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Minneapolis Restaurants: Reviews & Recommendations

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I read them, even though I'm in Winnipeg. I'm always on the look-out for restaurants to add to my "must eat at" list. Mediterranean Cruise Cafe was already on my list because I wanted to belly-dance there, and I wanted to compare it with Da Afghan (although a waitress at a Persian restaurant told us MCC was Lebanese not Afghanistani, I thought I could still do a comparison) so I read that one with interest.

Other restaurants on my list, which may not be in your review-able area, are Al's (even though I already ate their twice on my last trip--their eggs benedict rock!), El Burrito Mercado and a whole slew of Lebanese restaurants that I can't remember. There's also a French bakery I wanted to go to--it might have been called Patrick's. Are any of these possibilities for reviews?

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There's very little good in our reviewing area. If you do come down to Mpls, talk to me. There are lots of great restaurants that are outside our area, and very few within. The restaurants we review sound better than they really are because our scale is different.

Bruce

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I'm reading too.

And I haven't gone into hibernation; I've gone back to Texas for work.

Well come back. We have pheasant to cook.

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Review #9 is technically outside of our review area, but they let us do it anyway.

Bruce

*********

Dining South: Delivery from bad pizza

Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier, Special to the Star Tribune

Published December 17, 2003

There's this thing about pizza: People will eat it no matter how bad it is. Whether it's cardboard-bottomed frozen pizza or delivered pies floating in grease, when's the last time you looked at that slice in your hand and said, "This isn't very good. I don't want to eat it"?

We suppose it's because pizza is easy. Once it's done, you can't send it back, and if there were anything else around for dinner you wouldn't have ordered pizza in the first place. The key to the whole experience, then, is to start with a decent pizza. Give Angelo's a call.

This is not yuppie pizza with goat cheese and artichoke hearts. Angelo's serves utterly unpretentious tomato sauce pizza with a range of toppings that covers all the basics and a few exotic choices such as sauerkraut, barbecue sauce and shrimp. Everybody will find something to like because it's darned good.

Angelo's serves pizza in thin-crust and pan-style varieties. The thin crust is perfect: flexible, a little crisp, a little chewy. The sauce is good and comes covered with generous handfuls of your favorite toppings. The cheese is not so heavy that it drags the slice apart at every bite. The pan-style crust is also good, though it's thicker than we like. If a really bready crust appeals, order the pan-style. You'll get plenty of toppings and the same nicely browned cheese.

Angelo's menu includes a small selection of American-Italian classics. The restaurant makes its own meatballs, which you can get with spaghetti, ravioli or baked manicotti. None of these are standouts. Angelo's also offers an all-you-can-eat spaghetti option, but there are no additional meatballs with your second helping. The chicken baked spaghetti -- kind of a chicken and spaghetti stew -- was surprisingly nice. The other entrees would be improved by more peppers and onions.

The entrees come with miniature loaves of bread, a charming extra. Unfortunately, these are buttered with what tastes like the same ghastly oil found on popcorn in movie theaters that don't spring for real butter. Even ordering the bread with garlic couldn't overcome this disappointment.

The iceberg-lettuce salads are uninspiring -- as well as the antipasto salad -- though the homemade blue cheese dressing is particularly good. You can also order several different sandwiches. But for lunch Angelo's serves pizza by the slice, so have that.

We recommend staying away from the Italian fries and the Cinna fries. The former is strips of pizza dough that you can dip in spaghetti sauce. The latter is a sweetened pizza dough with cinnamon and icing. It's a gut bomb, and not a very good one at that.

Angelo's delivers, but only to South St. Paul. That's OK. Hop on Interstate Hwy. 494, go to the 7th Street exit, and head just a few blocks north for one of the Twin Cities' pizza jewels. Eat in or take out. It's worth the trip for delicious pizza.

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Nice review. Is Angelo's part of a local multi site ( I don't want to say chain) establishment? I think there is one in Plymouth with the same name and menu.

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I think they're a single restaurant, and not part of a chain.

I hope I'm right; I don't review chains.

BTW, we're off next week because the section is shortened because of Christmas. Hoban Korean is our next review, and will appear the week after.

Bruce

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This is review #10. They delayed it because of Christmas, so it didn't appear until two days ago.

