Snacking in the Bike Lane: The Markets of University Avenue

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

This is the third in a four-part series of stories underwritten by Sociable Cider Werks that trace a 22-mile bike route through Minneapolis and St. Paul, hitting markets and off-the-grid eateries along the way.

Depending on which side of the river you most identify with, University Avenue is the “Eat Street” of St. Paul, or Eat Street is the University Avenue of Minneapolis, and it’s a good thing we don’t have to choose, at the risk of starting a civil war.

I’ve begun to sound like a broken record, because many of my favorites are situated here, favorite Thai (Thai Cafe) favorite Mexican (Homi) favorite steakhouse (Best Steakhouse).

The sheer number of eating and drinking establishments clustered together makes it virtually impossible for anything else at all to sprout up in between them, making it a no-brainer for consumptive crawls or rides. And thanks to that proliferation, you’re wise to get out of the car, or even off of the train, and really, really have a good look at what’s here, because as the storefronts whiz by, you might imagine that they are all similar, but you would be wrong.

This series is underwritten by Sociable Cider Werks, makers of innovative libations that are best shared with a friend.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

Ha Tien Market

You know banh mi sandwiches. Every Minnesotan knows banh mi sandwiches as sure as she knows sweet corn and the proper placement of a bobber on the fishing line. But did you know that Ha Tien Market is practically ground zero for banh mi? Yes, nearby Saigon may have a bigger name for its gargantuan, three-for-$10 sandwiches, which go great with their gargantuan soups and bubble teas. But Ha Tien has earned a worthy name for itself as the cult-y place to go for the best barbecue pork banh mi around.

How cult-y? Approach the counter, and chances are the staff will know what you’ve come for, and they’re going to tell you if you’ve arrived on time or if you’re too late. Too late is typically anytime after the lunch rush, so if you come after say 1 p.m., you’re cutting things close.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

Fatty, unctuous, crisp, bubbly, the pork belly hangs in full view on a hook, next fire engine-red Peking ducks, and when you order a sandwich, down comes the belly, and whack! whack! whack! a lady (or in some cases a guy) will create a sandwich for you with impressive flourish. Arguably, this is the only thing to go out of your way for as far as this particular lunch counter is concerned, but there are a few pairings to consider.

It’s easy to be split on Lao-style Papaya salad, the shredded, green papaya wonder that is gaining traction for the dish we are lucky enough to call almost ubiquitous in our Twin Cities. That said, stay alert for “Thai Style” and “Lao Style” differentiators on papaya salads, the latter prepared with a goodly amount more fish sauce, fermented fish, and shrimp paste to render the thing with an almost aquarium-like aroma. Love it or leave it, Ha Tien serves the latter, in convenient takeaway clamshells. I like mine with the purple sticky rice that acts as a foil to everything that’s going on with the papaya which is a lot— hot, funk, acid, tang.

Also, if the staff offers any specials, it’s worthwhile to grab it— on my last visit it was an interesting eggplant preparation roasted with sesame and while not necessarily mind blowing, a good way to get some veg in your life.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

Wonders Ice Cream

In the age of Instagram eats, a very rapidly moving and expanding age, Thai Rolled Ice Cream is having its day. It’s weird-looking enough to be performance art, and it upends tradition enough to make it worth eating.

Smooth and creamy becomes, well, flat and and the same time cylindrical, so, yeah, why not?

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

It sort of reminds me of the first time I had Dippin’ Dots. Not exactly better than ice cream, but different than ice cream, like putting your cheese inside the patty instead of a plain old cheeseburger.

While Thai Rolled Ice cream is probably not poised to become as classic as the Jucy Lucy, it’s at least as fun. When Wonders first opened, lines formed around the block, for a chance to watch and learn, a chance to Instagram, and finally, a chance to taste.

In any case, by this time in your ride you’ll be looking for a little sweet satisfaction and refreshment, so check it out. At the very least you can tell the internets that you did.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

88 Oriental Deli

Perhaps the most pleasant thing about food exploration is the reward of something completely new and amazing. There is new, and there is familiar and great, but new and amazing, that’s the fix we’re all looking for here at Heavy Table, amiright?

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

So imagine our thrill when wandering to the lunch counter of this unassuming Asian grocery store that at first blush looks like many others you’ve shopped. Approach the lunch counter way in the back, and you’ll be asked, basically, how much sausage you want. And the answer only lies in your own conscience: how much sausage can you eat?

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

This handmade specialty is like nothing I’ve had in the past, not the same as the lemongrass Hmong sausage I’ve grown something of a spiritual attachment to, nor the sour sausages found in many Vietnamese soups and sandwiches.

Instead, this link-like sausage comes with a warning— it’s hot— sneakily hot. Start devouring the sweet porkiness, and wait for the creep. It’s addictive, and magical, and something that will have me returning again and again.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

This is a product that works best with a foil, so if you’re not offered the pickled carrots that sometimes arrive as sidecar, check out the pickled mango in the refrigerator section, that can provide a similar balancing act. It comes in a pouch with some brine, and will be a welcome addition to any charcuterie plate at home if you have any leftover.

And, because it’s there, order up a bubble tea that the staff will build to your specifications, multi-chromatic and gelatinous as you like.

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

DIRECTIONS FOR THIS LEG, FROM HA TIEN MARKET TO 88 ORIENTAL FOODS

LA ALBORADA (see previous installment) 1855 E Lake St to HA TIEN MARKET [6.5 miles]

Head east on East Lake St., continue on Marshall Ave. 6.3 miles
Turn left on Western Ave N .5 miles
Turn right on University Ave W, walk your bike, destination on left

HA TIEN MARKET 353 University Ave. West, St. Paul to Wonders Ice Cream [.2 miles]
Head east on University Ave. West

WONDERS ICE CREAM 298 University Ave. West, St. Paul to 88 Oriental Foods [.3 miles]
Head east on University Ave., cross at Marion St., head west on University Ave.

