Saturday, February 7, 2009

Eat Street Round Up

Eat Street in Minneapolis has a lot of restaurants. Generally, it's Nicollet Street from about 13th or so down to behind the Lake Street KMart. There's a wide variety of cuisines, though by far the most popular is Vietnamese from what I can tell. Which is a little frustrating, because of all the various cuisines out there, I just haven't gotten behind Vietnamese as much as the others.

The offshoot is that many of the options here are pretty darned good and not too expensive. Unless it's one of the expensive restaurants. This means that I eat out a fair bit. I *love* living near Eat Street, but honestly it does not do fabulously for my wallet.

I've already covered a couple of the restaurants on this stretch, but I want to have a quick run down of the others, including ones that I eat at a fair bit, or have in the past. So in order of approximately cross street....

Ichiban - Japanese steak house that is essentially right across from the Hyatt and what I see as the beginning of Eat Street and the end of downtown. I used to eat all the time here with X, because not only is it teppanyaki and all the yumminess that is there, but you also have the option of Sushi Buffet.

When I first started eating meat, sushi was my second attempt for integration. I fell in love, though like a lover you spend too much time with I got very tired of it. And this was the place I was taken to try it for the first time.

I got very sick of this place.

Though I would go back for the teppanyaki, the sushi is passable, but just one step above supermarket sushi I have found. The pluses are that the sushi comes around on little boats on a water track, and everyone picks and chooses. I find this highly entertaining.

It's actually a great idea for someone to try all sorts of different kinds of sushi without paying a crazy amount for all the different nigiri and maki. It's also a fabulous idea if you're with someone who would otherwise eat $75 worth of sushi.

I stopped going there mostly because for as regular as X and I were, we weren't treated very well. In fact it seemed like they got tired of seeing us there, which doesn't make sense if you ask me. Maybe they thought he ate too much.

I did go with CK and a bunch of people for the teppanyaki experience though and that was a blast. Tasty food, artfully prepared right in front of you with flair.

New India/India House - Indeed, I tried this place originally because it is kitty corner to Ichiban and I just desperately didn't want sushi that night, but X insisted that's what he wanted. So we ate separately. It was an odd relationship. I'm not even sure what the place is called now, it was one name and the other but I can't remember the order.

The main benefits of this place are in order: 1) Location near me, 2) Space within, and uh.... No really, that's it. It's a standard enough Indian restaurant, but I cannot think of a single thing that makes this place stand out. The food is ok enough and when I got that curry craving, it means I don't have to go way the heck out there.

But they don't deliver 10 blocks away. I would order takeout from this place way more often if they had delivery that came to my house. And it would be good enough for that. I miss Indian delivery in this town. It is very sad; Indian is one of my favoritest cuisines ever.

Bali - In the space that was formerly held by Safari. Now it's a cute little Indonesian restaurant.

Indonesian seems to be on the spicy side of life. Their drinks have very cutesy names but are tasty (I had a Karma Sutra), and the wait staff seem to be a bit slow (Actually, I remember the bartender/waiter being from Fuji-Ya once upon a time, that might explain it).

The food however, YUM!! I had the Ayam Bakar, which is chicken in this sweetish yet spicy sauce, and I think PiC had Daging Rendang, a slow cooked beef in coconut milk an spices. We were both all Oh Wow about not only our meals, but each other's meals too. And I know it's on our list to go back; hopefully it will last longer than Safari did.

Pings - I know that some people really like Pings when it comes to Chinese food. They do deliver, and when it's a cold Minnesota night, that can be a plus. But my impression of this place was that it was a standard tun of the mill Chinese restaurant that has been Americanized in its flavors. I just wasn't impressed.

Gangchen - This is sort of a Pan-Asian restaurant it seems. At least I got Thai when PiC got Chinese, and I know that there's Tibetan and Vietnamese on there as well. It has a little bit of a retro look to it, I'm surprised it only opened in 2007.

I like to think of this place as good place to go when we can't make up our minds. The food is reasonably priced and all done fairly decently. And they have *momo*. Ok, it might not be yak momo, but it does make me happy.

Las Ranas - I'm not even sure what to say here. They got my order wrong; I wanted an enchilada and got a quesadilla. Which shouldn't be a big deal because, hello, both tortilla with cheese inside, but... I know that PiC likes it here for a cheap Mexican breakfast, and it certainly does have price going for it. The one time I've eaten here though I got a little ill. I'm not thrilled about going back.

Evergreen - Comfort food right across the alley. It's situated in the basement of a building, and serves up tasty Taiwanese cuisine. Which is like mainland China, but with more seafood options.

The thing is, this is *the* place in the Twin Cities that I've found for the fake meats as well. Not just Mock Duck, but Mock Chicken, Mock Pork, Mock Beef, and I think even Mock Shrimp. And they do it *well*. On top of that, they are very respectful for the vegan crowd and their vegan food is cooked on separate surfaces than the omnivore food. When you're vegan, this is a heaven sent because meat contamination can make you *ill* after not eating it for a while.

I love this place. And if I'm going for Chinese, this is the place I will most likely go on Eat Street.

