Fast, Cheap & Tasty

Fifty choices for gourmet on the go, from delicious delis to hot-dog havens to ready-to-nosh ratatouille. Eat your heart out, McDonald’s!

>> Buon Giorno Italia

Been lookin’ for lardo in all the wrong places? Then you haven’t been to Lilydale, where the Marchionda family, owners of Buon Giorno and the neighboring I Nonni restaurant, imports Italian ingredients that are the best of il migliore. The same San Marzano tomatoes (the kind used at Punch and Pizza Nea) and extra-virgin olive oils sold in Buon Giorno’s grocery section are incorporated in the deli’s take-and-bake pizzas and a made-to-order pasta bar. Pick up a bottle of wine at the shop next door, and save yourself hundreds in transatlantic airfare. 981 Sibley Memorial Hwy., Lilydale, 651-905-1080.

>> Midtown Global Market

The sign “Midtown Global Market” glows green atop the tower of the former Sears department store/megalith on Lake Street, visible for more than a mile. It’s luring you to a neighborhood you may have avoided well before the bras and bedroom sets were packed up and out in the early 1990s. Outside the market, tiny storefronts hawk pagers and cell phones; inside awaits a veritable department store of ethnic dining—Nepalese, Italian, Vietnamese, West Indian, Scandinavian, Mexican, African—all tucked into what used to be the linen section or the power-tool corner. For the sake of your waistline, consider biking there on the nearby Midtown Greenway. 2929 Chicago Ave., Mpls., 612-872-4041.

>> Europol Eva’s Delicatessen

Sauerkraut is über-food. It wards off cancer, stuffs you with vitamins, kicks your immune system up to 11, and has even helped chickens recover from bird flu. Not convinced? Try Europol Eva’s Delicatessen in northeast Minneapolis, where sauerkraut comes with nearly everything—pierogies, Polish sausage, hunter’s stew, potato pancakes (with kraut or sweetened preserves)—and is also sold, along with soups, salads, and Eastern European magazines, in the grocery section. Eat at Eva’s for a year and see if you aren’t a better, healthier, more gemütlich person for it. 359 13th Ave., Mpls., 612-617-0022.

>> Kramarczuk’s East European Deli

As the saying goes, you don’t want to see sausage get made. You just want to enjoy it, and no place in the Twin Cities makes a better argument for stuffing a pile of ground meat and spices into a sock of intestine than this bastion of Eastern European carnivorousness. 215 E. Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-379-3018.

>> Crescent Moon Bakery

“Best Afghani kabob and pizza on Earth!” declares a sign outside Crescent Moon and, while there surely isn’t much competition outside Kabul, there’s no arguing with the immensity and deliciousness of the portions. The pizza is a vast flatbread platter; the kabobs loom across the plate like the Hindu Kush Mountains. 2339 Central Ave. NE, Mpls., 612-782-0169.

>> Holy Land Bakery, Grocery, and Deli

In the grocery half of this bustling enterprise, you can find everything you need (seafood, halal meats, spices) to create your own Middle Eastern feast. Or, you can visit the bright buffet side, where kabobs, gyros, and falafels predominate, and save yourself the trouble. 2513 Central Ave. NE, Mpls., 612-781-2627.

>> Surdyk’s

Some days you could really use a drink, and Surdyk’s has more bottles to climb into than any other liquor store in the Midwest. But other times a tuna-melt sandwich, properly grilled, will do. On these occasions, Surdyk’s adjacent cheese shop—offering fresh deli salads, sandwiches, gourmet chocolates, and much more—has everything you need. 303 E. Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-379-3232.

