Dine, but no whine, please

Anyone who’s lived in the Twin Cities any length of time recognizes this area’s mewling metro-insecurity that lurks just beneath our supposedly cosmopolitan surface; kind of a “Cold Omaha Syndrome”: the fear that despite our aires of suave sophistication and our cultural icons we’re really more at home with blue-light specials than gas-light ambiance. The latest jeremiad on this theme was an article in yesterday’s Strib lamenting the demise, in quick succession, of three high-end, top chef fine dining establishments, Levain, Five Restaurant and Street Lounge, and Auriga.

Though I never ate dined at any of these places I will say I feel a little sad that they’re gone I am not inclined to press the back of my wrist against my forehead and lament that Minneapolis (few even will include St. Paul for consideration) is not worthy, or is merely a “two-star” city as one restaurateur and critic said. He’s probably right, but so what?

Make no mistake, I like to eat out and the Old Country Buffet and Red Lobster (“Dead Lobster” we call it at our house) are not the troughs of choice for my family. We appreciate good food, above-average service and a degree of imagination in the menu, but dropping $75 to $100 per person on dinner isn’t high on our list of Entertaining Things to Do. Sure, I know you can spend similar amounts and more on theater or concert tickets or even going to a Vikings, Wild or Timberwolves game and that these amusements are as transitory as a fine dinner (and probably won’t set as well) — but we don’t typically do those things either. So, would we be just as happy in Des Moines?

The fun thing for us (my wife and I, anyway) is going to some new, off-beat place we’ve never been. Heck, we’ll even dress up. It’s easier to be adventurous, however, if the entrees don’t cost as much as a tank of gasoline. My wife likes to peruse the restaurant reviews in the local papers and clip out places that sound interesting. She keeps these clippings in a folder and when we have a chance to go out we’ll consult this file and choose a place. The Reverend Mother prides herself on being willing to try anything but liver or beef stroganoff (and she has discovered that she doesn’t like catfish). I’m not nearly as daring, especially if it involves vegetables, but through our outings we’ve had goat, yak, many varieties of Indian food (her favorite) and even ordered food at ethnic places where we simply pointed at things on a steam table that looked good. We’ve also enjoyed the imagination and presentation (especially because the food was also excellent) at Muffuletta and at Zelos. If anyone has any suggestions for other places we can try, leave a comment below.

One thing we’ve learned, however, with our various outings is to call first: several times we’ve ventured out to some promising place only to find that it’s already gone out of business. Apparently it’s not just the high-end, fancy restaurants that go out of business. Who knew?

5 thoughts on “Dine, but no whine, please

  1. Here are some of my favorite ethnic places. All very good.

    Babanis (Kurdish) – downtown St. Paul

    Moscow on the Hill (Russian) – near St. Pauls cathedral

    Barbary Fig (North African) – Grand Ave

    Everest on Grand (Nepali) – Grand Ave

    Christos (Greek) – Nicollet Ave

    Black Forest (German) – Nicollet Ave

    Machu Picchu (Peru) – Lyn-Lake

    Khyber Pass (Afghan) – Grand and Snelling

  2. I might add, for breakfast my place of choice is Maria’s Cafe, a nice little Columbian place on Franklin Avenue.

  3. We went to Everest on Grand for Rev. Mother’s birthday a few years ago. I don’t remember much about it, except that it had yak.

  4. We’ve been to Babanis a few times (not far from where we live), the Khyber Pass (but prefer Da Afghan in Bloomington), Machu Pichu (we weren’t that impressed) and Everest, as Tiger Lilly said. The RM and I have also eaten at Barbary Fig where I amazed her by enjoying a meatless meal (and it was ok!)

  5. Eh, I pride myself on being part of that two-star Minnesota.

    If I would look out of place drinking a tap beer and shelling peanuts onto the floor I’m probably not overly interested.

    Sure I can clean up and know which fork is for what, but all things considered I’ve always counted greasy bar food as amongst the best.

    Keep your caviar, tell the cook to clean his cigarettes off the grill and fry me up a Juicy Lucy.

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