88 ORIENTAL FOODS, 291 University Ave. West, St. Paul

PREVIOUS LEG: The Markets of Northeast Minneapolis
PREVIOUS LEG: Tacos and Cemitas on East Lake Street
THIS LEG: The Markets of University Avenue
NEXT LEG: The Streets of Saint Paul

Brunch at Hai Hai

James Norton / Heavy Table

If there was ever a meal that needed some conceptual busting up, it’s brunch. You’ve got your sweet (stuffed French toast, pancakes, doughnuts), your savory (bacon, corned beef hash, standard issue egg-derived whatevers), and your alcohol (bloody marys laden with gonzo chef skewers, Belinis, greyhounds). You can dial up the price point and the complexity or you can dial them down, but it’s tough to buck the reigning paradigm and find something legitimately different.

To a large extent, that’s fine: Come Sunday morning we’re all tired, and we’re often hung over at brunch, and it’s reassuring to roll into something comfortably like a blanket stuffed with pigs. But after a while, the experience gets old, and until the dim sum scene around here develops and stabilizes there aren’t all that many alternatives.

Enter Hai Hai. We enthusiastically joined the critical consensus on this Northeast Minneapolis spot that serves Southeast Asian small plates along with cocktails displaying a rummy island twist. Which is to say, “hurrah!” and “delicious!” and “more, please.”

Brianna Stachowski / Heavy Table

So here’s more: A couple of weeks ago, Hai Hai rolled out its brunch program with service from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, and it’s like nothing else in town. We tasted our way through most of the menu, and in a certain way, it doesn’t really matter what you get. It’s all good, it’s all vibrant, and it’s all a marvelous combination of stimulating and comforting.

On the stimulating end of things: real heat (which can be accentuated by an optional plate of spicy mix-ins), sharp bites of vinegary acid, and fantastic crunch vs. soft textural contrasts. On the comforting end of things: warm, chewy carbs like the Chinese cruller, sweet fish syrup on deftly fried chicken, tender grits, numerous poached eggs, luscious congee. No matter what you get you’re going to end up reaching across the table to try your dining companions’ food, and you’ll all be richer for the tasting.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

It’s a shame that one of the best fried chicken dishes in the state is only available 10 hours a week, but that’s just the way it goes: The Thai Fried Chicken and Papaya Salad ($14.50) at Hai Hai is straight-up killer. The chicken is tender, the exterior is ridiculous crispy and full-flavored, and the bonus bits — lime-leaf honey butter, a chewy puck of sticky rice, papaya salad — are fully thought out and well integrated into the dish.

Hai Hai’s Caramelized Pork Congee ($11.50, top) is a rich, creamy, intoxicating bowl of warmth, the perfect dunking material for the accompanying savory youtiao (Chinese cruller) and a terrific receptacle for whatever kind of spicy heat you’d like to add to the mix.

James Norton / Heavy Table

The Omelette Banh Mi ($12.50) is a wonder of texture, from the crispy-chewy bread to the butter-soft eggs and the rich pate spread. We ended up throwing the accompanying fried potatoes and Garnet yams into our congee, where they played beautifully with the spice and rice.

James Norton / Heavy Table

And our Laksa Shrimp and Grits ($16) brought herbal complexity and Thai chili heat to the delicate creaminess of grits and the mellow sweetness of the well-cooked shrimp that crowned the dish.

Ruts can be comfortable, but there’s something glorious about bursting out of them. Hai Hai offers you the perfect excuse to do so this coming Saturday (or Sunday) morning.

Hai Hai, 2121 University Ave NE Minneapolis; 612.223.8640. Brunch served 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays

Heavy Table Hot Five: July 28-Aug. 3

hotfive-flames

Each Friday, this list will track five of the best things Heavy Table’s writers, editors, and photographers have recently bitten or sipped. Have a suggestion for the Hot Five? Email editor@heavytable.com.

shepherd-song-banner-ad-horiz-3The Hot Five is a weekly feature created by the Heavy Table and supported by Shepherd Song Farm.

shepherd-song-green-keyline

James Norton / Heavy Table

1-new - one - hot fiveGrilled Pork Banh Mi at Lu’s Sandwiches
This is one of our favorite renditions of the classic banh mi in a town full of good ones. The fillings are balanced, with pickled veg offsetting the rich flavors of pork and pate, and a house-made mayo tying everything together. The bread has some chew and is robust enough to carry its contents without being leathery (as is sadly sometimes the case with these sandwiches, particularly when they’ve sat around for a while).
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

Paige Latham Didora / Heavy Table

2-new - two - hot fiveHomemade Celery Bitters Made from Skaalvenn Vodka
This week my CSA box from Clover Bee Farms accidentally contained celery tops instead of parsley. I made celery bitters using Skaalvenn vodka because it’s affordable but high-quality. Put greens in a jar, and add enough vodka to cover. Let sit for about a week at room temp. Try in a bloody mary or a gin martini.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #2 | Submitted by Paige Latham Didora]

James Norton / Heavy Table

3-new - three hot five120-Day Aged Beef from the Chef’s Table at Cosmos
We’re increasingly convinced that the Upper Midwest’s killer culinary edge is going to come from the woods and water that surround us, so we’re always stoked to meet chefs who tap into foraging, gardening, hunting, and fishing as they cook. Timothy Fischer of Loews Minneapolis is one such chef. He led us last night through an epic chef’s table dinner that included everything from Minnesota crayfish to foraged mushrooms to vegetables and edible flowers from the hotel’s rooftop garden. The meal had a number of high points, but the peak may have been a perfectly cooked, exquisitely tender, medium-rare slice of beef served with thinly sliced truffles, bold verde and rojo sauces, and just enough greenery and pickled onion to set everything off.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #1 | Submitted by James Norton]

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

4-new four hot fiveCilantro Lime Serrano Hot Sauce by Isabel Heat Street
Cilantro Lime Serrano hot sauce from local maker Isabel Heat Street is a whirlwind of flavor pitched perfectly toward warm summer weather — herbaceous brightness up front kicked to a higher plane by the application of acidic notes of lime, followed by a moderate burn from the peppers that fades cleanly, setting the taster up for the next bite.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from a profile by James Norton]

James Norton / Heavy Table

5-new -fiveKoubideh Combo at Caspian Bistro
The exceedingly tender texture and mild but persuasive flavor of minced, pressed chicken and a similar treatment of beef and lamb makes the Koubideh Combo at Caspian Bistro as pleasant an entree as you could hope for: It’s earnest, straightforward, and it tastes exceedingly healthful when presented with a plate full of rice and a roasted tomato.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

Desert Island Top 10: Yia Vang

Chelsea Korth / Heavy Table
Chelsea Korth / Heavy Table

What if you were banished from civilization and had to choose just 10 local dishes to remember Minnesota by? Heavy Table’s Desert Island Top 10 asks local personalities about the dishes they can’t quit, the soulful stuff they crave and come back to.

