Editor’s note: Join the whole Checklist crew tonight (Wednesday, Oct. 26) at 5:30pm at the Campus Club in the Coffman Memorial Union for bites, cocktails, and a talk about the Green Line Checklist.
This is not an orderly process. We tried to go right down the Green Line, one establishment at a time, plate by plate. But the best-laid plans often go astray. If you’ve followed along with us, you’ve probably already noticed.
Places would be closed unexpectedly or they’d keep hours based on a gut feeling rather an actual clock, or they’d open only for breakfast, or they’d be open only a single day of the week. But when you’re dealing with small family businesses, you anticipate a fair amount of quirk. We’d seen this before on Central Avenue, but University Avenue seemed to be a bit more unpredictable.
In this installment, we played Chutes and Ladders. We moved forward down the Green Line for two restaurants, and backward to visit three we’d skipped along the way for various reasons. One because they closed early the first time we tried. Another because it didn’t exist when we passed by the first time. And a third because … well, we’re not quite sure how we missed it. Hey, nobody’s perfect. Besides, perfection is often boring. — M.C. Cronin
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 75 spots, but we’ll see how it shakes out.)
This 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.
Silhouette Bakery and Bistro
383 University Ave W, St. Paul
Western Avenue Station
It’s a new space. Brand new. There was still a little piece of blue painter’s tape stuck to the back of a bench, where two wood pieces joined together, with a note to the contractors written on it that read “Fill seam.”
Outside and in, metal is the theme. The facade is dominated by large steel screens. The logo incorporates metal cogs and gears. Faux-metal-stamped squares cover interior walls and beams.
The design is clean and simple bordering on industrial and cold. But there are also interesting touches of Asian design and culture. Bold sci-fi prints on the walls. Totoro figures on pastry pedestals. soot sprite designs on macaroons.
All in all, Silhouette feels like a unique and welcome addition to this part of University. — M.C.
*** FOOD NOTES ***
With a few exceptions, everything we sampled at Silhouette was flawed, but with hints of potential excellence. There were, here and there, personal touches that meant a lot — first-rate kimchi in the rice bowl, for example, or house-made macarons decorated with charming, anime-inspired art. But there were also missteps and imperfections that we hope will be ironed out as this new restaurant grows and evolves.
Our tacos al pastor ($7.25 for two) were dominated by the aggressively sweet, acidic taste of pineapple rather than carefully prepared and richly flavored meat. The ground-beef-like meat, in fact, got almost completely lost in the shuffle. And rather than serving the tacos on traditional corn tortillas, the restaurant presents them on tortillas that have been lightly fried, which gives them a kind of uncanny semi-crunchiness that is an unnecessary compromise between hard and soft shells.
We liked our beef rice bowl ($9) overall. The beef tasted mostly of onions, but it was reasonably tender, and the accompanying kimchi was first rate. We tend to like our rice bowls with a full-court-press of flavors and textures (see the stuff served at World Street Kitchen and Dark Horse), so this felt a little minimalist — but it ultimately satisfied.
The made-to-order Bacon Cheddar Donut ($3.50) completely lacked cheddar flavor — and that’s OK, because it tasted pretty great without it. The overall effect of the doughnut was that of a bacon-studded sweet cornbread that you can (and should) dip into the simple but compelling melted honey butter side sauce. While among the weirdest things we’ve tasted on the Green Line (from a long list of options), this was also a standout, in a good way.
We were charmed by the exterior appearance of our macarons, but they didn’t quite work from a texture perspective, and texture is fairly central to the macaron, which should present a crispy, crunchy exterior giving way to a tender, chewy interior. Silhouette’s macarons were soft through and through, but did (to their credit) end with subtle and natural-seeming aftertastes of either green tea or cappuccino. — James Norton