheese. There are different soups each day. Entrees on this night were Cicero stew, which can be vegan, pub curry, pork chop dinner and fried chicken dinner with fries, corn bread, cole slaw and “a hunk of watermelon.”
I had the Reuben with a sizable portion of hand cut French fries that are twice cooked. Since before Prohibition this was a bar owned by Hamm’s—breweries could do that at the time - I almost had to order a Hamm’s beer. Besides, they are a bit cheaper than the fancy varieties. But if you want to sample the largest selection of Minnesota-made beers, this is the place to go. The choices run from light to very hoppy, some seasonal brews from elsewhere and you can even get a Minneapolis brew called Yamma Jamma.
October 20, 2015
At first this
restaurant was not going to be on the Taste Trek, since I thought it
was part of a big chain. But I went to check it out and although
there are other spots with the same name, this one is family owned
and operated. Rich Sato opened and has run the smallish restaurant
for the last sixteen years ago. The seating was a single, small
formica-top table with four chairs that had reading material on it.
My choices were “Pizza Today” or “Road and Truck.” There are
some decorations, including awards from various local publications
and two mounted fish caught by Rich.
“Starters” include mozzarella sticks, jalapeno peppers, bread mushrooms, mac & cheese bites, garden salad and taco salad. Specialty sandwiches include Philly steak, French dip, fish, turkey BLT and hot Italian sausage. There are Burgers with fries or chips and a pickle and build-your own “Hot Hoagies.” Other items are Calzone homemade pasta for spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna and Chicken Alfredo. Dinner specialties include chicken tenderloin, shrimp, bbq ribs, chicken dinner.
Given the restaurant’s name, be
assured there are lots of pizzas-eleven basic ones, such as meat
lovers, Hawaiian, taco pizza or a vegetarian. They are offered in
12”, 14” and 16 “jumbos.” You can choose from among
twenty-two different toppings, including pineapple, green olive,
minced garlic, or even pickles. Desserts? Chocolate, cheesecake and
It was lunchtime so I decided to have a burger. I took one of the Deluxe with tomatoes, cheese, lettuce and bacon and mayo. The basket included French fries. I found out that the owner worked in the restaurant industry for a time and decided to have a place of his own. As a graduate of Johnson High School, it was natural that Rich located on the East Side. Delivery is the biggest part of their business and the area for it includes-roughly speaking-I-94 to 694 and from Century Avenue to Edgerton. There is a cost of $2.00 with a minimum order of $20.00.
October 21, 2015
While driving north on Arcade a few weeks ago, just before Wheelock Parkway, I saw some new signs on the old Josephine furniture store. They said “pho,” “ramen”-a Japanese noodle soup with Chinese style noodles- and “udon” also a Japanese soup with thick wheat noodles. Closer inspection also showed smaller signs stating gyros, wraps and chicken wings. Clearly, I needed to include this restaurant in the Taste Trek. I decided to treat Nicole to lunch for the good work she does at the Dayton’s Bluff Community Council. We rolled up Arcade a little past noon and walked in.
It was not large, but nice and clean and recently remodeled. There is a row of half a dozen booths along the west wall and quite a few tables. There was a big glass display case in the entryway that is filled with anime figures. There is free WI-Fi which often attracts students from Johnson High School.
The menu is posted over the counter where you order. There are several different kinds of pho (soup), including pork udon, seafood udon and something called a naturo bowl. There is a list of what is designated as American food, but is often a fusion with traditional Hmong food. Bahn mi (sandwiches) with pork belly, Hmong sausage or meat ball and hot dogs, beef and lamb gyros.
There is a large selection of Boba Tea. Some of the many flavors are mango, lychee, coconut passion fruit, taro and watermelon. For sweets there are cookies, muffins and ice cream bars and a sizeable collection of candy.
I had the pho combo which, I was told, is a customer favorite of regular. I also chose something I had never heard of-Yeo’s melon drink- that is made of a sweet Chinese white gourd that looks somewhat like a cucumber. I talked a bit with owner Tou Lor, who was born into a Hmong family in Laos. His father and grandfather were in the CIA secret army. At the age of two his family fled to the Ban Vanai refugee camp in Thailand. He grew upon the East Side and graduated from Harding High School in 1996. Tou had an anime shop in Hmong Village on Johnson Parkway and when he moved it to Arcade Street, he added a kitchen. If you go there be sure to visit the large back room filled with a variety of anime books, posters, CDs, games and collectables.