>> El Burrito Mercado

In St. Paul’s Del Sol district, a building that’s painted as bright as the Mexican sun contains practically everything under it: burritos, gorditas, frijoles, tortas, and tamales—even menudo (spicy, tripe-filled soup) on weekends. When the store opened in 1979, Tomas Silva Sr. had to drive to Chicago to procure the authentic Mexican foods that lined his shelves. Today, Chicago shopkeepers might well stock up at El Burrito: the expanded restaurant/cafeteria/grocery has something for everyone, including local Latinos and such grade-A gringos as former St. Paul mayor Randy Kelly and Vice-President Dick Cheney. ¡Ay, caramba! 175 César Chavez St., St. Paul, 651-227-2192.

Photo by Eric Moore

>> Wilde Roast Café

Oscar Wilde, that roguish Irish aesthete, would love his namesake café. Dark wood, an enormous fireplace, and antique chandeliers suggest the 1890s (the Gay ’90s, to be sure; a side door opens onto Query, a gay/lesbian bookstore). Near an ancient upright piano hangs a copy of one of Wilde’s favorite paintings, a fairly erotic imagining of the martyring of St. Sebastian, whose loincloth rides lower on his pelvis than any Britney/Lindsay/Paris getup. And who wouldn’t feel decadent here, with fine wine, sodas (Bubble Up!), espresso, pizzas, pastas, sandwiches, crab cakes, and other finger foods? Man can’t live on wit alone, nor should he party (or is it parry?) on an empty stomach. 518 E. Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-331-4544.

>> Coffee News Café

The CNC was schlepping joe to downtowners on Nicollet Mall when the new Target store pushed it out. But it’s been doing just fine ever since, thank you, across the river near Macalester College, as its sandwiches, salads, and garlic fries have made it a favorite lunch spot for professors and students alike. 1662 Grand Ave., St. Paul, 651-698-3324.

>> Patrick’s Bakery

Patrick Bernet was teaching at the famous Cordon Bleu cooking school near Paris and making pastries for celebrities at the Cannes Film Festival before parking his pots and pans a block from Lake Minnetonka. Pick up a quiche or a sandwich, made with breads (French, naturally) that range from baguettes to Tomato Provençal to Roasted Red Pepper. But save room for sweets: Bernet specializes in “sugar artistry,” meaning he can craft doves, flowers, and more from heated sugar. And his éclairs, créme brûlées, and fruit tarts seem imported not so much from France as heaven itself. 33 Broadway Ave. S., Wayzata, 952-345-6100.

>> Emily’s Lebanese Deli

There’s a lot to be said for the hominess of a place where the thump of the refrigerator case offers the only background music, just as there’s plenty to love about tahini and tabbouleh and hummus. The Near East never feels so near and so dear as at Emily’s. 641 University Ave. NE, Mpls., 612-379-4069.

>> Gigi’s

You just met the future Mr. or Mrs., only he or she doesn’t know it yet. Here’s what you do: your first date is over a cup of Gigi’s coffee, your next is over Gigi’s garbanzo and turkey chili, and finally you graduate to Gigi’s wine-and-dining room, where you wonder how you fell in love so quickly. You sly dog. 822 W. 36th St., Mpls., 612-825-0818.

>> Ole Store Cafe

Once upon a time in Northfield, Ole and Lena were enjoying gourmet sandwiches from the deli case at the newly remodeled Ole Store Cafe. “Hey Ole, looks like they got a corkage fee dere on the wine bar side,” says Lena. “Corkage fee?” exclaims Ole. “Now I hafta pay to keep you quiet?” 1011 St. Olaf Ave., Northfield, 507-645-5558.

>> The Cellar

However Macy’s transforms the upper levels of the former Dayton’s/Marshall Field’s in downtown Minneapolis, the lower level (save for a name change) is expected to remain much the same, offering a cornucopia of pasta salads, desserts, and other fine deli items. 700 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., 612-375-2200.