THE PERSON: Yia Vang is the proprietor of Union Kitchen, a pop-up restaurant that has appeared at Cook St. Paul and Grand Cafe (among other locations) and has taught cooking classes all over Minneapolis-St. Paul. He’ll be one of five chef-instructors at the Sept. 1-3 edition of this year’s Chef Camp.

I’ve been told that the Twin Cities are like two sisters; Minneapolis is the younger, cooler, and sexy sister who all the guys want to date. When she walks into a room she captures the attention of everyone because of her grace and beauty. While on the other side of the river is St. Paul, the older sister who works hard, and she might not be a “show stopper” but you can always depend on her to get the job done. She probably didn’t go to a fancy four-year university; instead she stayed home and took care of the family business, and now she’s the head of the company.

Well, I want to talk about older-sister St. Paul, who has somehow gotten lost in the shadow of her flashy younger sister. Most of the restaurants on my list are in St. Paul. Let’s start with …

WACSO / Heavy Table
WACSO / Heavy Table

Beef Brisket Wonton Noodles at Hong Kong Noodle
It’s on University Avenue right on the border of Minneapolis and St. Paul (some say it’s Minneapolis but for argument’s sake I say St. Paul). This shop has some of the greatest late-night eats, and my favorites are the Beef Brisket Wonton Noodles — amazingly tender beef with shrimp wontons and egg noodles. Then there’s the Fried Sole with dried chilies, and finally, the House Chicken with ginger scallion sauce. On a cold Minnesota day, walk in and order these three items, and your belly will thank you.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Pho with Assorted Meats at iPho by Saigon
As you keep driving east on University, you’ll find a pho shop called iPho. There are two items that you must try: the pho with assorted meats and the Saigon Sandwich Banh Mi. The broth of the pho is nothing to mess with, It has been passed down through the generations and has won praise from celebrity chefs including Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Coconut Croissants at Trung Nam Bakery
Across the street from iPho there’s an amazing Vietnamese bakery called Trung Nam. Aside from great French baguettes that can be used for banh mi sandwiches, they have the flakiest and most buttery croissants. They have many flavors, but my favorite is the coconut.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The Flintstone Sandwich at Big Daddy’s BBQ
Keep traveling east on University and you’ll hit Big Daddy’s BBQ, a shop run by three great guys who started out with a community microloan. You must try the The Big Daddy Flintstone Sandwich, a beef short rib smoked and sliced, then stacked high on a soft bun.

WACSO / Heavy Table
WACSO / Heavy Table

Mi Bo Kho at Trieu Chau
Keep moving east on University for two blocks and you’ll hit upon Trieu Chau. There’s great pho there, but you’ll want to try the Mi Bo Kho. It’s a deep, rich beef stock with carrots, which add a little sweetness; it’s spiced with a little chili and has large pieces of tender tendons and beef. The broth is where it’s all at. If you have a cold, the Mi Bo Kho will chase it away.

Sarah McGee / Heavy Table
Sarah McGee / Heavy Table

Crispy Pork at Ha Tien
Farther down University is an Asian grocery store called Ha Tien. They have great meats and produce, but what they also have is an incredible deli. My two favorite items are the stir-fried pork intestines with peppers and bamboo and the crispy pork.

Beef Laab at Hmongtown Marketplace
Hmongtown Marketplace is an outdoor (weather permitting) and indoor farmers market in St. Paul. If you go to the indoor food stalls, you must try the beef laab or the roasted beef ribs, and don’t forget your sticky rice.

Kate NG Sommers / Heavy Table
Kate NG Sommers / Heavy Table

Steak at Santi’s in Hmong Village
On Johnson Parkway, near Phalen Regional Park, is a large Hmong market called Hmong Village. Imagine you were on the streets of Thailand walking among all the different food stalls and vendors. Well, take that image and put it into a huge old indoor storage unit. There are many vendors, stores, bakeries, and food stalls in Hmong Village, but these are some of my favorites: There’s a shop there called Santi’s, and they make the best steak. It’s called the Crazy Steak, and it comes with wasabi hot sauce. Also, you can go to Mai’s Kitchen and get Stuffed Chicken Wings. Yes, I said “stuffed chicken wings.” Imagine the stuffing for an egg roll stuffed into a deboned chicken wing that is then roasted. You can cool everything down with a Taro Bubble Tea from Blueberry, which does great Thai teas and bubble teas.

WACSO / Heavy Table
WACSO / Heavy Table

Spicy Squid at Dong Yang
Now for this next place you’ll have to completely leave St. Paul and go to Columbia Heights. Right off Central Avenue, there’s a place called Dong Yang. This is a Korean grocery store with a deli in the back. My favorite item to order is the Spicy Squid, and along with the meal you’ll get banchan, which is a whole bunch of little side dishes that come with all the Korean meals.

If you enjoyed this collection of eats, also check out musician and radio DJ Sean McPherson’s picks and cookbook author Amy Thielen’s picks.

Dumpling in Howe, Minneapolis

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Maybe, when it’s all boiled down and accounted for, there are two types of restaurants. The first is as unlike home cooking as is financially manageable — otherwise, why bother dining out, right? Impeccable service, wine bible and cocktail list, foams, microgreens, ingredients that you can’t spell, pronounce, or parse, and a grand sense of ceremony that says, “Here is why you’re paying $100 a plate tonight.” The second is the inverse: It’s inviting, and it’s comfortable. Everything you eat tastes like a human being made it in a caring way.

The newly opened Dumpling in Minneapolis certainly falls into the second category. The restaurant opened at the end of 2016 as a logical next step for its team of Bunbob Chhun and James Munson, who have been running Dumpling as a farmers market and pop-up venture since 2012.

