Curry Grain Bowl with Tempeh from Tillie’s Farmhouse (St. Paul, MN)

We didn’t visit Tillie’s because we never make it past Stewart’s.

The last time I visited Tillie’s was was decades ago when it was Trotter’s.

Back in high school, we went to Trotter’s during finals week. We felt very grown-up piling into someone’s car and driving across the river into St. Paul to lunch. I never ordered anything fancier than a turkey sandwich, but it was the best turkey sandwich I ever had. Fresh grainy bread, sprouts, and mayo, which I had previously thought I hated. It just seemed so special.

On the way to Tillie’s, I picked up Jake’s favorite patty melt. For myself, I ordered the curry grain bowl ($12) with tempeh (+2). You can also add chicken.

Don’t expect coconut curry like On’s prepares-  it’s not that type. The coconut curry with vegetables here is thick and  creamy, but not too sweet and mild in heat. Combined with brown rice, tangy cabbage, crisp baked kale, and seared tempeh, the combination is satisfying.

After a long week at work, this meal felt like a warm hug on a Friday night.

Tillie’s offers a full menu with beer and wine. The only thing I’m not sure I love is the style of ordering where everyone lines up to order from a register at the counter. Still, I look forward to returning and ordering this again. There’s week night happy hour and specials like a $28 Wednesday date night.

Tofu Banh Mi & Iced Vietnamese Coffee from iPho (St. Paul, MN)

My latest favorite weekend treat is a banh mi from iPho on University Ave.

iPho opens as early as 10 am on weekends making it an ideal brunch destination. When I arrived at 10 a.m. one morning, I was far from alone.

The sandwiches are sizable and made fresh to order. You can order them at the counter up front where at least one person will probably be preparing a ginormous sandwich order.

iPho’s fried tofu sandwich costs $4.25 – the fresh bread is spread with mayo and carefully filled with pickled veggies, jalapeno and cilantro. I love the combination of savory, sweet, salty and sour. Banh mi’s might be the perfect sandwich. You can also order one of their many boba drinks or smoothies. Vietnamese iced coffee with boba is my go-to.

While the front of the restaurant may be filled with people waiting to be seated or pay for their meals, the people who manage the front of the house are memorably kind and gracious.

A post about our first time dining at iPho and ordering pho.

Nachos from Hungry Hippie (Grand Marais, MN)

Our first night in Grand Marais, we headed here for a quick dinner before they closed.

On a Sunday evening after 8 p.m. dining choices are limited. During the winter, the taco shop is open Tues-Sat. And there is no place to buy beer or wine from a store – someone told us that it’s not legal to sell it Sunday evenings.

When people mention Hungry Hippy, they typically note the tacos made with puffy shells. Instead Jake ordered a chicken burrito and enjoyed it so much he considered ordering one to enjoy later.

I chose the nachos. When I asked if they could make a vegetarian version, the employee offered to add both beans and rice. We both chose the chipotle cream over the plain sour cream and enjoyed the heat it provided. Thin, crisp chips are topped with romaine, jalapenos, fresh salsa, shredded cheese AND queso. Basically, my perfect nachos.

All too often, ordering a vegetarian version of something simply means leaving the meat off and charging the same price. The nachos here are so robust and delicious, they’re at the top of my list now. Too bad they’re 4.5 hours away!