October 31, 2015
It was the grand opening day of the new second floor seating area. I got there too late for the music and special food, but needed to make this day part of the Taste Trek. The restaurant was founded in 1997 by two Dayton’s Bluff women and was launched in the historic Stutzman, a once-dilapidated building that was restored through the efforts of the Upper Swede Hollow Neighborhood Association.
The interior of the late nineteenth
century commercial structure has a high ceiling and nice woodwork.
There are several sizes of tables for singles or larger groups. You
go to the counter to order from a chalk-written menu on the back wall
and the food and/or drink will be brought to the table. There are a
few books and art items for sale.
In the early hours early people often
order the Breakfast Sandwich of scrambled eggs and cheese on a
croissant. You can add beef, turkey or ham. Two other possibilities
are baked hash browns platter with two scrambled eggs and toast or
house-made granola with steamed or cold milk topped with berries.
There are always baked goods including the famous Caramel Roll. In
addition you will find a Bacon Caramel Roll, coffee cake, scones
cookies, bars and biscotti.
Lunch is available after 10:30.
Salads include Minnesota Wild Rice with shredded carrots and other
items with balsamic vinaigrette dressing and Apple walnut salad with
gorgonzola and creamy poppy seed dressing. Both come with a toasted
dinner roll. There is always a choice of meat or vegetarian soups.
There are always several sandwiches such as ham brie with romaine,
and dijon mustard on toasted ciabatta. How about roast beef provolone
with tomato, roasted red onions and pesto on toasted ciabatta or
Mediterranean Veggie, with a variety of vegetables, white bean hummus
and cheddar on wild rice bread?
Seating is available on a patio with an old fountain and seating amidst vegetable gardens. It was chilly, so I stayed inside and had a bowl of chicken pizolle soup and half of a four cheese sandwich. I ordered the last caramel roll for sweets and took it home, because there were free pumpkin cookies for the Halloween opening celebration. I took a look and was pleased to see the quality of the new upstairs eating area that is open to community meetings. However there is no elevator so if people with difficulty maneuvering stairs are part of your event, this may not be the best place to go.
November 3, 2015
I had just found out that November
Third was “National Sandwich Day.” Subway was celebrating it with
a two-for-one special. However, I’m not going to eat at a chain
during my Taste Trek year. It didn’t seem that any of my last eight
restaurants featured sandwiches. Then I remembered Pappy’s, which I
assumed was a chain store, since I saw one in North Minneapolis. But
I drove up White Bear Avenue just in case.
It was hard to miss that their food
was patterned after Chicago cuisine. On the windows and inside there
were pennants and mementos of the Chicago Bears, White Sox and Cubs.
But there were also a trio of pennants for the Gophers Timberwolves
and The Wild. It was a medium-sized place with eight booths, two
small tables and one that could seat six. You order and pay at the
counter and they’ll call out your order when it is ready.
Appetizers—they label them
“favorites” include fries, onion rings, breaded mushrooms and
pizza puffs. There are Garden, Greek and Caesar salads. “Windy City
Favorites” include a Chicago style all beef hot dog mustard,
relish, tomatoes, a kosher pickle, a Maxwell Street Polish with
mustard and lots of grilled onions and pickles. There are seafood
offerings of catfish, tilapia, shrimp, and fish combos. The “chicken
lovers” category featured grilled chicken, chicken Italiano,
chicken wings, buffalo wings as well as chicken gyros. Other gyros
were Philly Italian sausage and Pappy’s Special made with hamburger
and gyros meat.
I had one of the “deluxe sandwiches” named “The Mafia Steak”—maybe with Al Capone in mind- with a slew of steak, onions and green peppers on garlic bread. It was a large hunk of burger, so I took some home for later consumption. I spoke for a bit to founder and owner Ahmad, who is of Jordanian origin. He came here after living in the Windy City, which explains the opening of a Chicago-styled eatery on the East Side. There is another Pappy’s location in St. Paul on University Avenue.
November 10, 2015
I decided to go to La Loma, a Mexican
restaurant inside Plaza Latina. When I walked in I heard Latino music
that filled the room. It was not busy at 1:00. But it was no longer
La Loma. In its place was Mango’s Restaurant. Jaime Aguila, the new
owner, said they have been open for around five months. It has ten
tables that seat two to four people. Plants were on unique artistic
tables and there were colorful banners, paper cutoffs and Mexican
ceramic pieces. You order at the counter.
