Three More Winter Dining Vignettes

Whenever someone’s like “So are you ready for Christmas” I die a little bit inside.

It’s not that I don’t like Christmas, but when you work full-time, the preparation is a lot. My work team is small and with the major holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year) falling on Tuesdays-Thursdays this year, we have to take turns with our days off.

This year I swore I’d finish my holiday gift shopping early this month, and, well, I didn’t.

I am enjoying a little stretch off before Christmas until I serve as the after-Christmas crew. This weekend I’m planning to make lefse to share with our families (here’s how I do it at home without fancy equipment) while drinking white russians and listening to podcasts.

Before I compile my best/worst year-end posts, here’s a final post on a few more memorable dining experiences:

Khyber Pass Cafe

The owners of Khyber Pass have been serving Afghani cuisine in St. Paul since 1984. My in-laws, who live near us, mentioned enjoying a meal here. I stopped by one evening for take-out.

I ordered the vegetarian combo plate and braised butternut squash special along with the chutney sampler (your choice of three flavors + pita).

The vegetarian plate includes your choice of three dishes. Each one tasted thoughtfully prepared. I chose the eggplant in tomato sauce, spinach cooked with leeks, and potato in red curry sauce. The seasoning tasted gentler than I expected. I was glad I ordered the squash dish in addition to the sampler, as the portion sizes are smaller. The squash tasted sweet and almost like a holiday side-dish. With the chutneys, it made a pleasant sweet and savory combo.

Each entrée came with a little side salad and the creamy cilantro-walnut chutney. If I had known this, I would have chosen a different chutney in the sampler. Fortunately, it is very good. I liked the spicy ginger-jalapeno chutney (right) which captures that fresh ginger flavor. My favorite was the sweet and spicy chili pepper and tomato chutney (left), as it tasted the spiciest.

On my next visit I probably won’t order the veggie sampler again, but I would try some of the meat dishes. All in all, a reasonably priced meal that made me feel warm and nourished.

Dumpling

Dumpling is a little restaurant in the Howe neighborhood of Minneapolis. Their dumplings are quite good. It’s an easy, low-fuss place to meet a friend for dinner. The entrees are a little pricey, especially if you add a protein which cost an additional $3-6. That being said, my green curry with tofu tasted good and provided food for two meals. I eagerly dug into the leftover curry for lunch the next day. I wonder if it’s unfair to compare most curry dishes to On’s.

The beef lo mein I tried was also generously portioned and pretty darn tasty.

This is a lovely place to enjoy dumplings and drinks.

Tavern on France

When you live in the city, arriving at a restaurant (or anywhere except a Target or Cub, really) and finding a sprawling parking lot is almost surreal. You forget this exists. You slowly blink, wondering if it’s a desert mirage. Then you shrug and pull into a spot and pretend like you didn’t enjoy it.

There are five total Taverns, four of which are located in the ‘burbs and one in Fargo. Tavern on France feels kind of generic. The menu’s safe, huge, and largely customizable. Some of the items are so customizable that you must order them via little pads of checklists.

My friend tried to order a burger verbally and was directed to fill out the build-your-own burger form. I think she  only added three toppings. He patiently waited while she filled out the form. I couldn’t stop laughing.

Anyway, the burgers are quite good. My friend was happy with hers. I took one home for Jake. We also thought the burger was better than average. The prices here seem more expensive. However, all burgers and sandwiches come with your choice of waffle fries, coleslaw, house made chips or garlic mashed potatoes. None of that “Pay $3 MORE dollars to upgrade potato chips to fries” bullshirt. Garlic mashed potatoes are Jake’s favorite side dish so he was thrilled.

The Farmers Market Pizza (mozzarella, marinated tomatoes, roasted red pepper, grilled portabella, spinach)  is a good value at $11.50. I shared a couple pizzas and enjoyed the leftovers for two more meals. The crust was crisp as advertised. If I have a quibble, it’s that I wish the mushroom pieces were more distinguishable, but overall this was much better than I expected.

The Places:

Khyber Pass Cafe
1571 Grand Ave
St. Paul, MN 55105
(651) 690-0505

Dumpling
4004 Minnehaha Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55406
(612) 724-8795

The Tavern on France
6740 France Ave S
Edina, MN 55435
(952) 358-6100

2 Comments

  1. tavern on france is one of the places I call “upscale applebees” I’ll suggest it sometimes depending on the crew, I love that parking lot, but hate the generic feeling.

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