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A Foodie's Guide to Cheap Eats

How to save money and still feel like you splurged

A Foodie's Guide to Cheap Eats
Photo by Terry Brennan (5)

(page 4 of 4)

Las Teresitas

Las Teresitas' homestyle Mexican fare rises above its modest, mismatched setting, as the restaurant represents the comeback of Gaspar Perez, founder of the now-shuttered Tacos Morelos chain. Petite tacos, priced just $1.60 apiece, are filled with every sort of meat including beef suadero (brisket), lengua (tongue), and cabeza (head). Fresh guacamole costs $3.50, and chicken mole, made from scratch, is $9.95. Every order is best supplemented from the restaurant’s salsa bar, which offers the best and broadest selection in town: roasted serranos with garlic, tomato chipotle, pico de gallo, and chile de arbol among them. • 5748 34th Ave. S., Mpls., 612-727-1783, lasteresita.com

Sonora Grill

Sonora Grill, in the Midtown Global Market, makes a strong case for expanding your burrito-taco-enchilada repertoire to include more dishes native to its namesake state, including pinchos (skewered meats), caramelos (tacos with cheese), and bocadillos (slow-cooked Latin-style meats served sandwich-style). Another favorite: the Sonora-style hot dog, in which a housemade wiener is wrapped in bacon and topped with turkey chorizo, sautéed onions, tomato, and cilantro aioli. Take that, Chicago! • Midtown Global Market, 920 E. Lake St., Suite 126, Mpls., 612-871-1900


:D-Spot chef-owner Darin Koch makes great wings, some of which you have to earn the right to try. Specifically, the sepukku wings: “Some people are not ready for the heat,” he says, explaining that the wings are named after an ancient Japanese disembowelment ritual (of course). The sepukku are made with the world’s hottest peppers, the Moruga, and if you want to try them, you’ll have to go through six other rounds of wings, in ascending order of heat, to prove your fire-eating mettle. The sepukku’s “euphoric buzz”—his phrase—stays with you for three days. “You don’t get your name on the wall, there’s no plaque,” Koch says. “You do it for the love or you don’t do it.” • 705 Century Ave. N. Suite B, Maplewood, 651-730-7768, eatatdspot.com


Jalsa Indian Fast Food sits in the back corner of a large and busy Indian grocery store. Most dishes are inspired from the food carts and roadside food stalls of hectic Indian markets. Try the authentic snacks, or chaat, like the savory fried-potato cake smothered in a spicy and piquant sauce. The mashed-potato sandwich and lentil-and-rice pancakes make Jalsa a good destination for vegetarians. And while you’re there, dive into the grocery store’s bulk-food isle for an education in chivda, a popular curry snack that might be considered the Chex Party Mix of India. • 855 45th Ave. NE, Hilltop, 763-951-2285, jalsamn.com

Pizzeria Lola

Pizzeria Lola

The pineapple pizza of your youth—the one you rejected due to its combination of soggy canned fruit and limp Canadian bacon—redeems itself at Pizzeria Lola. When Ann Kim selects higher quality ingredients and bakes them onto a tender-crisp crust, sweet-salty bliss ensues. Lola’s dining room is as appealing as its pies, but there’s often a lengthy wait for a table as the restaurant doesn’t take reservations. Takeout orders are accepted Monday through Thursday, and their only drawback is missing out on the luscious housemade soft-serve. • 5557 Xerxes Ave. S., Mpls., 612-424-8338, pizzerialola.com

Zen Box Izakaya

Zen Box opened last year as a Japanese style pub: a place to hang out, enjoy some snacks, and socialize. Takeout was not a part of that concept, but the crowds made their desires known, and now everything on the vast menu, with the exception of ramen and happy-hour specials, is offered boxed and bagged. When you’re on the run and you need octopus balls—that is, spheres of octopus battered and fried, served with barbecue sauce and bonito flakes—now you know where to go. • 602 Washington Ave. S., Mpls., 612-332-3936, zenboxizakaya.com


Peruvian cuisine has shown up on the national radar as hot cuisine for 2012 due in large part to bright flavors and sauces made from the new “it” pepper: aji amarillo, a yellow chili with medium heat and tangy fruitiness. But it’s hard to come by in the Twin Cities, outside of Uchu, a sparse dining room only recently converted from a Pancheros. It’s a small operation, so you’ll often find chef-owner Jorge Armando Sarmiento walking the dining room, checking in with guests, and then dashing back to the open kitchen to prepare the meals. Try specialties like chicha, a soft drink made from purple corn, or choose from four varieties of ceviche. • 4130 Berkshire Ln. N., Plymouth, 763-577-3744, uchuperu.com