Some of the available meats include
sliced steak, chicharron (pork skin), tripe or chorizo, which is
Mexican sausage. There are a lot of other choice of dishes trhat
include the meats: enchiladas with chicken or beef, Bistec a la
Mexicana, tostadas, Milanesa De Res–breaded sliced beef- or tortas
(sandwiches) with ham or sausage.
There is menudo, a traditional Mexican
soup made from beef tripe (stomach) and broth usually with pepper
onion and cilantro. Tamales come with chicken, pork, cheese, sweet
corn or vegetables. Burritos, gorditas, quesadillas and tacos. There
is a kid’s menu with tacos, mini burritos, mini quesadilla--all
with rice and a serving of juice. Some of the drinks include botell
agua, jugo chocolate.
I had a “Plato Tamale,” with two tamales accompanied by rice and refried beans. I also decided to try something new and had a Sangria Senorial—it’s a sparkling non-alcoholic beverage. Hey, it wasn’t five o’clock yet. According to the internet, this drink is popular in Mexico and was invented half a century ago by a man who could not tolerate alcohol. I talked to Jaime who explained that the term “antojitos Meicanos” on their logo is a reference to food prepared by street vendors in Mexico and means "little cravings."
November 11, 2015
The latest large wave of immigrants to St. Paul are the Karen, an ethnic group inside Burma, a country recently known as Mynamar. They were a persecuted group that coalesced on the East Side. A few years ago one of their families started the original Karen Market, the first Karen grocery store in the country. There are now at least three others. When I recently drove by, the word Deli had been added to their name. This was an investigation to be undertaken during the Taste Trek.
This is primarily a grocery store, so this will be a shorter than usual article.
Like many other Asian groceries, there are large bags of rice and any number of ethnic items as as well as some more Americanized choices, such as cake mixes, tmato productsmayonnaise and tomato paste. There are no fresh meat products but quite a few kinds of frozen fish and other meats, including bone-in goat meat. There are fresh vegetables of all sorts in stand-up coolers.
Inside there was a small kitchen there and two pulled-together tables with eight chairs where a person could sit with deli food. The deli items are limited in number.available but not a large menu. There are two pulled-together tables you can sit at to eat the prepared food after paying at the counter. The business was established and incorported in 2011 and incorporated in Minnesota by a Karen man named Zaw Mine.
I bought several kinds of the Karen deli items including two deep fried squash pieces, sausages filled with pork and something they called “Banana Flowers.” The latter was made of mushrooms, onion, garlic and chilli and wrapped in banana leaves. The counter man warned me it would be hot and he ws right. Time for a soothing drink. There were many options inside a cooler. I picked Mogu mogu for a drink. It was a product of Thailand that was pineapple juice that was infused with many small pieces of the fruit. While I was there I saw one of the workers eating a noodle dish that may be available, but who knows since there is no printed menu.
November 18, 2015
The restaurant is owned by a Hmong family. I was there a couple of years ago for a fundraiser for Fong Hawj, the current East Side Senator. On this day I arrived a tad after 5:00 and the place was not busy. There was only one couple in the dimly-lit front room with seven sizeable booths. It contained a long bar on one side and what appeared to be a spot withstand-up speakers for a DJ or perhaps a setting for karaoke. I entered the second side of the establishment that had seating along a full-service bar and a few tables. There was also a large area with half a dozen pool tables.
There are pizzas-not surprising given their name. You can choose from fifteen different toppings. The also have three or four house pizzas. “King Me” which they describe as a “six topping deluxe” of sausage, pepperoni, Canadian bacon, onions mushrooms, and green peppers. And a “Crown Royal” with sausage, beef, pepperoni, Canadian bacon, green olives and ripe olives. There is also a vegetarian option.
There are three “Asian items,” as they put it. Hmong sausage with sticky rice, a papaya salad and a third, that I decided to try. My choice was laab, a traditional Hmong food that often served at festive occasions and brought to the East Side from Laos. It has a base of finely chopped meat-either chicken or beef and either raw or cooked served atop a bed of lettuce. I took beef and chose cooked. I could hve spicy but, as a favor to my sometimes-sensitive stomach, I said no. Since the laab had cilantro (as well as mild onions) the dish was a little hot. I had a bottle of Corona beer (with a lime slice) to cool things down.