In 2004 we're switching to every other week. I just don't think there are 52 restaurants in our area worth reviewing. If they start up another regional section, we may be doing reviews for that, too.

Bruce

*********

Hoban an excellent introduction to Korean cuisine

Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier, Special to the Star Tribune

Published December 31, 2003

Search the Internet for information on Korean cuisine and you invariably stumble across the proverb that you can eat as much Korean food as you want and not gain weight. We doubt that but we can report that Korean food is nutritious, balanced and low in calories.

Traditional Korean cooking includes a lot of fish and vegetables. Common seasonings are soy sauce, red pepper paste, soybean paste, ginger, garlic and sesame oil. Rice comes with every meal.

Hoban Korean Restaurant in Eagan is an excellent introduction to the cuisine.

None of the appetizers were very interesting. Mandoo are fried dumplings; these were too greasy for our taste. Even the bin dae tuk, bean pancakes filled with scallions and seasonings, were greasier than we've seen elsewhere. Stick with the entrees and you'll be happier.

Your meal will be served with an array of tiny side dishes, called "ban chan" in Korean. These are all vegetables pickled in some way and served cold. Kim chee is the spiciest of these sides and is fermented Napa cabbage mixed with red chili pepper flakes, garlic, ginger and fish sauce. Other ban chan dishes include a mild cabbage, spicy radish cubes, mild shredded radish, mung bean sprouts, mealy potato cubes and a delicious mixture of spinach and shredded carrots. If you finish any of the dishes, your server will be happy to bring more.

Bulgogi is probably the most accessible Korean dish. It's beef sliced thin and barbecued. Hoban's rendition is excellent. The meat is tender and the sauce is slightly sweet and flavorful. Kalbee is another barbecued dish, beef short ribs in sauce. Both come with onions and mushrooms.

If you are more adventurous, you can try the Hot Spicy Squid or the Hot Spicy Octopus. Both are stir-fried with vegetables and a sauce.

Bibimbob is a single-dish Korean meal. You get a bowl of rice topped with barbecued beef, vegetables and a fried egg. Mix it all together, add hot sauce to taste and enjoy. We suggest the dolsot bibimbob, which is served sizzling in a hot pot.

Korean cooking is known for its hearty soups. Jongul is more like a stew filled with meat, vegetables and noodles. We especially liked the seafood jongul, overflowing with seafood, vegetables, tofu and noodles. One of the dishes has "honey comb" on the menu. That means tripe -- beware.

We also liked the mandoo kook and tukmandoo kook, both mild soups and both much tastier ways to eat the Korean dumplings. The menu says that the jongul dishes are for two people but three could make a meal of them.

Hoban has a lot more to offer. And even though Korea is known for its spicy food, quite a bit of it is mild. On weekdays Hoban has a $6 lunch buffet, which is an easy way to get acquainted with Korean cuisine.

Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier are constantly on the lookout for good places to eat. If you have a favorite restaurant south of the Minnesota River, please write us at diningsouth@startribune.com.

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Thanks, Bruce, for continuning to post these. We have friends who have moved to the southern part of the Twin Cities (Burnsville) and I have told them to look for every one of your reviews.

And, a reminder to include Suzette -- just south of Jordan on the east side of 169. It's a few yards south of a bar called something like the OK Corral (uncertain of name). We drove by it last night on our way to New Ulm, and it appeared to be packed. I recall a review by the Strib a couple of years ago that was positive. I'm not sure if this is south of your region. I should really also call my sister-in-law who teaches in Chaska for some other recommendations for you.

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Our eleventh review.

Bruce

*****

Dining South: Meat sandwiches, Chicago style

Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier, Special to the Star Tribune

Published January 7, 2004

Notice the African bazaars, Asian markets, and Mexican panaderías around the area. Even in the far-flung suburbs, the white-bread woebegone Minnesota facade is being replaced by wild new tastes from far-off lands. Well, Chicago, anyway.

Chicago Johnny's in Lakeville serves hot dogs. If you want to pass as a Chicago native, order a "hot dog loaded." You'll get the classic Vienna all beef hot dog. You'll get a poppy seed bun, steamed. This will come topped with mustard, a violently green relish (called piccalilli), diced onions, sliced tomatoes, a pickle spear and small mildly hot peppers (called sport peppers). The whole dog is seasoned with celery salt.

