Minneapolis Restaurant Reviews

Blue Moon Coffee Cafe

Blue Moon is a cozy, woman-friendly, community coffee shop decked out in purple paint, Christmas lights, and well-aged furniture from the seventies. Pick up any local publication on their shelves or peruse the bulletin boards for a new activity or a used bike. The beverage list is extensive, but don't go here expecting much in the way of fresh food --though you can grab a tasty prepared sandwich or a rice krispie treat if you're hungry. Don't hesitate to bring even small children here -- the cafe provides oversized legos and games to help entertain them.

Blue Moon Coffee Cafe
3822 E. Lake St.
Minneapolis, MN
Blue Moon Website

Second Moon

If you can't get enough of Blue Moon, check out Second Moon. Here you'll find fewer children, more men, and local artwork on the walls.

Second Moon
2225 E. Franklin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55404

Blue Nile

Correction: In my earlier post on the Blue Nile, I incorrectly stated that the restaurant
was white-owned, information I got from a resident of Minneapolis. Thankfully, one of
the restaurant's managers emailed me the real story:

Blue Nile is wholly owned, and has been since
1989, by the Katabay family, who are Ethiopian on their father's side
and Yemeni on their mother's, who still does a great
deal of work in the kitchen. The food is as authentic
as the rest of them. The family spent a great deal of
time living in other countries in the region, such as
Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
The Blue Nile is the longest running African-owned
restaurant in the Twin Cities.
Impressions from my visit:
Its interior retains the decor of its previous occupant (seemingly a Mexican restaurant), and we were the only people in the huge space at prime dinner time (to be fair, it was a Monday).

This restaurant was different from the Ethiopian restaurants I've visited in LA in that I didn't recognize a lot of the dishes, which was a nice change. I enjoyed my food, but then, I've never had Ethiopian food I didn't like. One of the vegetarian dishes tasted like refried beans though, which I thought was odd (but it went with the decor). If it hadn't been cold and rainy, I would have preferred to trek to one of the many African restaurants in downtown Minneapolis (we were carless).

Blue Nile
2027 E. Franklin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55404
Blue Nile website

Places I wanted to try but didn't get to:

Tam Tam

I have only been to one other pan-African restaurant in my life (Nyala), so I was curious to try this pan-African place to learn more about cuisines other than Ethiopian.

Dashen Ethiopian Cuisine
One woman prepares all of this restaurant's food herself--an incredible feat, if you ask me. As if that weren't enough, her restaurant is supposed to be more authentic than the others. If you'd like to find out how authentic the Ethiopian food you normally eat is, check this place out. You can also buy small containers of her dishes along with fresh injera at the Seward Co-Op.


Restaurant Review #177: Indo Cafe, Palms

Dendeng balado

Have you ever tried Indonesian food? Indonesian restaurants can be hard to come by, especially on the Westside, but if you like Thai food, there's a good chance you'll enjoy this cuisine as well. For a great introduction to the cuisine via a sampling of many dishes, try Indo Cafe's rijsttafel on Wednesday nights (call ahead for reservations).

I am not very familiar with Indonesian food, but it wasn't a problem because the menu had plenty of photos, our waitress was happy to make recommendations, and she even let us try a couple of things we weren't familiar with. As much as I wanted to like durian so I could be hardcore, ten tiny bites of an ice cream with the pungency of raw garlic, the odor of sweaty socks, and undertones of ripe cheese and papaya couldn't convince me. At least I didn't waste $4.25 on the shake.

Indo Cafe's beverage menu is pretty unusual for the average American palette. In addition to stinky durian shakes (es durian), you'll also find es alpukat (avocado shakes) and my favorite, es teler, an iced drink made with sweetened condensed milk and bits of avocado, toddy palm, and jack fruit. It's so rich that, like boba tea, it's more a dessert than a drink. Plus, you need a spoon to consume the fruit.

Gado gado

I started off with the gado gado, a traditional Indonesian salad consisting of, in this case, bean sprouts, green beans, lettuce, tofu, hardboiled eggs, and shrimp chips, all served at room temperature and doused in a warm, hearty peanut sauce. The portion size is large enough to be a meal, and I'd recommend ordering it as such or sharing it with the table because it doesn't keep well.

