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Thursday, September 29, 2022

Ask the food editor: Readers seek Chinese, Hmong, African and more

It’s time to once again answer all the burning questions of our readers about restaurants.

This time, when the establishments reopen, we have questions about where to eat before the events – I never thought I would miss this question so much! But also readers looking for good Chinese restaurants, Hmong food and more.

As always, send your questions to eat@pioneerpress.com. I will try to answer.

Q. We always ate outside the home in St. Paul and knew all the hot spots. Not many at present. We have tickets for the upcoming SPCO season and all performances are taking place at Ordway. Since we like to go out for dinner ahead of time, we’d love to get some tips on what’s good within walking distance of the theater, and stick to that figure if possible, say $ 2 s.

Pecos River Red Chili at The Loon in St. Paul, October 2019 (Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)

A. Unfortunately, there are not many restaurants that meet these requirements, and the closure due to the pandemic only made the situation worse, but I have a few suggestions:

How about the brand new Loon Cafe serving delicious chili peppers, sandwiches and pike perch?

Loon Cafe: st. St. Peter 426, St. Paul; 651-330-4777; looncafestpaul.com

Or Pillbox Tavern for great bar food?

Tavern Dot: St. N. Vabash, 400, St. Paul; pillboxtav.com

The Parlor Bar is a little further, but technically within walking distance and has some of the best burgers in town and great cocktails.

Salon bar: 267 W. Seventh Street, St. Paul; parlourbar.com/locations-st-paul

Q. My niece, a Texas native, is visiting in November and I would like to show her how Minnesotans love cold weather. I’m looking for a bar / restaurant with campfire pits, hopefully we can be outside (trying not to dine indoors as much as possible these days) but still have a little warmth.

We would have preferred St. Paul’s sites, but consider a different city.

She doesn’t like beer, so there are no breweries.

Ask The Food Editor: Readers Seek Chinese, Hmong, African And More
Smack Shack in the Minneapolis North Loop. Photo taken May 17, 2018 (Nancy Ngo / Pioneer Press)

A. My guess is that many restaurants will open fire pits in the fall because people are still worried about the virus.

That being said, two places I know of that have great campfire pits and / or outdoor seating systems ended up in the North Loop area of ​​Minneapolis, and they’re only a few blocks away.

Smack Shack has an entire outdoor heating system and it’s pretty impressive.

Smack Shack: 603 Washington Avenue N., Minneapolis; 612-259-7288; smack-shack.com

And Freehouse (which brews its own beer, but also has a full bar) has campfire pits:

Freehouse: 701 Washington Avenue N., Minneapolis; freehousempls.com

In St. Paul, the Red Rabbit has an outdoor fireplace and other heating elements, but I’ll call to make sure they use them this weekend.

Red rabbit: 788 Grand Ave., St. Paul; 651-444-5995; redrabbitmn.com

But keep an eye on the Food section as we plan on reviewing the courtyards that can be traversed if the weather cools down.

Q. I am looking for a good Chinese restaurant serving authentic, less Americanized food, preferably in St. Paul or the East Side.

Ask The Food Editor: Readers Seek Chinese, Hmong, African And More
Sichuan wontons in chili oil at Master Noodle in St. Paul, July 9, 2019 (Nancy Ngo / Pioneer Press)

A. Try Szechuan in Roseville, or Peking Garden, or Master Noodle (both at university).

Sichuan: 2193 N. Snelling Avenue, Roseville; 651-633-3113; szechuanmn.com

Master Noodles (formerly Magic Noodles): 1337 W. University Ave., St. Paul; 651-369-6688; magicnoodleusa.com

Beijing Garden: 394 W. University Ave., St. Paul; 651-644-0888; pekinggardenmn.com

Q. I’m looking for a great place to dine with halibut somewhere (better on the east side than on the west side of the metro) to celebrate a special occasion. Prefer outdoor patios.

A. I only found one place with halibut – it was terribly difficult! Kincaid’s has it on the menu, and Bloomington has a patio.

Kinkade: 8400 Normandale Lake Blvd., Bloomington; kincaids.com

Q. My two friends and I enjoy meeting for a leisurely lunch (we are all retired now) once a month whenever possible. One lives in Osceola, Wisconsin, the other in Crystal, Minnesota, and I live in Woodbury. We have selected restaurants in White Bear Lake, Stillwater, Roseville and would like to explore a few more places. Finding a place at an equal distance for everyone is not easy. I would like to hear your suggestions.