>> Bombay2Deli

If there’s a Little India in Minneapolis, it’s the block of Central Avenue between 18th and 19th avenues, a strip of shops plastered with posters advertising Hindi-language movies and featuring Bombay2Deli in a tiny side space of Asia Imports, the area’s oldest and one of its largest Indian grocery stores. Here you can enjoy “mini meals” of Indian curries as well as samosas and other snacks and desserts. Grab some carryout, rent a Bollywood blockbuster from the video store next door, and consider yourself well traveled. 1840 Central Ave. NE, Mpls., 612-788-4571.

>> Sea Salt

The line at this casual seafood eatery in Minnehaha Park can take 10 minutes or more, but the fresh fish is worth the wait. Both bosses used to work at Coastal Seafoods, so they get the pick of the, er, school. Make one last visit before Sea Salt closes for the season on October 29. 4825 Minnehaha Ave., Mpls., 612-721-8990.

>> Spoonriver

Not all vegans are tromping around in Birkenstocks, trailing incense fumes. Some sip chic drinks at this hip riverfront slip, or pick up takeout Brie-and-pear sandwiches at the deli counter where pescatarians praise the niçoise salad and carnivores crave the curried chicken. 750 S. Second St., Mpls, 612-436-2236.

>> Crema Cafe

This tiny, mock–Italian villa renowned for its sorbets and ice creams renovated its space last year and started serving such non-lickable treats as tagliatelle ratatouille and organic chicken sandwiches. Like Crema’s desserts, foods are made from ingredients that are local and natural: even the PBJ is crafted with care, using organic peanut butter and jelly on honey sunflower bread. 3403 Lyndale Ave. S., Mpls., 612-824-3868.

>> Coho Café and Deli

Set down that caramel roll. Next time you head to the North Shore, skip Tobies and save room for the Coho Café in Tofte, where you can pick up a Superior–size salad, a coho salmon sandwich, or a slice of cheesecake from the bakery case, and take a picnic to the lake. 7192 W. Hwy. 61, Tofte, 218-663-8032.

>> Ikea Café

It can take hours to browse this smorgasbord of all things Scando: beds, bookcases, lingonberry jam. So fuel up at the store’s second-floor restaurant, where the Swedish meatballs (sold frozen downstairs) are served piping hot, sauced up, and ready to chow. 8000 Ikea Way, Bloomington, 952-858-8088.

>> Joey D’s

It’s going to be all right. The Dubnecay brothers, Rob and Chris, will make you one of their Chicago-style hot dogs, big as a banana float, piled high with all the fixings. And by the time you’ve licked the last of the mustard from the corner of your mouth you’ll have forgotten how your Camaro wound up at the bottom of Lake Nokomis. 3101 E. 42nd St., Mpls., 612-729-5507.

Photo by Eric Moore

>> My-T-Fine Bakery/Café

The daily-changing dinner entrées at this tiny Kingfield café are as homey as the neighborhood is residential. Try the roast beef tenderloin or fresh-roasted turkey breast, served with cranberry wild rice bread and a salad. The sugar buns—light as a bubble and barely sweet—are not to be missed. 4300 Bryant Ave. S., Mpls., 612-825-6308.

>> Cossetta’s

Note the possessive apostrophe in Cossetta’s; absorb it like a perfect piece of pizza. You and everyone else may feel an ownership of this boisterous Italian deli and grocery, but the place is really here by the grace of the Cossetta family, who founded it in 1911, expanded it on the popularity of their fennel-and-red-pepper–laced sausage, and have kept it in the famiglia. Remember that the next time you line up, cafeteria-style, within its red-brick walls to enjoy a plate of spicy meatballs and more kinds of pasta than Rome has churches. It’s a miracle of hospitality, really. Because this isn’t Sbarro’s, Fazoli’s, or Romano’s. It’s Cossetta’s, an outpost of Mediterranean abundance in the midst of the Midwest, and you’re just lucky to have been invited to dinner. 211 W. Seventh St., St. Paul, 651-222-3476.