Wedged into a former Chinese-American dive on Minnehaha, Dumpling is cozy and cool, a small dining room that is attracting an audibly enthusiastic neighborhood clientele. The menu is intelligently and deliberately small, too: eight starters, nine entrees, five low-alcohol cocktails, and a total of six wines and beers. The sense of focus is admirable, and it pays dividends on the plate.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

At the top of the appetizer list, not surprisingly, sit the Crispy Dumplings ($7 for five). We tried the pork variety on two occasions, and they were at that sweet spot of crunchy and pliable on the outside and rich yet light on the interior. It’s easy for a dumpling to go leaden or lifeless, but these pack a surplus of flavor without drowning you in fat and carbs. They’re well-seasoned, too — salty but not aggressively so. If you’ve never had a fresh, handmade dumpling, think carefully before eating these. They’ll ruin you for an awful lot of the dumplings available out there.

We also tried the Seasonal Dumplings ($7) with winter squash and greens. The two filling elements were not combined into a single mixture, so the diner could enjoy their individual tastes and textures. The squash was sweet and dense, and the greens provided an earthy bite. The coconut-ginger dipping sauce, applied judiciously, boosted the flavor to a higher level. Even though the pastry had a nice crunch, this time it erred on the side of softness. The edges of the dumpling were crisp, but the expanses in between could have used a few moments longer in the fryer.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Our Cream Cheese Wontons ($7) were the best we’ve tried, full stop. They packed a real allium kick that strongly suggested the experience of eating a just-toasted onion bagel with a schmear of melty cream cheese. Like a good Jucy Lucy, these things are volatile — chew carefully, because the skins are delicate and the filling is hot.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The Dumpling version of the classic Banh Mi Sandwich ($10) gets a number of things right: The baguette is perfectly light, chewy, and crisp, the pulled pork is flavorful (and doesn’t get swamped by the bread or pickled veg), and the overall balance of sandwich toppings was on point. We wrote recently about the boom of banh mi and ramen around here, and Dumpling is contributing positively to the trend. These are banh mi that’ll stand up to their peers all around town.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Our Ramen ($14) was solid, with a not overly salty or fatty broth tasting of cinnamon and star anise. A mound of standard-issue kinked noodles lay in repose beneath the broth and a neatly segmented assortment of classic ingredients including a soft-boiled egg and what tasted like the same tender, fully flavored pulled pork that adorned the banh mi. Tori Ramen’s duck ramen remains our current favorite, but Dumpling’s will certainly do in a pinch.

The Rice Bowl ($8) with tofu ($2 additional) was loaded with vegetables, but we missed a truly succulent umami flavor. There was an assortment of steamed vegetables as well as several types of mildly pickled vegetables, including a kimchi. The fried egg was somewhat stiffer than we would have liked. The grilled tofu was lightly seasoned, and perhaps the two meat choices (brisket or fried chicken, $5 additional) would have given the dish the intensity it lacked.

Ruthie Young / Heavy Table
Ruthie Young / Heavy Table

On the cocktail front, the Kalimocho (a Basque spin on tinto de verano, aka red wine plus Fanta) may take our prize for oddest drink of the past 12 months. The ingredients in this blend of red wine, coconut cream, and Coca Cola, with a red licorice twist should clash into oblivion, but the whole package worked. How, precisely, may be beyond mortal understanding. We also had a tasty Sauvignon blanc ($9) from the brief wine list.

Dumpling may be the poster child for the way (much) of the independent dining scene is heading right now. It was built up from the grassroots, its dishes are unpretentious and inviting, and its food is made with self-evident care and skill. It’s an asset to the still-underserved Howe neighborhood, but it’d be an asset just about anywhere.

Jane Rosemarin contributed to this review.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Dumpling
Asian Bistro in Howe, Minneapolis
Rating: ★★★☆ (excellent)

4004 Minnehaha Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55406
612.724.8795
OWNERS / CHEFS: Bunbob Chhun and James Munson
HOURS:
Sun-Mon 4-10 p.m.
Tue CLOSED
Wed-Thu 4-10 p.m.
Fri-Sat 4 p.m.-midnight
BAR: Beer and wine
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED?: No
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Yes
ENTREE RANGE: $8-$16
NOISE LEVEL: Quiet
PARKING: Ample street parking

The Tap: A Tsunami of Upscale Asian

Banner for the Tap: Food and Drink News

This week in the Tap: A broad survey of all the intriguing Asian-inspired offerings popping up in the greater metro area.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

A Tsunami of Upscale Asian

Jun. Dumpling. Mrs. Dumpling. Kaiseki Furukawa. Young Joni. Tori Ramen (above). Second locations for Lu’s and Ha Tien. Rah’Mn. The list of recently opened or soon-to-open restaurants with an Asian focus is long and growing.

If the sun is setting on Continental-inspired, white-tablecloth fine dining, it’s simultaneously rising on the idea that — beyond sushi — Asian and Asian-inspired food be universally enjoyed and command a serious bill at the end of the meal.

What’s driving the trend?

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
  1. Ramen is getting its due. The idea that ramen — long regarded as a 79-cent cup of noodles for hungover undergrads — is a complex, potentially transcendental food with a rich heritage and a painstaking preparation has been gaining currency. People are starting to have opinions about broth. And the explosive success of places like Ramen Kazama, above, and Zen Box has kicked open the door to ramen not just as a stand-alone business concept, but as a dish that can be tacked onto any menu with a little bit of freedom to it.

    Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
    Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
  2. Upscale restaurants are getting more playful. Late-night ramen at Spoon and Stable (above) is one of the restaurant’s quirkiest and most charming features. And the upcoming World Expo series of specials at Meritage includes ramen (for Japan) and Peking duck (for China).
  3. Asian fare has a perception of healthfuless. While snarfling down a bowl of pork dumplings is probably only marginally healthier than ordering a pepperoni pizza, it’s true that much of the newly popular Asian fare has light / fresh / green elements that are encouraging amid the sea of sugar and carbs that Americans swim through daily.
  4. Collectively, we’re ready to explore. The acceleration of dining out as a pastime has created a population that’s increasingly ready to look around the corner and try what’s next. That may mean the death of chow mein and the probably healthy diminishing of mediocre sushi as diners get into house-made dumplings and carefully crafted broth.