November 30, 2015
There was a three inch snow the night before and trying to avoid the predicted three to eight inches in the late afternoon, I thought it prudent to have lunch during the lull. There is a small parking lot and off street spaces. Reservations are accepted, but not necessary. I went toward the building and was greeted by signs in the window that told of the availability of tortas, cervesa and some daily specials. They keep Mexican beers on hand, in addition to offering margaritas and a full bar.
I was there for a 1:00 lunch and there were a few other diners. Latino soaps were on the televisions. If I had come earlier I could have ordered breakfast. Maybe huevos rancheros, consisting of two fried eggs and salsa on corn tortillas or a breakfast burrito. There is a selection of seafood fishes. Deep fried mojarra (fish) with vegetables and to others with garlic sauce or spicy sauce. There is also seafood soup and shrimp with rice and salad. There are seven camarone (shrimp) dishes served with different cooking styles. Entrees are served with beans, rice, and salad. Here’s some: Pollo en Mole chicken drumstick and thigh with mole sauce, Pollo Ala Mexicanos--Chicken strips cooked with onions, tomatoes and jalapenos and pork in green salsa.
There are some beef items, including “bistek ala Mexicana, bistek ala diabla, which is seasoned steak with spicy salsa, milanesa (breaded steak). When I sat down the server brought me basket of tortilla chips and two different sauces. I had three flautas- crispy rolled tacos filled with cheese and twoo sides of guacamole and sour cream. Too early for beer, so I added a real Mexican coke. Karaok hours are Viernes (Friday) 6:00 PM to 2:00 AM, Sabado (Saturday) 12:00 PM to 2:00 AM and Domingo (Sunday) 12:00 PM to 12:00 AM.
December 2, 2015
I was looking at Facebook and saw a post saying there was a new restaurant on Payne Avenue inside the Plaza Del Sol building. I’d been there before and it’s a big building and probably had room for another vender. So I headed north on the Avenue and discovered that it took the place of a closed Salvadorian spot I wrote about earlier. Even though I hated to see the old place disappear, I needed to include the new operation in the Taste Trek.
The name of the restaurant means Fat Hamburger and that is its speciality. It was started by Claudia and Jerry Guitterez who came to Minnesota from Matamorros in the eastern part of Mexico around a decade ago. According to them, such places are quite popular in their old homeland. They discovered there were none in St. Paul, so they decided to introduce the food to the East Side.
The huge burgers are the featured items, but there is a smallish menu that can be seen on a monitor next to the counter where you order. There are also some antojitos that they describe as typical street food in the northern part of Mexico. These traditional foods such as frijoles, several pollo (chicken items, Pichide de Res, charros (a bean dish), tacos De Harina (using flour), tacos estillo northenos (meaning northern style). De shebrada and Con carne de res -shredded beef dishes. There are also other things, including originally made hot dogs, mini cheese burgers, steak taquitos, and nortenos style flour tacos with shredded meat.
Since it’s the name of the restaurant, I ordered the fat hamburger and believe me, it was gigantic. In addition to a big beef patty, it contained bacon, ham, avocado, mozzerella cheese, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, pickled peppers, mayo, mustard and catsup. I held off on the jalapenos. The bun was made in a northern syle, but I’m not sure what that means. I could have sat at one of the long tables near the restaurant and had a Mexican beer or soda from the nearby Senor Sol establishment, but I was told I could take my food and go to the back of the building to the Sidhe Brewery which is run by four women. I had a large glass of their “Hopped Up McMonigal,” a light IPA. It was named for a childhood nickname of a woman who helped sponsor the bewery’s development.
The brewery, with a small entertainment area also has their own entrance at 652 Jenks Ave around the corner.
December 3, 2015
I saw posters on the former Otra Cocina storefront saying “Mexitalian Pizzeria Coming Soon.” Then a Facebook post said the restaurant was having a grand opening on the third of December and that there would be free samples. You better believe I was on my way up Payne to get there when the doors opened at 11:00. Outside there was a ribbon-cutting ceremony and I was invited to be photographed with the group.
Inside were eight tables for four and a large screen TV that was emitting Mexican music. The decor was primarily red, green and white—the colors of the Mexican flag. There I met Yolanda from the Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC) and she filled me in on some details about the ew owners. They are three brother- Oliverio, Teo and Domingo Casiano-who came here from Puebla, Mexico. Their research showed the top cuisintrends that were now Italian and Mexican. They created a name to reflect their fusion approach to both traditions. The LEDC gave technical support and loans to make their East Side dreams become a reality.
