Stuck in the awkward armpit between St. Anthony Main and Dinkytown, Santana Foods’ colorful, neon-laced storefront is a bold beacon of hope for the area’s late night crowd. Its late hours (open until 4am on weekends!) make Santana a welcome anomaly in a town with few options for midnight munching or people watching. Though half of the business is a convenience store, with aisles of Pringles, canned foods, and cigarettes, their deli / cafe side is surprising in the scope and quality of its selection.
The food itself ranges from forgettable to great. The lamb gyro ($6.49, below left), for example, meets the standard definition of a run-of-the-mill Kronos gyro, but its only distinguishing characteristic is its saltiness. On the other hand, the deep-fried cauliflower and cheese curds ($5.37, below right), seasoned with Santana’s own spice mixture, are frighteningly addictive. They seem to like over-salting many of their menu items; that’s good for drunks, but not so great for sober folks. However, you can use their super-smooth and lemony house-made hummus ($3.59) to even out the saltiness of just about anything on their menu.
Santana’s in-store decor is mostly minimalist with sparks of youthful personality, such as the fairy tale princess sticker on one of its counter signs. The requisite “Extra attitude: $1” signs also make an appearance.
BEST BET: The veggie special ($7) is a modest-but-satisfying mix of falafel, stuffed grape leaves, hummus, and salad with a side of tzatziki sauce. If you’re not terribly concerned about your cholesterol levels, the mix-and-match deep-fried appetizers ($5.37) make for a nice indulgence. Follow them up with a square of sweet, almond-rich baklava ($3.49) or a scoop of Sebastian Joe’s ice cream.
601 University Ave SE
Minneapolis, MN 55414
VEGETARIAN/VEGAN: Yes and Yes
ENTREE RANGE: $7 Avg.