Ask The Food Editor: Readers Seek Chinese, Hmong, African And More
Ban Mi Crostini at LoLo American Craft Kitchen and Bar in Stillwater, photographed April 11, 2017 (Nancy Ngo / Pioneer Press)

A. I think looking at the map you can choose between Stillwater or White Bear Lake, and both cities have some really great places to eat.

LoLo American Kitchen in Stillwater is a favorite – and they have a place in the Hudson too if you want to try. LoLo has everything from burgers to tacos and really delicious rice plates.

LoLo American cuisine: 233 S. Main Street, Stillwater; 651-342-2461 or 175 S. Second St., Hudson, Wis; 715-808-8025; loloamericankitchen.com

The owners also have a Latin-themed restaurant, Lolito, which I have heard very good reviews about:

Lolito Cantina: 112 N. Main Street, Stillwater; 651-342-0972; lolitostillwater.com

If you’re looking for something a little chic, check out Feller for lunch:

Feller: 402 S. Main Street, Stillwater; 651-571-3501; fellerrestaurant.com

In the lake of the Polar Bear try Brick house: 4746 Washington Square, White Bear Lake; 651-528-6958; brickhousemn.com

Another funny thought I had, this will be a little more of a hike for your friend Osceola than for you and the crystal friend – this is Lindy’s trek to the Arden Hills. This is an old school steakhouse and I think a lot of people don’t realize they are serving lunch! There are several sandwiches as well as their famous steak.

Lindey’s Prime Steakhouse: 3600 N. Snelling Avenue, Arden Hills; 651-633-9813; theplaceforsteak.com

And if you come back to Roseville and want something higher class, I recommend Baldamar: 1642 W. County Road B2, 651-796-0040 Roseville; baldamar.com

Hope this is enough to get you started!

Q. I have been looking for a real Monte Cristo sandwich for many years. Bennigan had some of the best, but they no longer exist. Claddagh had a great restaurant in Maple Grove, but unfortunately it was closed in 2020. I’ve tried a few, but most are made like French toast and grilled rather than deep-fried with batter as in the original. Do you know any St. Paul’s way?

A. Looks like 13 Lucky Butters and deep fried from their Monte Cristo.

There are locations in Roseville, Mendot, Bloomington and other cities!


Q. Many of my relatives come from all over the United States for family reunification, and I want to show them the local flavor. Please recommend a good Hmong restaurant in the Saint Paul area.

Ask The Food Editor: Readers Seek Chinese, Hmong, African And More
Iya Wang’s best food at Hmong Village in Saint Paul. Photographed February 27, 2020 (Nancy Ngo / Pioneer Press)

A. It’s a shame we don’t have any more standalone Hmong restaurants. The best and most authentic Hmong food in town can be found in Hmong Village, a market square that sells Hmong sausage, purple sticky rice and other delicacies. Keep in mind they close at 6, so this is more of a lunch spot.

Hmong Village: 1001 Johnson Parkway, St. Paul; hmongvillagemn.com

Chef Iya Wang will soon open Vinai, a full-service Hmong restaurant in northeast Minneapolis. Meanwhile, on unionkitchenmn.com they offer feasts.

Q. Every month, members of the St. Paul branch of the national organization Women Rebel Together meet to learn and support the organization working to empower women and girls in low-income countries. In September, the selected organization is OneVillage Partners, based in Sierra Leone. Can you recommend a local restaurant that offers food from Sierra Leone that we can eat at home or take away?

A. Saint Paul is mainly Ethiopian and Somalis, as far as Africa is concerned, and these are East African peoples. As far as West Africa is concerned, it looks like most of the restaurants serving Fu Fu and other local delicacies are in Minneapolis or the Northwest Suburbs.

I ran across this place all the time, which looks very interesting:

Aquaaba Restaurant: 1823 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis; 651-796-0040; facebook.com/akwaabarestaurant/

This place, in Brooklyn Center, also has a ton of options:

Taste of Africa: 7405 Regent Ave. N., Brooklyn Center; 763-432-6646; tasteofafricabp.wixsite.com/toabp

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