Here’s some of the menu: appetizers with wings, garlic knot and Stromboli (a sort of turnover filled with cheese and Italian meats) and a grilled chicken marinated with Mexican spices. The sauce choices tell it all: enchilada, tomato, hot salsa and roja. Toppings include chorizo, meatballs, cornitos, mushrooms and pepperoni. Several “Signature Pizzas” include enfruolada –a vegetarian bean and taco pizza, a Pizza Poblano whose main ingredients are mild peppers and chorizada, a Mexican style sausage. “Classic Pizzas” include meat lovers, Philly cheese steak and chicken Alfredo. Some pastas are baked ziti, linguini garlic and oil. The seven hot subs include chicken, parmesan and eggplant parmesan.
I had two sample slices of pizza. One was made with chorizo and Italian sausage. The other was topped with beans, cheese and green peppers. I also got two small bowls of different pastas. I accompanied the food with a mango flavored Jarritos. They had not yet started making the Italian pizzas for sampling when I was there. I may have to go back sometime to see if they do a good job of replacing the ones served a few blocks south at the now-shuttered Romolos.
December 11, 2015
Tracy is our neighborhood mail carrier--who always has a smile for everyone on her route—well, almost everyone. I had told her of the Taste Trek and she said that she’s always wanted to go to The Strip Club, but didn’t have the budget for it. So I told her I’d take her there for a Christmas gift. It is often quite busy, so I made reservations for 5:00. We met there there five minutes early and had to stand outside a bit before they opened the doors.
We were ushered to a table for two located by a fake fireplace and under the upper floor area. There were eight tables of various sizes on the first floor.
The décor was definitely a black and white color scheme. Black woodwork, black tables and chairs, black pillars and white walls that had a few red decorations and some mirrors. The lighting was dim.
Here’s some of what was on the menu: Starters of Soup Du Jour, bread and butter and two salads. What they call the ‘Small plates” or “nibblers” include Meat On a Stick, crispy fried veggies, fresh fruit, kimchee, “Prairie Portage Poutine” which features french fries with perigueux gravy and “The Devil’s Eggs” made with chile oil and curry. Sandwiches include hamburgers and hot schnitzel, which is breaded pork. Then there are the featured meats (a bit spendy) such as Grilled filet Mignon, a house-smoked pork chop and duck breast. There are several choices of sides and sauces. To accompany these there is a full bar with many choices of beer, wine and liquors.
There is a special brunch on weekends with a menu that includes Beef Tartare, Pork Carnitas, Benedict English muffin, Italian Breakfast consisting of bacon, sausage, sourdough, spinach, Arrabiatta, two eggs Bucatini shrimp, scrambled eggs with heirloom tomato, lemon and basil. There is Steak and Eggs with grilled grass-fed hanger steak, two eggs, hash browns, and béarnaise sauce.
I had the regular hamburger with tomato and onions. Tracy went with the “Chef’s Loaded Hamburger” that had bacon, chese, onion and mushrooms. According to the menu, it’s the chef’s favorite. Both of our burgers came with a littltle metal container filled with upright French fries. I had a Midwesterner Pale Ale Michigan Beer. My companion said hers was the best burger she ever had and loved our server Samantha proclaiming “Samantha is the Bomb.” I assume that is a positive statement.
December 14, 2015
This was the first Salvadorian restaurant in St. Paul. It is owned by a man from that country, but also offers Mexican meals. I had been there a few times but not in 2015. I was now returning as part of the Taste Trek and introducing a friend to the place. There are eleven tables for groups of four in the room with its wood wainscoting and a floor of brown tile. There were flags of Mexico and El Salvador on the walls along with other Latino ornaments. It was lunchtime and there were several groups of customers.
The restaurant says it bases the menu on “antojitos Salvadorenos,”
the kind of street food found in El Salvador. Some of the best sellers are pupusas and rebueltaas, cheese, bean and cheese panes and tortas. They als have Salvadorian steak served with French fries, rice or beans. Entres include beef tortillos, fried casava, platino frito, stuffed peppers, chicken stew, carne a zada (grilled steak), tacos and burritos. There are lots of choices for drinks including coke, jarritos –fruit, mango and other- and horchadas, which are a traditional Latino drinks that vary from place to place, but include strained morro seeds, sugar cinnamon and vanilla. In addition to the usual weekday fare, every Saturday and Sunday there is a special buffet of soups. It varies, but usually contains seafood soup-which I had here one time-beef soup and soupas menuo (a traditional concotion of beef stomach in broth, with lime onions, cilantro and red chili peppers).