Hard boiled eggs crop up in many Indonesian dishes. So does peanut sauce--order wisely, or you'll get sick of it fast.

Kwetiau Goreng

These pan-fried rice noodles could have easily been a Thai dish--there wasn't anything distinctively Indonesian about them, at least not to me. Not that there's necessarily anything wrong with that--Indonesian food can taste a lot like Thai.

The cuisines do have their differences, though. According to my favorite authority on the subject, Elmomonster, one of the primary differences between the two cuisines is that "Indonesian food focuses more on stews and food that actually steeps and develops a more rounded flavor." I also learned that many Indonesian stews have to be reheated several times before they can be eaten so that the spices have a chance to permeate all of the ingredients in the stew.

Sate babi

The pork sate tasted uncannily like hot dogs doused in peanut sauce. You can either messily munch them off the skewer or try not to propel them across the table while sliding each piece of meat off with your fork. I think I would have liked this dish a lot if I'd had the chicken or beef instead of the pork.

Ayam goreng

The chicken marinated with turmeric and Indonesian seasoning wasn't a show-stopper. When I think of marinated chicken, I think of juicy, tender meat. I couldn't tell that this bird had been bathing, but a dunk in the dipping sauce made up for that.

My favorite dish at Indo Cafe is the dendeng balado -- beef sauteed with chili sauce (lead photo). I couldn't get enough of this dish's sauce, which reminded me of the Spanish roasted red pepper condiment called pisto.

Empek empek

My previous encounter with empek empek (pieces of fish cake served with egg noodles in a spicy vinaigrette sauce) led me to believe that the dish was a soup, but that's not really the case, as you can see here. While the dipping sauce was so delicious that I saved the leftovers to pour over cucumber slices, the fish cakes were too tough to chew in places.

Nasi goreng

Another Indonesian dish that you may have heard of is nasi goreng. For some reason I was expecting something grand, but it was just fried rice with chicken. You can make it more interesting though: other meat options include beef, corned beef, seafood, shrimp, squid, or salted fish. Even still, I wouldn't order this again.


You can add Indonesia to your list of countries that have a version of the empanada (don't ask me who did it first). Indo Cafe's fried flour pockets are filled with chicken, potatoes, carrots, and the ubiquitous hardboiled egg.

Give yourself an extra 15 minutes to find a parking space when you go to Indo Cafe. I read on other websites that they have a parking lot, but if that's true I couldn't find it. Street parking in the area is difficult almost to the point of seeming impossible, even when you drive a tiny car that can park practically anywhere.

You should also give yourself some extra time to find the restaurant. Indo Cafe itself is fairly large, well lit, and has a very visible decorative sign that you'll spot easily. The problem you might have is in navigating this section of National Blvd. If you aren't familiar with the neighborhood, and I mean really familiar, make sure you map it before you start driving.

When you arrive, don't be put off by Indo Cafe's imposing security guard (was that really a gun I saw in his belt?). The only thing scary about Indo Cafe is. . .well, nothing, unless you're allergic to peanuts. Almost every dish is under $10 and the portions will certainly fill you up, if not provide leftovers as well.

For groceries and more Indonesian food, check out Simpang Asia in the strip mall across the street. For more Westside Indonesian, check out Ramayani in Westwood. For a crib sheet to help you decipher Indonesian menus, go here (definitions are at the end of the review).

Thanks to Moonchilde for the recommendation and Elmomonster for the help and inspiration.

Indo Cafe
10428 1/2 National Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90034
Indo Cafe Menu
Map to Indo Cafe
Look at the map if you aren't familiar with National Blvd.'s convoluted meanderings!

Other LA Indonesian Restaurants
Toko Rame, Bellflower
Indo Kitchen, Alhambra
Asian Deli, Diamond Bar
Ramayani, Westwood

Indo Cafe on Urbanspoon


Restaurant Review #176 - Anajak Thai, Sherman Oaks

Chicken dumplings

I recently was invited to Anajak Thai in Sherman Oaks for their 25th anniversary celebration. To honor the occassion, the restaurant is serving a special menu highlighting some of their best dishes (which I got to try for free). The menu is a $25 set menu and features a sampler plate of three appetizers, two soups to pick from, three entrees to pick from, and one dessert (see end of article for details). You can take part of this event through December 24.

