photos by terry brennan
Jason: Rainbow Chinese is an Eat Street icon. For more than 30 years, chef Tammy Wong has been cooking fresh, seasonal Chinese food on Minneapolis’ Nicollet Avenue.
Joy: Wong is also a mainstay of the Minneapolis Farmers Market. She buys ingredients for the restaurant there, does cooking demonstrations, and sells some of her culinary creations, too. Fresh lettuce and seasonal herbs make the ideal pairing with her giant, crispy fried eggrolls—each bite simultaneously crunchy, sweet, salty, hot, and cool.
Jason: I thought I’d had great cream cheese wontons, but then I tried Wong’s. With their ultra-light and flaky shell, they’re like no other. While most restaurants use the same dough for their cream cheese wontons as they do their eggrolls, Rainbow uses a lighter dough and shapes smaller wontons, which makes a huge difference. I also love the way Wong’s meatballs do the dance between fresh and funk, as the aromatics of lemongrass contrast with the pungent bite of fish sauce.
Joy: Every few months, I get a powerful craving for Rainbow’s Szechuan wontons: Supple wrappers cradle pork and shrimp and swim in a spicy, salty black bean sauce loaded with scallions.
Jason: Even after numerous visits to Rainbow over many years, I still get excited eating there. It avoids many of the hazards that can befall Chinese American restaurants: The sweet and sour sauce tastes zippy, not syrupy; the meats are tender, not chewy; the vegetables crisp instead of soggy. There’s a precision in the cooking that’s evident in every plate.
Joy: Plus, the room is beautiful; it feels elegant and intimate. I love reserving the big table for a bunch of friends and sharing dishes off the lazy Susan. In the warmer months, there are tons of blooming flowers outside the restaurant and pleasant patio seating.
Jason: My go-tos are the beef broccoli and Hong Kong noodles with black bean sauce. And don’t miss one of the best Bloody Marys in town: It’s made with fresh horseradish, celery seed, and served with pickled farmers-market vegetables that Wong preserves herself. And on top? A cream cheese wonton, of course.
Rainbow Chinese Restaurant Quick Tips
During lunchtime on Saturday/Sunday: 11 a.m.–3 p.m., drinks are $5 and appetizers $3–$6
U.S. Bank Stadium:
Rainbow’s meatballs are featured at Twin City Foodies in Section 101
The Fish Tank:
120-gallon kid-magnet is filled with Japanese koi—when they get too big, Wong brings them to her backyard pond
Rainbow Chinese Restaurant:
2739 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis, 612-870-7084, rainbowrestaurant.com