>> Café of the Americas

Oaxaqueño plate with a side of social justice? Eating at the café in the Resource Center of the Americas is just one way you can promote cross-cultural understanding; others include the center’s Spanish language classes, activist organizing, and discussion groups for Latin culture and issues. 3019 Minnehaha Ave., Mpls., 612-276-0803.

>> Clicquot Club Café

Take a shabby little corner store (the old Wilson’s Grocery in Seward), add a little TLC, and soon you’ll have a bright, cozy café with half the neighborhood relaxing on the neatly landscaped garden patio. 2929 E. 25th St., Mpls., 612-724-4700.

>> Cecils Deli

Signs of an authentic, old-school, New York–style deli: egg creams, chopped liver, Dr. Brown’s celery soda, even bar mitzvah photos. Check, check, check, and check. 651 Cleveland Ave. S., St. Paul, 651-698-0334.

>> Sinbad’s Deli and Market

If you’re still convinced that Baba Gannouj is Ali Baba’s half brother, Sinbad’s will set you straight. Lentil soup, spiced lamb, hummus, kebabs—all the Middle Eastern favorites are here, along with perhaps the best gyros in town. 2528 Nicollet Ave., Mpls., 612-871-6505.

>> Crossroads Delicatessen

“Tongue now available” reads a sign on the deli case of this enormously popular Jewish deli. Good to know. Of course, Crossroads already has your lox, your pastrami, your macaroons—you’ve got nothing to kvetch about. 2795 Hedberg Dr., Minnetonka, 952-546-6595.

>> Pineda Tacos

Having opened and closed in a couple of other locations, Pineda is now purveying the Twin Cities’ tastiest tacos from a Plymouth strip mall, still offering the fiery chipotle sauce that makes Chipotle’s seem like ketchup. 60 Nathan Lane, Plymouth, 763-545-1977.

>> Cafe Limon

With just two tables and a handful of stools, this bright, funky space is a refreshing retreat from the urban jungle. Come for the tamales and other Mexican treats, stay for the batidos—smoothies made from tropical fruit, milk, ice, and the understanding that there’s nothing you need to do today that you can’t do mañana. 611 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-823-5149.

>> Yum! Kitchen and Bakery

A restaurant better be good to live up to an exclamatory name like this. Luckily, this trendy, bright space, with its mini sloppy joes served up like finger cakes at a tea party, takes its food seriously, if not its image. 4000 Minnetonka Blvd., St. Louis Park, 952-922-4000.

>> D’Amico and Sons

Free refills on the house wine—is this the perfect place to meet an Internet date or what? 975 Grand Ave., St. Paul, 651-227-9933.

>> Snap!

This ice cream, pizza, and cake place, which opened a year ago on the same block as the restaurant Pop!, is as tasty as it was inevitable. 2851 Johnson St. NE, Mpls., 612-788-9800.

>> France 44

You would expect a deli attached to a high-end liquor store to make a great bourbon bar, the brownie with a buzz. But tamales? We recommend pairing the Rico Suave Tamales with a fine Corona. 4351 France Ave. S., Mpls., 612-925-3252.

>> Turtle Bread

Focus, now. You’re supposed to be picking up dinner, but you can’t take your eyes off the blueberry rhubarb pies, the sticky buns, or opera cakes. So skip straight to dessert. 4762 Chicago Ave., Mpls., 612-823-7333.

>> Tin Fish

Oh, the sweet clang of the Tin Fish bell, echoing across Lake Calhoun. Time to crunch a fried fish sandwich between your teeth, or slip a scallop down the hatch. The final bell of the season rings in late fall. 3000
E. Calhoun Pkwy., Mpls., 612-370-4883.

>> Trotter’s Cafe and Bakery

All the hippies who grew up and moved from the West Bank or Uptown to St. Paul can still find their tempeh Reubens, Peace Coffee (delivered by bicycle), and homemade granola at Trotter’s. 232 N. Cleveland Ave., St. Paul, 651-645-8950.

