Jade Dragon

There are few things better in life than a well-prepared bowl of pho.

(And before we go any further, it’s pronounced fuh, not faux.)

I tried a great version with moist and tasty grilled chicken at Cafe 21 a few months ago. And a couple places in the Twin Cities have nearly unbeatable versions. But the pho at Jade Dragon came close. Continue reading

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Aladdin’s Cafe

I love a good gyro.

Shawarma is my bag, bro.

I make baklava my bitch!

And Aladdin’s Cafe can satisfy that itch. Continue reading

Pig cheeks and alligator pieces

It was a sunny and unseasonably warm March evening, the sun at that particular, late-spring slant that makes everything look a little more interesting.

We walked from a few blocks away to the restaurant, situated in the middle of old warehouses and car repair places.

At 5 p.m., it was already booked solid and we were early. Asked if we could maybe, possibly have a table now instead of waiting another hour for our reserved time, one of managers complied, seating us immediately.

Cochon, or French for pig, is a relatively new restaurant in New Orleans that has been getting a lot of attention lately. In a town known for seafood, the specialty here is pork. Named by Bon Apetit last month as one of the most important restaurants in America, Cochon has quickly gained that importance with dishes like pork tongue with charred radishes and fava beans. Or the smoked pork ribs, smoked ham hock with herb spatzle, Brussels sprouts and mustard cream, or fried livers with pepper jelly and toast.


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Altony’s Italian Cafe

The weekend after Valentine’s Day is usually when couples catch up on the holiday, going out for dinner if they were too busy on the actual day. I assume that was why Altony’s in Moorhead was so jam-packed that Saturday.

I was forced to go to the nearby Fryn’ Pan and had a pretty awful experience.

But a few days later, I headed back over to Altony’s and got a tiny little table for two in the also-tiny dining room.

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Altony’s is actually a converted Taco Bell. The owners have done quite a bit of work in the cramped space, putting in a small wine bar where you’d normally order your chimichangas and churros. It looks pretty nice, considering.

But, from the small two-top tucked in right next to the hostess stand, I felt like I was in the way, nearly getting elbowed in the eye by our server. Other than that, my first experience was fine. Unfortunately, (don’t judge) I was trying a no-gluten thing that night, and the Pasta Alla Toscana was unavailable. They had run out of the gluten free noodles.

Instead, I got the new appetizer of steak medallions ($8.95), and my dining mate got the mushroom ravioli ($9.95 half).

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The medallions came out with a delicious gorgonzola sauce that I would buy if they bottled it. And the steak pieces were cooked nicely, to a medium-rare, although a few of them were unevenly cooked.

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So while I didn’t really tasted all that much of the menu, I wanted to let you know about this tiny, local place. I highly recommend it as an alternative to massive, corporate Olive Garden. If you want to support a family business in town, try out Altony’s. I’ll be back… and eating up the gluten.

Airport barbecue

Airports get a bad name when it comes to food. Most travelers, tired and haggard, usually opt for what’s cheap and filling. But some airports are bucking the trend of terrible eats.

For instance, the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport has some great options like the French Meadow Bakery Cafe, Shoyu and Volante. You can get a pretty spot-on Chicago-style hot dog at either of that city’s main airports. And in Memphis, TN, a city known for great barbecue, you can find some pretty tasty stuff.

Interstate BBQ pork half-slab

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Get your lobster roll fix at Stella’s Fish Cafe in Minneapolis

I was in the Twin Cities a few weeks ago with some people who had visited Stella’s Fish Cafe in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis. My mind immediately went to lobster roll.

photoIt’s pretty much a perfect sandwich, with a generously buttered split-top bun, crunchy bits of celery and tender pieces of lobster slathered with mayo.

Stella’s has a cool vibe, with a ton of seating on the main floor and upstairs. You can get fresh fish, whole Maine lobsters, crab, oysters, sushi and more.

We started with a side of Stella’s mac and cheese. It’s a four cheese cream sauce with applewood smoked bacon. I thought it was alright, nothing overly special.

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I had the lobster roll that came with some delicious and crispy fries. Another got the fish and chips.

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I thought the roll was great, having everything that a proper lobster roll has (see above). The fish and chips, though, were not all that great.

But Stella’s is definitely a good bet for seafood lovers stuck in ocean-deprived Minnesota.

Lucy’s North China Cuisine

It seems that, again and again, the best places to eat are in strip malls. Cafe 21 and Leela Thai are recent examples I’ve tried in the area. Another one I was thoroughly surprised by was Lucy’s North China Cuisine on 32nd Avenue South in Fargo.

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It’s an unassuming place with an easy-to-overlook small red sign on the front. It’s been open for a little over two and a half years.
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Fryn’ Pan Family Restaurant

Having grown up in Grand Forks, I was never introduced to Fryn’ Pan, a regional chain of restaurants that seems to have quite the following here in Fargo-Moorhead with the, let’s politely say, older folks. IMG_4663

There is a location in both Moorhead and Fargo, along with three in Sioux Falls, one in Wahpeton and one in Yankton.

Wanting to try out the tiny Altony’s Italian Cafe but finding it absolutely packed, we headed to the nearby Fryn’ Pan and were seated quickly.

I passed the salad bar and instantly knew what I was in for: Processed, institutional-grade food slop. And unfortunately I was right.
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D’Amico and Sons in St. Paul

I’m spending a few days in St. Paul, visiting my brand-new nephew Jack.

Whenever I travel, I’ve gotta try a new place, so this Saturday we headed out for a light lunch at D’Amico and Sons on Grand Avenue in St. Paul.

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(Not your) Mom’s Diner

What does mom’s cooking mean to you?

To me, the quintessential smell of home is a juicy beef roast that’s been slowly cooking all day, filling the house with that unmistakable aroma. Or what we called Norwegian meatballs. Plump, flavorful meatballs would sit in a cream sauce for hours. We’d eat them with potatoes.

When I was looking for some home cooking recently, and actually bringing my mom along, we headed to Mom’s Diner in Fargo.

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