    Sarah McGee / Heavy Table
    Sarah McGee / Heavy Table
  5. You can’t beat a good banh mi. The best banh mi — certainly dollar for dollar, and often in absolute terms — will likely always be made and sold at places like Ha Tien on University and Quang on Nicollet. But that won’t stop midrange and upscale restaurants from playing with the form, which is wonderfully rewarding if done well: the crackle of a light, crispy baguette, the creaminess of pate, the brightness of pickled vegetables and fresh herbs. It’s certainly one of Minnesota’s signature sandwiches at this point, and the faster we all recognize that and work on celebrating the best versions of the dish, the better off we’ll all be. — James Norton

The Tap is the metro area’s comprehensive restaurant buzz roundup, so if you see a new or newly shuttered restaurant, or anything that’s “coming soon,” email Tap editor James Norton at editor@heavytable.com.

NOW OPEN

  • Jun, 730 N Washington Ave, Minneapolis | Szechuan gone upscale in the North Loop.
  • Bearcat Bar, 1612 Harmon Pl, Minneapolis | The former Third Bird is reinvented to be more accessible and affordable.
  • Station Pizzeria, 13008 Minnetonka Blvd, Minnetonka | A former Bar La Grassa chef does upscale pizza.
  • Can Can Wonderland, 755 Prior Ave N, St. Paul | Artist-designed mini-golf with beer, noshes, and Bittercube cocktails.
  • Pajarito, 605 W 7th St, St. Paul | Via Dara: Opened by Tim McKee acolytes “Tyge Nelson and Stephan Hesse, most recently of Chino Latino and Libertine, respectively.” Receiving early accolades.
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
  • Revival, 525 Selby Ave, St. Paul (former Cheeky Monkey space) | A second location for the popular fried chicken spinoff of Corner Table. The original location will also be expanding and offering takeout.
  • Jellybean and Julia’s, 530 W Main St, Anoka | Barbecue and breakfast!
  • Khun Nai Thai, 2523 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis | A new spot in the old Krungthep Thai space, opened by former Krungthep employees.
  • Esker Grove, Walker Art Center | A Doug Flicker / Culinaire project is the latest crack at a dining solution for the finicky Walker space.
  • Red Rabbit, 201 Washington Ave N, Minneapolis | Red Cow owner Luke Shimp’s new spot offers “a variety of dishes including handcrafted pizzas, oysters, pasta, fresh salads and more.”
  • Smith & Porter, 428 S 2nd St, Minneapolis | Two blocks from the Guthrie, featuring “evening dining with contemporary entrées and small plates, vegetarian options, and a full bar with a tailored selection of wines and locally crafted spirits and beers.” Helmed by Kirt Akerstrom, formerly executive chef at Red Cow. Breakfast and lunch will be available at the next-door Porter Cafe, due to open in early February.
Lucy Hawthorne / Heavy Table
Lucy Hawthorne / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Heavy Table Hot Five: Nov. 18-24

hotfive-flames

Each Friday, this list will track five of the best things Heavy Table’s writers, editors, and photographers have recently bitten or sipped. Have a suggestion for the Hot Five? Email editor@heavytable.com.

shepherd-song-banner-ad-horiz-3The Hot Five is a weekly feature created by the Heavy Table and supported by Shepherd Song Farm.

shepherd-song-green-keyline

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

1-new - oneCrispy Pork Dumplings at Dumpling
When Dumpling’s your name, your dumpling game better be tight. Challenge accepted and met at Dumpling. These extremely appetizing appetizers hit our table beautifully browned and super crispy, packed with a dense, flavorful, herbed meat filling that was among the best we’ve had in the metro. Mrs. Dumpling, the savory pastry’s now in your court.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #1 | Submitted from an Instagram post by James Norton]

Ruthie Young / Heavy Table
Ruthie Young / Heavy Table

2-new - twoYucca Fries at Mañana Restaurant
The yucca fries at the popular Hola Arepa in the Lyndale neighborhood of Minneapolis sparked our love for the food, but we think the same snack at the El Salvadoran Mañana Restaurant in Dayton’s Bluff, Saint Paul give Hola’s a serious run for the money. The deep-fried root vegetable comes out in thick, hot fingers. They are as starchy as a potato fry but have an attractive earthy flavor and a bigger bite. What’s more, Manana’s yucca fries are served with a portion of fried pork rinds, creating a salty, starchy snack plate of dreams.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Ruthie Young]

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

3-new - threeHamburguesa del Gordo de Res at Hamburguesa El Gordo
One of our favorite hamburgers in the Twin Cities is at the newly established Hamburguesa El Gordo in the Plaza del Sol on St. Paul’s Payne Avenue. It’s a plate-sized monster burger with ham and bacon and cheese on a toasted bun spread with mayo. The burger is accompanied by a killer hot charred pepper that is the perfect friend to the mountain of richness. Kudos to reader @heyitswick for the tip.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #1 | Submitted from an Instagram post by James Norton]

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

4-new fourBanh Mi at Dumpling
Sure, it’s not typical for us to have a restaurant pop up twice in the Hot Five, but Dumpling had a hell of an opening night. The Dumpling version of the classic banh mi sandwich gets a number of things right: The baguette is perfectly light, chewy, and crisp, the pork is flavorful (and doesn’t get swamped by the bread or pickled veg), and the overall balance of sandwich toppings was on point.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

Amy Rea / Heavy Table
Amy Rea / Heavy Table

5-new -fiveApple Turnover from Solomon’s Bakery
The apple turnover from Solomon’s Bakery in New Brighton is like a little apple pie, with a mildly sweet, flaky crust and just the right amount of apples inside — not so many that they overwhelm the delicate crust, just enough to taste the apple … and plenty of cinnamon. A perfect fall treat.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Amy Rea]

Heavy Table Hot Five: Oct. 28-Nov. 3

hotfive-flames

Each Friday, this list will track five of the best things Heavy Table’s writers, editors, and photographers have recently bitten or sipped. Have a suggestion for the Hot Five? Email editor@heavytable.com.

shepherd-song-banner-ad-horiz-3The Hot Five is a weekly feature created by the Heavy Table and supported by Shepherd Song Farm.

shepherd-song-green-keyline

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

1-new - oneBanh Mi at the Campus Club in the Coffman Memorial Union
Chef Beth Jones of the Campus Club came up with a killer custom menu for our recent Green Line Checklist finale event. It riffed off some of the cultures found up and down University Avenue, including East African (mind-blowingly crisp and delicate sambusas), Russian (one of the best borschts we’ve tried to date), and Middle Eastern (spot-on falafel). Our favorite taste of the four might have been the banh mi, which was an ideal textural blend of slightly crispy baguette, pickled veg, and some of the richest, creamiest pate we’ve had on a sandwich — ever.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