I had Salvadorian chicken stew. It was not served in a bowl as I expected, but on a plate on top of rice. My order also had small salad and refried beans. My companion had two tacos, one pork and the other cheese. We each had a pupusa, one of the most famous Salvadorian foods thick handmade corn tortilla using a cornmeal dough. The most common ones are the pupusa de quesillo made of cheese and pupusa revuelta with cheese, beans and shredded pork. As usual, they were served with curtido, a fermented cabbage slaw that contains chilies and vinegar. Oh, I had a Passion hortada to accompany the meal.
December 15, 2015
I had gone to Hmong Village before, but this was my first visit in 2015. I knew that it could be very busy on weekends so I showed up a little after noon on a Monday. The Village is in a large former large warehouse and the building is now filled with unique small shops catering to the particular needs of the large Hmong community in St. Paul. There are storefronts for beauty creams, jewelry, tools, boots, Hmong music videos and CDs, children’s toys, clothes including several bra stores a lawyer, financial advisers and many retail, a money gram and otherservice spots.
There are also are over twenty separate food venues arranged on the western end of the building, sort of like a food court in a shopping mall. I hope you don’t mind that I didn’t go to each and every one on this Taste Trek visit. Here’s a taste-if you will allow a pun-of what food one can find there.
There are so many choices of food at different storefronts. One spot had Thai sausage, Lao sausage and Hmong pork sausage all in the same display. Others have tri-color drinks and papaya salads. You can easily find pig uteri, turkey tail, pad Thai and beef intestine. Mai’s Deli was amazing. It had 85 different kinds of bubble tea, milkshakes and smoothies. Some other places have names that are hints to their menu-Thai Ginger Deli, Mom’s Kitchen, Pho-Plus. Most have photo boards showing their offerings and a few have innovative electronic displays. I talked to the owners of Long Cheng Barbecue and said I thought the Hmong military base in Loas was spelled Long Tieng. He chuckled and said, “Well, we Americanized the title.” For more Americanized choices you might want to go to the Neighborhood Steak House which had, among other things burgers and rib eyes. Hmong tastes are changing, at least somewhat.
I got my main food from Sida Kitchen. The first word is the name of the young Hmong female owner. I guess I’m slightly conservative in my meal tastes, so I ordered Pad Thai. I had a mango smoothie from Mai’s Deli. I also ordered stuffed chicken wings to take home. They were filled with chicken, peanuts, sprouts, noodles onions and carrots, the same ingredients found in the Hmong spring rolls. Maybe I should continue in 2016 and they to visit all of the small restaurants.
December 30, 2015
So this was it! The last stop on the 2015 Taste Trek. I started at Yarusso’s—possibly the oldest extant East Side restaurant-and now visiting the newest spot for food. It has been described as a sort of Asian Fusion of Chinese, Japanese, Thai and sushi bar. I got to the large space-formerly a Mongolian buffet- around 6:00. I found red walls and some Asian wall art containing six tables for four, three booths and eight tables for groups of eight. It was clean and nicely lighted. I was a little surprised when I heard music from KDWB radio, but later there were some Asian tunes.
If you want to start with something green, you might try seaweed salad. There are lots of hot dishes made in a wok such as fried rice, pad see (Thai wide noodes) and Gang Ku Wan chicken (with green curry and vegetables). There is sensai (squid and vegetables). Given their ethnic background, there was at least an offering of laab, either chicken or beef.
Some of the drinks are sodas, tea, juice, milk and Ramne –a Japanes soda. There is beer- Karin and Ashai and others and a full liquor bar in the back with, among other items, samurai gin, red sushi apple martini and seven different sakes. There are some desserts such as mochi ice cream, rice cake and green tea ice cream. There is a kid’s menu with mac and cheese, crab sticks and pho.
I decided to have sweet and sour chicken that came with salad, miso soup and rice. Given the name of the place, I thought I should have some sushi. I chose some kanikama (crab sticks). It took extra time, but that’s because it’s made from scratch and is quite fresh. I had never hard of Lucky Buddha Beer, so I ordered one. It came in a green bottle with a raised figure of its namesake. I was able to talk with Futchy (Fuji) Ly, who, along with his Hmong brother Teng (Tim), started the restaurant. They were both born in France and learned about sushi at the Japanese steak house Ichiban and elsewhere.