This summer my employer gradually return to work full-time. When my start time was later, I often looked for breakfast on the way home from daycare.

There aren’t many places along the way, so sometimes it was a gas station breakfast sandwich and floppy hashbrown patty (Holiday’s was pretty good!).

Other times it was Hardee’s on Hamline. They open at 6 a.m. and their food is better than most gas stations.

The parking lot is just so optimistically . . .big. Huge, really. Sometimes they have coffee, sometimes they don’t. I never seem to have a coupon at the right time.

But, there’s this $4 breakfast that always sounds good when you’re really really hungry. They include a pile of potato coins, a dish of sausage gravy, a biscuit, two omelettes, and bacon or sausage.

I devour it and then I wonder why I don’t feel so good all day. Sometimes it’s worth it.

Trung Nam’s drive-through is a game changer. Unfortunately (but fortunately for my wallet), I start work after they open at 8 a.m., but when I didn’t, I stopped by a lot. Now I might on the way back from an appointment.

Sometimes I’ll order a croissant or banh mi, but usually an iced Vietnamese coffee for $5. Theirs is the perfect size, strength, sweetness. I love it so much.

Earlier this summer, we enjoyed a rare dinner out at Samarkand, a restaurant serving Uzbek cuisine in Plymouth. 

Jake’s ride share driver recommended Samarkand as his favorite restaurant, saying it tasted like home.

If you plan to dine-in, call ahead to inquire. At the time, you had to make reservations for indoor dining. We were happy to eat outside on the shady sidewalk patio. It had been a while since we left the cities – I felt stunned by the greenness and quietness of the suburbs.

Even though we were just overlooking a strip mall parking lot and grassy knoll, it felt so peaceful.

One of my favorite food experiences this summer was digging into a plate of fried potatoes. It was simply fried potatoes topped with sauteed mushrooms and onions.

The potatoes were oily in a pleasant way – and everything tasted perfectly seasoned. Another dish we tried was the lagman, a soup made with vegetables, cabbage and toothsome hand-pulled noodles.. A cup was a hearty serving – I was advised against ordering the bowl, as they felt it might be too big.

I liked the spicy, garlicky hot pepper paste they served with it.

Jake ordered a drier noodle version of this dish – it had more of a soy-sauce flavor.

Something else to know is that they were out of some of the dishes we asked about – if you have your heart set on something, you may want to call ahead to see if it’ll be on the menu that day.

Chow Mein Quest
Last week, out of nowhere, I felt an urge to eat chow mein. It’s not something I usually order. I really don’t know where it came from.

After Googling around for old school of restaurants, I visited Golden Chow Mein on West 7th in St. Paul. 30 years in business seems old school enough.

I ordered chicken subgum chow mein and sweet and sour shrimp.

My take-out boxes of food were still piping hot when time I arrived home.

The chicken chow mein was nothing fancy (chopped chicken and vegetables in a savory sauce) but hit the spot, which was kinda the point. What surprised me were the sweet and sour shrimp – the portion of shrimp was plentiful and the quality above average, cooked to that perfect snappy point.

You may want to ask if they can serve sauce on the side if you prefer the batter to remain crunchy, but I didn’t mind the soft pillows of batter. There’s no pineapple or bell peppers in the dish – as affordable and tasty as it was, I didn’t mind. I just added my own bell pepper. I always buy bags of them at the farmers market, anyway.