Hmong Village

Filled with a long line of food-stall style restaurants, produce stands, and merchandise vendors, Hmong Village is the Hmong population’s answer to big-box retail. It’s Southeast Asia’s version of Super Target: You might come for a bowl of noodle soup, spicy papaya salad, or rich Hmong sausage, but you’ll find yourself leaving with an armful of herbs and greens, baby mangoes, or handmade garden tools, too. • 1001 Johnson Pkwy., St. Paul, 651-771-7886

iPho by Saigon

Last year, things were not looking good for Saigon, one of University Avenue’s best-loved Vietnamese eateries. They stopped taking credit cards. Their hours and menu selections became more sporadic. And then they closed their doors. But the restaurant has recently been reborn as iPho by Saigon, under the guidance of the original owner’s younger brother, with a fresh coat of paint, a new manager, and a few new menu items. Despite the new name’s emphasis on soup, the eatery still offers one of the best-made bánh mì in town—the sandwiches are assembled on order, using fresh bread made in their kitchen bakery daily. Favorites include the new roast beef and fried fish versions. And carryout sandwiches come four for the price of three. • 704 University Ave. W., St. Paul, 651-225-8751

Pairings Food and Wine Market

Pairings encourages customers to purchase beverages in its retail wine market, and then bring them into the adjacent counter-service restaurant to enjoy them with a meal at no extra cost. The straightforward menu has surprisingly fun options, including duck confit pizza, and “angry” burgers with roasted jalapeños. Choose from among the listed items or select toppings for customizable pizzas, pastas, and salads. Shop the wine store, and ask the staff for wine-paring advice while the restaurant staff packages your takeout order. • 6001 Shady Oak Rd., Minnetonka, 952-426-0522, pairingsfoodandwine.com

El Taco Riendo

This purist’s taquería in northeast Minneapolis offers little ambiance beyond televised fútbol matches and salsa music on the radio. The carpet is soiled and scuffed from all the foot traffic headed to a counter-service kitchen, which turns out made-to-order tacos. Try classic tacos like al pastor, carnitas, or tinga de pollo. For the more adventurous, sample tongue, stomach, or pigskin fried and cooked in red sauce. • 2416 Central Ave. NE, Mpls., 612-781-3000, eltaco-riendo.com

Andale Taqueria y Mercado

Andale Taqueria y Mercado represents Richfield’s changing restaurant culture: the restaurant and market replaced one of the original Ember’s, which had been there since 1961. The taqueria’s floor-to-ceiling windows and vaulted ceilings showcase the vintage architecture, but the real action takes place behind the counter, where a massive cylinder of al pastor taco meat—chili-rubbed slices of pork stacked high and topped with a chunk of pineapple—rotates around its axis, in the style of gyro meat, as it slowly cooks. The cooks shave slices for the tacos, tortas, and platters that make up most of the menu. In the adjacent market, the butchers offer specialty cuts such as cecina, beef sliced paper-thin and rubbed with oil and salt. • 7700 Nicollet Ave. S., Richfield, 612-259-8868, andaletaqueriaymercado.com


Szechuan cuisine continues to grow in Minnesota with multiple options available all over the metro. Among the nicer newcomers is Szechuan in Roseville, situated in a sea of fast-food joints, mega stores, and retail outlets just south of the Rosedale Center. The large menu, similar to other Szechuan restaurants in town, offers all the favorites: chewy dan dan noodles, spicy fish in Szechuan chili broth, and crispy duck—if you’re dining in, the whole bird makes for a stellar sharable feast. • 2193 Snelling Ave. N., Roseville, 651-633-3113, szechuanmn.com

Gorkha Palace

East meets East Hennepin: Gorkha Palace merges Nepali, Indian, and Tibetan cuisine. Tibetan-style dumplings (momos) are served generously with eight to an order and cost just $5 during happy hour. Choose between vegetable, turkey, or yak. (But really, when else do you get the chance to eat yak?) • 23 Fourth St. NE, Mpls., 612-886-3451, gorkhapalace.com

Rachel Hutton is a senior editor for Minnesota Monthly. Jason Ross is a freelance writer and regular contributor to the TCTaste blog.

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