Amy Rea / Heavy Table
Amy Rea / Heavy Table

2-new - twoBreakfast Pizza at Rose Street Patisserie
Rose Street Patisserie has added an all-day breakfast pizza to its seasonal lineup. It’s sized for sharing, and it’s a decadent start to the day: crisp flatbread covered with a generous coating of mozzarella, topped with soft eggs and crisp, smoky bacon. Rich (but full of protein!), and will make any day start off better.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted Amy Rea]

Ted Held / Heavy Table
Ted Held / Heavy Table

3-new - three

Brisket Sandwich at Breaking Bread Cafe
We’re fans of Breaking Bread Cafe for the great food, the inviting space, and the mission behind it all. On a recent trip, the brisket sandwich proved an impressive alternative to their popular shrimp and grits. While it’s not necessarily the best brisket in town, the blueberry barbecue sauce added a new, Minnesota-focused twist to a soul food classic. The classic barbecue spices stood up front, but there was a distinct blueberry flavor that was complimentary in that seasonally appropriate, Thanksgiving-leftovers kind of way. The side of spicy vinegar-dressed slaw was also worth raving about.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Ted Held]
Ruthie Young / Heavy Table
Ruthie Young / Heavy Table

4-new fourLobster Mac Totchos at Blue Door Pub (all locations)
“Tots of Time” is a catchy enough title to make us want to order tots every time we are at one of the Blue Door Pubs, but when we saw that “Lobster Mac Totchos” were the current feature, we just couldn’t say no. A hearty layer of Cajun tots is topped with an equal amount of cheesy macaroni laden with lobster meat, herbed bread crumbs, and scallions. We would have preferred the dish to be mixed rather than layered, but we soon perfected the fork stab needed to achieve an ideal ratio. The lobster is the perfect ingredient to lighten up an otherwise heavy dish — we just wish there had been more of it! The Lobster Mac Totchos will be available at all three locations for a few more weeks.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Ruthie Young]

Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

5-new -fiveGreen River Highball from Lawless Distilling
Lawless Distilling is serving up the Green River Highball, a perfect combination of citrus-infused vodka, lime cordial, orange bitters, and seltzer. Not too sour, not too sweet, and the dried lime is like a little piece of art. Lawless continues to reflect its “Local. Craft. Small Batch” motto. So many artistic cocktails to try. Too little time.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted Brenda Johnson]

Green Line Checklist: Ha Tien Deli to Hook Fish & Chicken

WACSO / Heavy Table
WACSO / Heavy Table

Strange things happen at the intersection of circumstance and enterprise. Like an Asian market and deli housed in an old movie theater or a Vietnamese bakery tucked off the street behind a Thai restaurant. When cities plan, they don’t plan for this. You just can’t. These things happen naturally over time. Sometimes the best thing you can do is stay out of the way.

WACSO / Heavy Table
WACSO / Heavy Table

University Avenue feels like a street that’s been left mostly to its own devices, allowed to evolve and grow organically along with the neighborhood and people around it. Now, with the presence of the Green Line, the question is this: Will the impulse of development edge toward maintaining that wily authenticity or will things become just a bit more homogenized and “authentic-like?”

In this installment, we got our first taste of establishments that are clearly attempting to attract a broader audience. The results were a mixed bag. And that mixed bag was inexplicably topped with shredded cheese. But more on that later. — M.C. Cronin

This week’s checklist crew: WACSO, M.C. Cronin, Becca Dilley, Tom Elko, Sarah McGee, and James Norton.

ALL 15 GREEN LINE INSTALLMENTS: 88 Oriental Foods to Thai Cafe, Ha Tien Deli to Hook Fish and Chicken, Family Lao Thai to Cheng Heng, iPho by Saigon to Los Ocampo, SugaRush to PaJai, Pinoy Fusion to The Best Steakhouse, Johnny Baby’s to Ngon Bistro, Flamingo to Trend Bar, Midway Pro Bowl to Big V’s, On’s Kitchen to Tracks Bar and Grill, Caspian Bistro to Playoffs Sports Lounge, Mesa Pizza to Stub and Herb’s, The Dubliner to Ippindo Ramen, Silhouette to Little Szechuan, and T-Rex to Campus Club (the end of the line).

ABOUT THIS PROJECT

The Green Line Checklist is The Heavy Table’s follow-up to our 55-restaurant survey of independent eateries on Central Avenue. We’ll publish five-restaurant installments biweekly until we’ve documented every nonchain spot between the University Avenue and Rice Street intersection in St. Paul and the Green Line terminus on Washington Avenue in Minneapolis. (We’re estimating about 75 spots, but we’ll see how it shakes out.)

central-corridor-funders-logoThis series is made possible by underwriting from the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative. Heavy Table retains editorial control of the series — as with Central Avenue, this tour will be warts-and-all.

WACSO / Heavy Table
WACSO / Heavy Table

Ha Tien Grocery Store
353 University Ave W, St. Paul
Western Avenue Station

Judging by the bright neon marquee, you might think you’d find a $2 matinee at Ha Tien rather than pork bung for $6.99 a pound.

But while from the outside, Ha Tien has the look of the former single-screen cinema it occupies, inside it’s exactly what you’d expect in a full-service Asian market.

WACSO / Heavy Table
WACSO / Heavy Table

The shelves are stacked with a cheerful collection of cans, boxes, pouches, and sacks of Asian grocery items. Refrigerator cases are well stocked with Asian sausages, dairy specialties, and plastic-wrapped foam trays containing delicacies most safely put in the category of “other.”

Sarah McGee / Heavy Table
Sarah McGee / Heavy Table

In the back of the store we found a case full of fresh fish packed in ice along with a cardboard box with writhing, live blue crabs. Someone left a long pair of tongs leaning against this snapping, clattering mass, as if to present a kind of crazy dare.

WACSO / Heavy Table
WACSO / Heavy Table

The deli is appropriately placed near the heart of the store. We selected a few items from the menu and stepped outside to eat.

WACSO / Heavy Table
WACSO / Heavy Table

Standing where the old movie box-office window might have been, chatting and sharing food from takeout containers, it was difficult not to imagine this place at another time: kids loitering after the show, shaking bits of candy and popcorn into their mouths from brightly colored boxes purchased at the concession stand. They might never have imagined what this place would become — that their Jujubes would be replaced by sticky rice — or that things would work out quite so well for everyone involved. — M.C.

