Category Archives: minnesota

South Asian Foods, giving you halwa puri, yes, in Fridley, MN (blissful altar of breakfast post #3)

south asian foods, in fridley, mn

south asian foods, in fridley, mn

Somewhere, off of Highway 694 I believe, you can find a grocery catering to the South Asian palate. That’s right, in the middle of nowheresville, a.k.a., Fridley, Minnesota, you can find a tiny, teeny shop selling toor dal, sambal and the like. Bangladeshi, Indian, Pakistani, and other people patronize the store.

I took a special field trip there with one of my friends, an Indian national, pining for some tolerably authentic food for breakfast. He said it was OK that it was Pakistani. On Saturday mornings you can buy an inexpensive breakfast (somewhere under $6.00 I think) – halwa puri – including rice, dal, halwa, puri, and other nice things. It takes a LOT to get me up on a Saturday morning, but my friend threatened me by saying that if we did not get there by 9:30 a.m., none would be left. So, I went. I saw. I ate. It was SO good. Smells great when you go in, too.

If you find yourself pining for a good breakfast on a Saturday morning to remind you of the old country, look no further than South Asian Foods!

(post #3 in a series of posts about BREAKFAST!)

South Asian Foods
765 53rd Ave. NE
Fridley, MN 55421
(763) 586-9800

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Al’s Breakfast of Minneapolis, Minnesota: prosaic American breakfast as an art form (blissful altar of breakfast post #2)

Al’s is an institution. A good one. Of course, I didn’t know that the first time I moseyed there. It is not much bigger than a postage stamp. The Wikipedia entry says it seats fourteen people. Apparently its diminutive nature didn’t stop it from winning a James Beard award.

People wait in line for seats to open up. It’s worth it. Just try to avoid going between 7:30 and 9:00 a.m. – or just be very very patient.

You can get a fancy flourish or two. Yeah, a little tomato, basil, or this or that might show up. But Al’s treats honest, prosaic American breakfast as an art form. In my last visit, I ordered some toast, eggs, and sausage. The manager gave me two lovely eggs the cook fried gently in butter to a perfect “over medium.” Eggs can get too dry. Or burnt. Or whatever. Or just boring, which is probably the worst outcome. With Al’s eggs, I could enjoy everything: the sweetness of the butter playing against the yolk and white; the tenderness of the “medium” I’d requested; and happily pairing the egg with toast or sausage in alternating bites. Oh, and the pancakes. Maybe that was a different visit. The blueberry pancakes were spectacular. The tartness of the berries accentuated the tender texture of the pancakes. A little butter and syrup heightened the superb pancake experience into true love. Al’s is to the breakfast grill what Rudy Galindo is to the ice rink: a world-class champion. Work it, Al’s!

Sure, you could certainly visit it for its quirky ambience. It’s stuck in a converted alleyway in the middle of Dinkytown, shouting distance from the University of Minnesota. You could be sitting next to some New Yorkers experiencing Al’s for the first time, or a ex-Minneapolite carrying a torch for Al’s all the way from who knows where. Listening to the staff communicate with each other and the customers makes for great people-watching. But make no mistake, this place has got the absolute chops DOWN. Al’s got its reputation the old-fashioned way: by earning it!

...not much wider than a bicycle is long

(post #2 in a series about BREAKFAST!)

Al’s Breakfast
413 14th Ave. S.E.
Minneapolis, MN 55414
612-331-9991
PHOTO CREDITS:
  • first photo showing much of the restaurant above appears by kind permission of m.papaya;
  • second photo by Megan Mayer of mnartists.org; and
  • the third photo appears by kind permission of sidesalad.

Jay’s Café of St. Paul, MN (blissful altar of breakfast #1)

jays cafe business card

jay's cafe business card

I happen to adore breakfast. There are several places in the U.S. that deserve identification as blissful altars of breakfast. And Jay’s Cafe is one of them. Yes, they serve lunch and dinner, and I’m sure they are fabulous, but, breakfast is a special treat. This restaurant, situated on a street distinguished by a low-rent liquor store on the corner (and thriving in the shadow of the Twin Cities breakfast behemoth, Keys), is a suprising gem.

It’s a teeny, tiny and pretty restaurant. The proprietors hang art on the walls. Reddish wood provides sweet color up to the chair rail height, setting off the green paint that goes to the ceiling. Oh, but you are not there to stare and twiddle your thumbs. Everytime I go there, I am struck by how well these people understand their ingredients. If you get home-fried potatoes, they are perfectly spiced. If you get eggs, they are perfectly tender. What else can you ask for?

This is definitely the breakfast for the educated tongue. Elements such as sofrito, ciabatta, artichoke, and gruyere pepper the brief menu. I usually get the Surfer Burrito, packed with egg, chorizo, potatoes, avocado, tomato, veggies, and garnished with their very own salsa. Oh, see, they could be totally cavalier with the salsa, but they are NOT. This is the type of obsession I condone wholeheartedly!

(part 1 of a series of posts about breakfast joints.)

Jay’s Café
791 Raymond Ave.
St. Paul, Minnesota 55114
Phone: (651) 641-1446

stuffed cabbage / holubet @ Kramarczuk’s

Imagine: tender cabbage leaves surrounding seasoned meat and rice, with a little bed of assertive – but not overly tart- sauerkraut, laced with tiny crumbs of sausage, and dressed with tomato cream sauce. That is the delight of holubet, a Ukranian rendition of stuffed cabbage. This was my lunch the other day for $5.99. My friend had a pastrami sandwich, which he found “OK.”

Now, I chose from the side of the menu labeled “Ethnic,” while he didn’t. I don’t understand his choice of lunch. He told me that the place was quite the institution, and that it was Eastern European. We could have very well landed in either the pizza place or the sandwich place across the street. The sandwich was a copout. People, honor thy culinary artists, and take a risk! Order that dish you do not understand – and for the love of all comestibles, do not order a sandwich just because you are afraid of what’s behind door #2.

P.S. Check out Deep End Dining to read about risk taking when dining out!

photo credit: moncrief speaks took this fine picture.