Jake and I are the only children from our immediate families who moved outside of the Twin Cities. This means that holidays at home are fun, though action-packed.
Our families do make a point to visit us, but, since we’ve the odd couple out, we do most of the driving. I hope to explore restaurants in the towns along I-35 just as I did when I drove to and from Fargo, ND.
When we return home for the holidays, we try to fit in as many visits to friends and relatives as possible. We feel like we have to rotate visits with people throughout the year since it’s impossible to see everyone during one trip. As we watch our family members and friends have children and our parents get older, we feel an urgency to return home someday.
This trip reminded me to be grateful for the friendships that have withstood the test of time and distance. When I reunite with these friends, we effortlessly pick up where we left off, no matter if a month or a year has passed. This is truly a special thing.
Here are a few tastes from our weekend in the cities:
Taqueria Los Ocampo, East Saint Paul:
After visiting friends on Thanksgiving Eve, we searched for a late dinner. Most of the restaurants we passed were wrapping up for the night. Our options seemed limited to fast food or bars and we were in the mood for neither.
I convinced Jake to drive to Uptown, but when we hit the traffic on Lake Street, he exclaimed “What are we doing in Uptown? I’m too old for this!” I remembered the Los Ocampo location by his folks’ house in East Saint Paul which offers late night hours (open until midnight Mon.-Thurs. and 4 a.m. on Fri.-Sun.).
In addition to tacos and tortas, you can also order a quesadilla made with a freshly pressed corn tortilla, huaraches, gorditas and alambres to name a few. Then, you have to choose from their large list of fillings that range from huitlachoche to cecina. There’s also posole, menudo, elotes, flan, and horchata.
Can you name a better, more affordable late night join in East Saint Paul?
Ward 6, East Saint Paul
Several months ago, Jake and I dined at Ward 6, but this was the first time for his family. We love Ward 6 and I think East Saint Paul loves them back because it’s always busy. Ward 6 isn’t the cheapest option along Payne Ave, but their prices are fair for the quality of food. It’s homemade, not reheated food supplier crap. Also, Ward 6 is not so elite or hard to access that it excludes its own neighbors.
I like the fish and chips so much that I can’t branch out.
Often times, I won’t order fish and chips for fear of a bad fry job sitting in a pool of grease. These have been pretty near perfect two out of two times. I drizzle everything in malt vinegar and then dip each bite in the garlicky, malt vinegar because that’s how I roll.
I also order this dish with a side salad ($5) dressed with homemade lemon vinaigrette to cut the fat.
Verdant Tea, Seward Neighborhood, Minneapolis
Verdant Tea is as wonderful as Andrew Zimmern and Heavy Table says it is. I stopped by for tea to-go when I had a free moment, though I wish I could have stayed for a meal.
The space is soothing with lots of sunlight and pots of poinsettias on each table. There’s a little stand offering tea samples and little glass cups. There are tea snacks like local, roasted peanuts, meals like curry noodles or congee, house made kombucha and kombucha floats, and sweets like ice cream and homemade chocolates. Verdant made me want to linger and next time I will.
I ordered micro-brewed chai with almond milk (their default milk) and honey and toasty Laoshan Black Chocolate Genmaicha to-go ($8 plus tax and tip). Each was poured into a generous 16 oz. glass. My husband especially liked his first taste homemade chai, commenting on its spicy note.
For the rest of the day, I kept thinking that someday when I die, I hope I go to Verdant Tea heaven.