This combination of color and flavor produces an astoundingly good sandwich. The mustard, onion and peppers have the intensity, the tomato soothes, the bun provides a good bland balance to the wild succulent garnishes, and the dog makes the whole flavor package work.

Notice the list does not include ketchup. It's just not done.

The roll simply won't be able to answer its call to duty. It will disintegrate during your last few bites, but take it in stride. You're having the authentic, messy experience. There's a roll of paper towels at your elbow for a reason.

Should all this seem like a bit much, order a chili dog, with or without onions. Or a cheese dog. You can even get one plain.

Italian beef is one of Chicago's lesser-known fast foods. It's basically roast beef, slow cooked in beef broth, usually served in a long roll with various toppings. Italian beef joints are not as common as hot dog stands, but many still dot the Chicago landscape, providing comfort food to the cognoscenti, Italian or no.

Chicago Johnny's serves Scada Italian beef, a Chicago standard. You can order it with barbecue sauce or cheese, but we prefer it plain. The only authentic Chicago topping for Italian beef is marinara sauce, which Johnny's does not serve. When we talked to the owner, she said that it was just too messy. We think that messy is the point, and hope she'll reconsider. We like sweet peppers on these, too.

You can also order a 'Maxwell Street Polish,' which is a deep-fried Polish sausage with mustard, onions and peppers. Or a meatball sandwich, served with a hot marinara sauce, and optional mozzarella and peppers. Or an Italian sausage, spicier than the Polish and a bit salty, and served with either sweet or hot peppers, and cheese and tomato sauce if you choose.

Can't decide? Order the Chicago combo, Italian beef and an Italian sausage in the same roll. We think this is a bit much, but there are people who love it.

Chicago Johnny's does not sell fries, although they will be added to the menu in February. Chips is what they've got.

The restaurant is nothing much to look at. It's in a nondescript strip mall. There's one counter to place an order, and another against the wall by which to eat. In the back there are some tiny tables. We also consider this part of the authentic Chicago hot dog experience. Except that Chicago Johnny's is cleaner than many hot dog places we've been to.

Karen Cooper and Bruce Schneier are constantly on the lookout for good places to eat. If you have a favorite restaurant south of the Minnesota River, please write us at diningsouth@startribune.com.

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Another great review Bruce and Karen :smile:

BTW, I believe the beef supplier is "Scala's" not "Scada" but don't quote me on that.

=R=

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You're right about the beef supplier; it's a typo.

Bruce

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Thanks, Bruce, for another review. I really enjoy reading them. Anything new in Mix?

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We're reviewing Midori's Floating World tonight for Mix, if you want to come. 6:30.

Bruce

Swimming lessons prevent. For the next 8 weeks, Tuesday evenings are out. Look forward to your report. Are you doing a review for each issue of Mix?

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Did any of you see CJ's today? Sad. I am going to make sure some one does a tribute to Kevin Cullen. He has personally raised the bar here for fine dining and will be missed big time.

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Are you doing a review for each issue of Mix?

Seems like it.

Bruce

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Did any of you see CJ's today? Sad. I am going to make sure some one does a tribute to Kevin Cullen. He has personally raised the bar here for fine dining and will be missed big time.

What is CJ's?

Bruce

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Thanks for posting the review. I get the sense that you are not as fond of Korean food as some of the other cuisines reviewed or was it just the relative culinary level of just this restaurant?

I read the Strib article on privacy and the internet - very nicely done.

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Thanks for posting the review.  I get the sense that you are not as fond of Korean food as some of the other cuisines reviewed or was it just the relative culinary level of just this restaurant?

Actually, we really liked the Korean restaurant. It was the second best restaurant we've reviewed to date. (Not good that the enthusiasm didn't come out in the review.)

And you can read all of my essays and op ed pieces on security here. (I have a new essay on Salon today.

Bruce


Edited by Schneier (log)

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They've gone biweekly starting in the New Year. There just aren't 52 restaurants worth reviewing in their coverage area...

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They've gone biweekly starting in the New Year.  There just aren't 52 restaurants worth reviewing in their coverage area...

:sad::angry:

=R=

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They've gone biweekly starting in the New Year. There just aren't 52 restaurants worth reviewing in their coverage area...

I know. I am just hopeful that that the Strib could see fit to expand Bruce and Karen's area...

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