*** FOOD NOTES ***

Sarah McGee / Heavy Table
Sarah McGee / Heavy Table

We arrived at Ha Tien at 6 p.m. sharp, an hour before the shop’s posted closing time, only to discover that the deli portion of the market had essentially given up for the day. We weren’t able to order a barbecued pork banh mi (the pork available was, we were told, too difficult to separate from the bone), and the egg rolls were hovering around room temperature. We ate the egg rolls anyway — the tiny seafood egg rolls (4 for $1) offered little in the way of seafood flavor, but, on the bright side, lacked the unpleasantly fishy taste that we’d feared. The much larger pork egg roll ($1.50) had a pleasingly crisp exterior and a uniform, mildly salty filling.

Green Line Checklist: 88 Oriental Foods to Thai Cafe

WACSO / Heavy Table
WACSO / Heavy Table

There comes a point when you have to take a good hard look at yourself and ask, “Why the hell are we doing this?”

That point came immediately prior to entering our first destination on the Green Line Checklist. It was at this moment that the enormity of the task we were embarking on really sunk in. Good lord, we had about 75 restaurants and eight more months of this to go.

Sure, the Central Avenue Checklist was an experience like none other. At once hilarious, grueling, inspiring, messy, exciting, and unforgettable. But if the idea of dedicating more than six months of your life to eating at every restaurant along a single stretch of road borders on crazy-town, doing it a second time… well, that idea is centrally located in the heart of straight-jacket country.

WACSO / Heavy Table
WACSO / Heavy Table

In the end though, the draw of experiencing new places and meeting new people and revealing these stories proved too strong.

Of all the streets we could’ve chosen after Central, University Avenue was the most obvious. Which in some ways made it a less appealing choice. But the recent addition of the Green Line put an interesting twist on things (and coincidentally opened up an opportunity for help funding this madness – see below).

The idea of capturing this moment in time on University Avenue just feels right. The Green Line is operational—connecting downtown St. Paul and Minneapolis. The initial shock waves of construction have finally settled down, leaving behind unstoppable ripples of change. The true long term impact of light rail trains speeding through the middle of the street won’t be known for many years. But for now, we have a chance to document a University Avenue on the precipice of a new era.

WACSO / Heavy Table
WACSO / Heavy Table

And so, with that noble thought steeling our resolve, we swung open the door of our first stop on the Green Line Checklist. And almost immediately we were reminded why we do this. – M.C. Cronin

This week’s checklist crew: WACSO, M.C. Cronin, Becca Dilley, and James Norton.

ALL 15 GREEN LINE INSTALLMENTS: 88 Oriental Foods to Thai Cafe, Ha Tien Deli to Hook Fish and Chicken, Family Lao Thai to Cheng Heng, iPho by Saigon to Los Ocampo, SugaRush to PaJai, Pinoy Fusion to The Best Steakhouse, Johnny Baby’s to Ngon Bistro, Flamingo to Trend Bar, Midway Pro Bowl to Big V’s, On’s Kitchen to Tracks Bar and Grill, Caspian Bistro to Playoffs Sports Lounge, Mesa Pizza to Stub and Herb’s, The Dubliner to Ippindo Ramen, Silhouette to Little Szechuan, and T-Rex to Campus Club (the end of the line).

ABOUT THIS PROJECT

The Green Line Checklist is The Heavy Table’s follow-up to our 55-restaurant survey of independent eateries on Central Avenue. We’ll publish five-restaurant installments bi-weekly until we’ve documented every non-chain spot between University Avenue and Rice and the Green Line terminus in Minneapolis at Washington Avenue. (We’re estimating about 75 spots, but we’ll see how it shakes out.)

central-corridor-funders-logoThis series is made possible by underwriting from the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative. Heavy Table retains editorial control of the series – as with Central Avenue, this tour will be warts-and-all.

WACSO / Heavy Table
WACSO / Heavy Table

88 Oriental Foods
291 University Avenue W, St. Paul

On the surface there is nothing special about the place. But, as we’ve learned so many times before on these expeditions, the surface mostly lies.

Beneath the average small Asian market exterior beats the soulful heart of its immigrant owners. A married couple. Husband from China, wife from Thailand. We get the story from their children, who act and speak like typical American millennials in their late teens and twenties. It would be easy to imagine them being somehow disenchanted by working in their parents’ store, a place they’ve surely spent more than a fair share of their lives. But if they are, there is no trace of it. They’re excited to tell us about the place.

WACSO / Heavy Table
WACSO / Heavy Table

At the deli case we’re shown a variety of authentic favorites. Everything from pork sausage to stuffed chicken wings to beef intestine soup. The kids point out that their mother makes all the food herself without a written recipe for anything. This is a nagging source of consternation because to date attempts to recreate her dishes have yet to succeed in earning her approval. Who will make the food when she can’t anymore? Based on what we tried we sure hope someone can pick up the reins.

WACSO / Heavy Table
WACSO / Heavy Table / “Fresh papaya salad.”

As for the rest of the store, it’s what you might imagine. Well kept and tidy. The shelves are stocked with colorfully designed packaged foods that seem almost alien to us, but to many are as recognizable and comforting as a can of Campbell’s soup or box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.

WACSO / Heavy Table
WACSO / Heavy Table / “Small, medium, huge, and ginormous.” “Homemade sauces for sale.”

We were invited to grab a stool by the register to enjoy our meal. As we stood there opening our containers atop a display case containing various sundries such as soaps and balms and powders, we were reminded again of why we love doing these checklists. There’s nothing quite like listening to people tell us their stories while we grab and stab at food across the table (or upon any available ledge). – M.C.

WACSO / Heavy Table
WACSO / Heavy Table / “James is not sure about the intestines he just ate.”

*** FOOD NOTES ***

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The hot food deli at 88 Oriental Foods is about as unassuming as anything we’ve seen on our travels but that makes the experience of eating its food all the more pleasurable. The deli’s papaya salad ($4) was prepared by the owner in a large wooden bowl while we watched (recalling our outing to the Hmong Village Market), and its humble appearance concealed tidal waves of flavor: heat, funk, acid, coolness, alternating and overlapping.

