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A few years ago, I was overcome by a peculiar longing for health. Since my schedule that day was not health-permitting, I dropped into a new green establishment for a smoothie, to-go.
“Do you have a jar?” asked the bearded young man behind the counter.
“Why, are we going to gather lightning bugs?” I asked. Turned out they didn’t have any to-go cups.
“We don’t believe in takeout,” he explained.
“Believe in it? Son, not only do I believe in takeout, I’ve seen it done,” I replied grandly, sweeping out of the establishment with stentorian aplomb.
Well, actually, that last part didn’t happen. I just left, squinting and muttering to myself. But that was then. Now, happily, green thinkers have come around. They’ve realized that local, organic, and green must also be consumer-friendly if they’re to have any real meaning in the marketplace. This idea has reached its apex with the opening of Local D’Lish, Minneapolis’s first
green, organic, and locally sourced convenience store.
I say it’s a convenience store because it’s not a comprehensive grocery store, though it does have everything you’d need for a quick dinner and a week’s worth of snacks. For instance, they have a refrigerator case stocked with takeout options, such as mock-duck fried rice or spicy noodle salads from Chindian, the southeast Minneapolis restaurant; they have boxes of micro greens from local farmer (and restaurant-chef’s darling) DragSmith Farm; and they have cheese from a number of local artisanal cheese makers, including Shepherd’s Way.
If you put the cheese on the micro greens with a bit of locally made Salad Girl Dressing, you’ve got a salad so fancy and well made that you’ll swear you got it from a restaurant—not a convenience store located in the Warehouse District of Minneapolis. If you can boil water or turn on the oven, you can have a not-quite-takeout, not-quite-cooking instant dinner courtesy of products from Sunrise Creative Gourmet, a small manufacturer located in Hibbing that makes all sorts of Italian specialties like fresh ravioli and up-north treats like pasties. You can also pick up Door County cherries, Lakota-made popcorn, local yogurt and frozen pizza—in short, everything you find in a convenience store, but locally and artisanally made.
What to Order: Chindian entrées; DragSmith greens and Salad Girl dressing; Sunrise ravioli and pasties.
208 N. First St.,Minneapolis
Think of Patrick’s Bakery as a little outpost of Paris right here in the land of sky-blue waters. Walk in the door and you’ll find individual fruit tarts, raspberry egg-white macaroons, and Opera cakes glittering and winking at you from the sparkling cases, as if to say: We are a direct connection to Lenôtre, Carême, and Escoffier. We represent the great French secrets of how to turn cream, egg, flour, and sugar into joy and whimsy. And they do. The pastries at Patrick’s are unsurpassed in Minnesota. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that pastries are the only thing Patrick’s does! If you peer deeply into the pastry case, for instance, you’ll find the quiches, made as only a French pastry kitchen can. The crusts are light as clouds and elegantly flaky. They crisp up in your home oven until they seem like they were made by a world-class French chef—which they were. Some of the quiche fillings from which you can choose are asparagus and tomato, fresh spinach, St. Tropez (with marinated grilled chicken breast), sausage, or a classic quiche Lorraine, with bacon and Swiss cheese. Add a side salad of baby greens, a baguette, and a pastry, and uncork a Beaujolais or a Chianti and you’re having a perfect French bistro dinner.
What to Order: Quiche, niçoise salad with grilled ahi tuna; house-made breads; osso bucco, (a long-cooked, phenomenally tender beef shank served with pasta); a French version of chicken potpie called Bouchee a la Reine, in which chicken and dumplings in a creamy white sauce are served in a crown of puff pastry; and real beef bourguignonne.
2928 W. 66th St., Richfield, 612-861-7570
6010 Lyndale Ave., Minneapolis, 612-861-9277
331 Broadway Ave. S., Wayzata, 952-345-6100
People always ask restaurant critics where we really go to eat, on the premise, I think, that we keep the good ones to ourselves. To which I say: Harry Singh’s! Harry Singh’s! Harry Singh’s! It’s the place I go most often to get takeout for myself. But no matter what I write about it, nobody ever believes me—or goes there. Is it because Harry’s is near the dead-end of Nicollet Avenue, behind Kmart? Is it because the restaurant doesn’t have a liquor license? Is it because people just don’t understand how remarkable Harry’s food is? I think it might be that.