Spyhouse Coffee - My neighborhood coffee shop. This place was here before they went and opened Bad Waitress. I really love this as a coffee shop, and it coddles my eclectic tastes in... most things. Including music. And I love their chai. I am much more likely to go here than the Bad Waitress, frankly.

Pho Hoa - Living in the space that used to hold Relax, and before that, Yummy. This is actually a Vietnamese chain restaurant from California and the Phillipines. I will admit - I don't like soup, so the allure of pho is lost on me. Their broken rice dishes aren't bad, and I like their hot tea, and they are cheap, so I eat here on a semi-regular basis, being between me and other restaurants in that direction.

Seafood Palace - See the review for Ping's and Jade, though without the delivery of Ping's. Not impressed. It's just passable and I can eat here if someone else wants to.

Pho 79 - I will admit this is one of the better Vietnamese places I've gone, though I was only there with PiC, and OSO once. I remember being more distracted by conversation than noticing the food however. I know people who have been going here for years though because they love it so.

It's possible that it's just the Vietnamese flavor palatte being lost on me.

Pancho Villa - If I'm wanting walking distance Mexican, this is the place that I tend to go. It has fun art all over the walls, two for one house margaritas that are *tasty* in the early evening, and large platters of authentic food for cheap. They also have the best flan I've ever had.

Not to mention if I'm wanting a higher shelf tequila, they do not charge an arm and a leg for it, like barrio downtown does. I eat here probably once every couple weeks or so. It looks a little... cheesy from the outside, but seriously, this is my favorite of the three Mexican restaurants that are right there. It is the only one that serves alcohol, so if you're wanting a cantina sort of feel, this would be the place for it.

Taco Morelos - This used to be my favorite of the three Mexican restaurants. The decor is certainly the cutest. And they have an awesome veggie quesadilla with many many veggies. Thing is, they stopped serving alcohol. Not really sure why. Still, it's really good food, I just don't make it there quiet so often anymore.

Little Tijuana's - Often called Little T's. Open super late, and good if what you want is a GINORMOUS plate of nachos for not expensive. Actually, most of their plates are large for the price. And the food is okay. Definitely a youth vibe to the place later in the evening.

Usually punk rock playing, and they give tootsie rolls instead of mints at the end of the meal. They also have the chocolate chimichanga. So while it's not exactly what I would call authentic Mexican, it has its place for the cravings.

Black Forest - It has been a very long time since I've eaten here, but I remember the spaetzle was over cooked. I really didn't have a desire to come back here again after that. I'm told that I need to be brought to some place with better German food, that it does exist. .

Rainbow - Chinese that I came to Eat Street for when I lived elsewhere in South Minneapolis. I have a definite fondness for this place. And as far as Chinese goes for Eat Street, probably the best I've had on here save for Evergreen. They also have a pomegranate martini and some very soothing decor that I love returning here. It's like an old friend when I come back.

Java - Middle-eastern; all I remember of the food here is that it's very oily. It's been around forever, and I know that PiC loves the hibiscus drink that he can get here. I'm wondering if my experience was colored by the fact that the first time I ate here, I was with X, and the second time I had food from here I was incredibly ill before the food got there and I found it unappetizing.

The thing I remember most though is that PiC and I have VERY different wants when we're sick: he wants to cook the sick out with spicy. I want starch and bland and nothing that will rock the boat of my delicate system. So his bringing this to me while I'm ill... Sweet for sure, but just not the right answer for me. I should poke him to go here again.

Pho Tau Bay - Hidden behind the Kmart on Lake Street, this was the first Vietnamese I ever went to. The prices are incredible, the menu extensive, and it's been voted the best Vietnamese in the Twin Cities at least once. You should listen to them. It's good, and the fact that it doesn't stir me is really what makes me think that I just am not a big fan of the Vietnamese food and that the flaw is with me and not with the restaurant.

Monday, February 2, 2009

French Meadow Cafe

One of my favorite restaurants, and is relatively close to me, is French Meadow Bakery and Cafe. This is a restaurant that loves to cook with organic ingredients and especially to support local farmers. They have gluten free, vegan, and kosher parve foods all available.

Every meal starts with a basket of a variety of their breads, the perfect appetizer for a bakery.

Some meals that I have had here:
  • Bison with mashed potatoes - where I was won over to bison as a most delightful upgrade from beef
  • Sweet corn arepas - vegan, but not lacking in flavor
  • Quiche - which is absurdly tall and served with salad for breakfast, a definite win
  • Butternut squash gnocchi - lighter than the traditional potato gnocchi

    I can't really say there was anything I've been disappointed with there. My experience with the wait staff has been varied when it came to their suggestions of a wine selection, but mostly the wait staff is knowledgeable.

    Also, their deserts are incredible. Especially the chocolate flourless torte. They're decadent enough though that I suggest if you go with someone you split them. Because they're not to be missed, but best to have in moderation.

    If you're there for breakfast or lunch, orders are taken at the counter and signs handed out for when the food is delivered. For dinner, starting at 5, French Meadow behaves as a traditional sit down restaurant. Weekend morning brunch gets rather packed by 10am.