The deli’s pork intestine ($7) had a rich, fatty intensity to it and a texture perhaps best described as “stubborn.” The trick, it seems, is giving the stuff a few hearty chews and then sending it down the hatch – while springy, it wasn’t gristly or tough.

Heavy Table Hot Five: Feb. 5-9

hotfive-flames

Each Friday, this list will track five of the best things Heavy Table’s writers, editors, and photographers have recently bitten or sipped. Have a suggestion for the Hot Five? Email editor@heavytable.com.

shepherd-song-banner-ad-horiz-3The Hot Five is a weekly feature created by the Heavy Table and supported by Shepherd Song Farm.

shepherd-song-green-keyline

Joshua Paige / Heavy Table
Joshua Paige / Heavy Table

1-new - oneMeat Pie from Heirloom
We’ve never had a meat pie like this before. But we’ll definitely have it again. The combination of cracker crust, shredded chicken and pork, fruit, mustard, and pickled green tomatoes is delicious, balanced, and soulful. And the pie is just so damn adorable.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | From an upcoming review by Joshua Page]

Paige Latham / Heavy Table
Paige Latham / Heavy Table

2-new - twoChocolate Raspberry Bismarck from Taste of Love Bakery
The Chocolate Raspberry Bismarck from Taste of Love Bakery in West St. Paul is not filled with curd or even jam — it’s filled with tart, macerated berries. The berry flavor is intensely bright and sour, in contrast to the ganache frosting. A welcome — and affordable — departure from the typical filled pastry.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by Paige Latham]

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

3-new - threeBarrel-Aged Silhouette Imperial Stout from Lift Bridge Brewery
It was a surprise to encounter one of the world’s best fruitcakes in liquid form, but that’s exactly what happened when we tried this year’s edition of the bourbon-barrel-aged imperial stout known as Silhouette. The monks of the Holy Transfiguration Skete on Lake Superior’s Keweenaw Peninsula make a confection called Abbey Cake, a dense, molasses-based, bourbon-soaked, dried-fruit-studded wonder that lasts just about forever when wrapped in cheesecloth and sealed in plastic, and it always tastes like a rich, funky dream. Silhouette takes many of those flavors (notably the molasses and dried fruit, plus the pleasantly boozy kick of bourbon) and translates them into a drinkable, 10 percent ABV dream. Best served approaching room temperature so all those lovely cocoa and spice notes express themselves fully.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #1 | Submitted by James Norton]

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

4-new four BBQ Pork Banh Mi at Ha Tien Deli
Easily one of our favorite banh mis on University Avenue, and we’ve tried a few: It arrives wrapped in tinfoil and stuffed with great jalapeno heat, tons of cilantro flavor, and the crowning glory of big pieces of pork. The meat is rich in fatty flavor and a bit of char, touched with sweetness but not overly sauced, and uniformly tender.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton in advance of the Green Line Checklist series]

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

5-new -fiveAdapted Tarte Tatin with Gjetost
The recipe is pretty simple: Fill one cast iron pan with quartered apples, butter, and sugar. Top with a crust, heat until bubbling, and then melt thin strips of the caramel-like Scandinavian cheese called gjetost for a dessert that is easy, primal, and delicious.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

Heavy Table Hot Five: Jan. 8-14

hotfive-flames

Each Friday, this list will track five of the best things Heavy Table’s writers, editors, and photographers have recently bitten or sipped. Have a suggestion for the Hot Five? Email editor@heavytable.com.

shepherd-song-banner-ad-horiz-3The Hot Five is a weekly feature created by the Heavy Table and supported by Shepherd Song Farm.

shepherd-song-green-keyline

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

1-new - onePork Sausage Banh Mi at Tay Ho
There’s an awful lot to like about the earthy, soulful food at the criminally underappreciated Tay Ho in St. Paul (hint: order the Bun Bo Hue, the spicy noodle soup), but this banh mi may well take the cake. At $3, it would be absurdly cheap even if it were small and of low quality. It’s not, and it isn’t — the baguette is delightfully crackly and soft without being insipid, the sausage is ably spiced but doesn’t overpower the sandwich as a whole, and the mix of pickled veg and cilantro is wonderfully balanced. Plus, it’s big.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton from the upcoming debut of the Green Line Checklist]

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

2-new - twoTomato Soup at ie
It doesn’t look like much in the picture above. It doesn’t look like much on the menu. But the tomato soup at the newly opened ie (Italian Eatery) is one of the most ravishing things we’ve tasted in quite some time. The secret is mascarpone cheese folded into the soup, which brings a silken, creamy richness that complements the tart, bright flavor of the tomatoes. The sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese on top (not pictured due to the fact it got eaten too quickly) didn’t hurt, either. A much needed reminder that food doesn’t have to be complicated or novel to be absolutely awesome.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton]

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

3-new - three Poppyseed Cake Topped With Lemon-Raspberry Custard at Savory Bake House
Longfellow’s newest bakery has some good stuff happening on both the sweet and the savory sides of the aisle. Here’s one from the former: the lemon-raspberry-custard-topped cake offers up a lovely hit of tart via the lemon curd, which looks like an egg yolk atop the poppy-seed-dusted cake. The cake itself is tender without being soft or over-moist, and the raspberry flavor comes through clearly.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #1 | From a review by James Norton]

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

4-new fourSour Pork Ribs from Thai Cafe
Almost peanut-brittle chewy and crackly, fatty and rich, and sour almost beyond human comprehension, these pork ribs will divide a table down the middle between those who are angry that the ribs were ordered and those who will obsess about them until returning a week or two later to eat them again. If you’re looking for a really bold taste of Thai food, uncompromised and gloriously real, here’s the dish for you.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted by James Norton from the upcoming debut of the Green Line Checklist]

Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table
Jane Rosemarin / Heavy Table

5-new -five Chocolates from Patisserie 46
Boxed-to-order chocolates are the best kept secret at Patisserie 46. Each bonbon is a small masterpiece of well-flavored ganache or caramel coated in a thin layer of dark chocolate that snaps to the bite. The green piece in the bottom row is filled with a peppermint and lemongrass ganache. The beige dot on the chocolate in the middle row is a perfect half of a coriander seed that denotes the coriander-mango milk chocolate inside.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #2 | Submitted by Jane Rosemarin]