>> The Wienery

The editor of The Best American Travel Writing visited this divey Cedar-Riverside grill and deemed the hot dogs delish. Though he wisely passed on a “trip” to what was a dungeon-like bathroom (since remodeled). 414 Cedar Ave. S., Mpls., 612-333-5798.

>> Zeno Cafe

This contemporary coffee café may be more about the scene than the food. Look out Zeno’s giant glass windows overlooking Uptown central, and take in the youth culture. 2919 Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-746-4170.

>> French Meadow Bakery and Cafe

The massive black chalkboards above the counter stretch practically to this Lyn-Lake eatery’s second-story ceiling, containing a seemingly endless list of natural delights, from veggie burgers to egg salad sandwiches (served on healthy hemp bread, naturally). 2610 Lyndale Ave. S., Mpls., 612-870-7855.

>> Delmonico’s Italian Foods

Under this unassuming red, white, and green awning in a sleepy section of northeast Minneapolis, the Delmonico family (“protected by the mafia,” according to the bumper sticker behind the counter) has been peddling all things Italian since 1929—including hoagie sandwiches so full of cheese, salami, and hot peppers that they’re as heavy as concrete pajamas. The original Delmonicos’ sons took over a few years back, but the flavors and the friendly service—and a few items in the odd half-price box—seem like they’ve been there since the beginning. 1112 Summer St. NE, Mpls., 612-331-5466.

Photo by Eric Moore

>> Jasmine Deli

There are few better vehicles for mock meat than a báhn mi sandwich from this tiny Eat Street shop. A crusty baguette, julienne carrots, jalapeños, cilantro, and that mysterious lip-smacking sauce, make the fake go down good. 2532 Nicollet Ave., Mpls., 612-870-4700.

>> Birchwood Café

Between the black beans and the bulgur, could life at the Birchwood possibly get healthier? Since 1999, the café has sponsored a cycling team: patrons who bike a bunch of miles before sitting down to a nutritious organic meal. Cycling groups depart from the café four times a week—the 10 a.m. Sunday ride (May through September) is open to non-team members. A few local chefs and restaurateurs are rumored to be members, so if you’d like to see some of your favorite kitchen wizards stripped down to their spandex, pull the old two-wheeler out of the garage and brush off the cobwebs. Just don’t say it was our idea. 3311 E. 25th St., Mpls., 612-722-4474.

>> Broders Cucina Italiana

For when you just want to sit at a counter with a plate of pasta, stare out a window, and listen to Andrea Bocelli singing Verdi on your iPod. 2308 W. 50th St., Mpls., 612-925-3113.

>> Dong Yang Oriental Food

Just past the aisle devoted entirely to seaweed products and the gallon-size jars of kimchi, the lunchroom in the back of this Asian grocery serves Korean bibimbap and BBQ that packs a tae kwon do punch. 735 45th Ave. NE, Hilltop, 763-571-2009.

>> Lucia’s Bakery

Lucia’s has a decidedly female vibe, from the butter-colored walls to the folk-rock on the radio to the bite-size cupcakes for a buck. For guys, there are whole roast chickens available for takeout. If you eat it all yourself, we won’t tell. 1428 W. 31st St., Mpls., 612-825-9800.

>> Manny’s Tortas

The best thing about Manny’s Tortas, besides the griddled Mexican sandwiches, may be that the mustachioed Manny Gonzalez himself can often be spotted behind the counter, making sure all is bueno. 2700 E. Lake St., Mpls., 612-728-1778.

>> 318 Cafe

Dinner and a show? This intimate coffeehouse/café is also one of the coolest venues for live music. 318 Water St., Excelsior, 952-401-7902.

>> Cafe Latté

The cafeteria line sure ain’t the same: no Tater Tots or chicken nuggets in sight. Besides the requisite latté, you’ll find chicken salsa chili, Caesar salad, and the cafe’s renowned turtle cake. 850 Grand Ave., St. Paul, 651-224-5687. MM

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