Here’s the reason I love it: The western Caribbean island of Trinidad is home to a melting-pot culture, and the cuisine that evolved out of that culture is like none other on earth. Key to it is a variety of flatbreads, called roti. The most difficult roti to make is called roti dhalpourie, in which a pizza-sized, tortilla-thin flatbread is stuffed with ground lentils. This layer of stuffing is exceptionally thin, which makes the dough flaky and tender. So, what do you do with this roti dhalpourie? You put a big pile of stew or curry on it: a sweet, mild browned chicken stew, for instance, or a slightly spicy lamb or goat curry, or equally mild chickpea and potato curry. When you get this dish as takeout, Harry Singh folds it all up like a burrito, wraps it in foil, and sends you on your way with a little plastic cup of hot sauce and another of anchar (a sour green-mango relish). Whenever you get around to eating this curry bundle, it will be savory, deep, profoundly flavored—and phenomenally good, tasting like a whole spicy Caribbean world.
Harry Singh’s jerk chicken is also fantastic, bursting with layered herbal flavors. And I’d be remiss if I failed to mention that Harry Singh’s is a wonderful little spot to go to as a restaurant, as well. You get to enjoy Harry (he works every day, every shift, every table) and find out what he’s been up to, whether it’s making fresh ginger brew, cooking up hot sauce that’s hotter than lava, or trying to convince the Minnesota State Fair people to let him in. (Note to the State Fair people: Let him in already!) But it’s also a singular pleasure to get a six pack of Red Stripe, a bag of Harry Singh’s stuffed roti dhalpourie, and kick back on the couch with a meal that, by rights, only excellent Caribbean cooks, and their families, should be able to enjoy.
What to Order: roti dhalpourie with lamb curry or potatoes and chick peas; jerk chicken.
Harry Singh’s Original Caribbean Restaurant
2653 Nicollet Ave. S., Minneapolis,
For decades, the trend was for Americans to abandon their neighborhood shops in favor of ever bigger, ever boxier big-box stores. Then people started doing upper-level math in their heads. Is there really any benefit to driving, parking, and hunting through a 20,000-square-foot megamart to get vast portions of corn syrup–laden processed foods? Isn’t it smarter to shop close to home, get smaller portions, and use the time saved for exercise or conversations? Newly constructed downtowns sprang up in suburbs, and old downtowns became revitalized. Critics dubbed the whole thing New Urbanism, but I’ve decided to hijack the term because it also neatly describes the restaurants and food-spots which make living more intensely in your neighborhood a joy.
The epitome of good food at the center of a old neighborhood has got to be Jerabek’s. The place was founded in 1906 on St. Paul’s West Side, and it anchored the neighborhood for generations, providing cakes to grandmothers, daughters, and granddaughters in a continuous line. However, a year ago the Jerabek family decided to sell the business. The neighborhood was terrified that a Starbucks or another chain would come in. So two neighbors pooled their money and bought it. Today, the place is run by two couples: John and Holly Wills and Russ Spangler and Ronda Vincent. They’ve made the place a Shangri-La of comfort foods: The chicken potpies have gorgeous puffy, flaky tops and a creamy filling that’s so good it borders on ice-cream/birthday-cake good. Homemade pasties, sage-scented French meat pies, classic American soups (such as chicken wild rice or beef-barley and vegetable), salads, quiches, and every sort of baked good known to man fill out the takeout options. Haul home a shopping bag of Jerabek’s treats and you’ll feel like you suddenly time-traveled to a wonderful land: that of mid-century American plenty.
What to Order: Pasties and potpies, homemade soups like a creamy mushroom wild-rice.
Jerabek’s New Bohemian Coffeehouse
63 Winifred St. W., St. Paul