When I first arrived at the restaurant, there was a bit of confusion due to a language barrier with our server, but owner Ricky soon came out to introduce himself and all was well. I explained to him that I couldn't eat shellfish, which is featured heavily on the anniversary menu. He really eased my mind by going down the menu with me and telling me which dishes he would make without shrimp and which dishes he would replace entirely. I was quite happy about this since I usually avoid certain Thai dishes altogether out of fear that they will forget to make them without shrimp or because the language barrier makes it too difficult for me to communicate my needs in the first place.

Mee krob (back) and kratong tong (front)

First, I finally got to try mee krob, which is normally made with both chicken and shrimp but in this case only had chicken. Contrary to Eric Cartman's opinion, mee krob is really very good. It is light, airy, and crispy with a flavor a bit like kettle corn. Since it isn't at all heavy, it makes a perfect appetizer.

The crispy little pastry cups you see in the foreground are called kratong kong and contained a mixture of chicken, corn, and peanuts in a sweet sauce. I would order both of these appetizers again.

The chicken dumplings were clearly homemade -- the wrapper and the ingredients weren't as tightly packed as they are in the industrially produced variety.

I also had a tom khar soup (sometimes spelled "tom kha") which is a tangy, spicy, coconut-milk -based soup with chicken and mushrooms. It tasted similar to other tom khar soups I've had but a bit lighter. The chicken was a little bland, as if it had been cooked separately and added to the soup rather than being cooked with the soup, but this has been the case with every tom khar soup I've ever eaten.

Cashew chicken

This dish really wasn't any different from a cashew chicken you would order at a Chinese restaurant, as far as I could tell. The dish could have used a bit more sauce, but the roasted cashews helped compensate.

One thing that I really enjoyed about all of the dishes I tried is that they seemed much less greasy than the Thai and Chinese dishes I am accustomed to. The entrees also came with a small bowl of brown rice instead of white. Anajak seems to be a good match for health-conscious Californians.

Filet of sole with ginger sauce

The fish was a little disappointing because it was somewhat overcooked, but it still had a perfect grilled flavor and a delicious sweet, gingery sauce. Don't worry--the fish comes without its head and skeleton.

Bananas foster (not on the regular menu)

The bananas foster were a little hard to eat because the fried outer shell of the banana was a little tough and the banana was underripe, making it difficult to cut off a piece with a spoon. That didn't stop us from eating the whole thing, of course.

Overall, what I liked about Anajak is that it's a bit more upscale than your average Thai place (particularly in the Valley). It is still by all means a comfortable, casual restaurant, but it's clean, has low lighting, and a noteable absence of neon lights. Also, all of the food is attractively presented and doesn't feel heavy.

I consider myself an excellent judge of character, and while I was a special guest on my visit, I got the vibe that the owner is a genuinely warm person who truly cares about his food and his customers. He chatted with us at length about wanting to get Westerners to try new Thai dishes that they aren't familiar with and invited us to come back anytime so we could try more food. His warm personality and passion for Thai food are clearly what has helped Anajak be successful for so many years.


Anajak Thai
14704 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91403

Here's the special anniversary menu:

Anajak Thai Cult Status Sample Platter
A sampling of their greatest hits!
Mee Krob Chicken, shrimp and crispy rice noodles tossed in a sweet &
tangy tamarind sauce.
Sushi Tempura California rolls flashed fried in a lacy tempura batter,
with soy sauce and wasabi.
Kra Tong Golden pastry cups filled with ground chicken, corn,
peas and carrots. Served with a plate-licking peanut plum sauce.

First Course
-Thai Won Ton Soup clear chicken broth soup with homemade
pork wontons, shrimp, barbecued pork and fresh Thai herbs.
-Tom Khar Soup rich coconut milk and chicken infused with lemon grass,
galangal and dried chiles.
Vegetarian-based soup upon request.

Main Course
-25th Anniversary Chicken Half grilled chicken glazed with Anajak
Thai's addictive sweet and spicy pineapple sauce. Served with brown or
steamed rice and fresh veggie stir fry.

-Bangkok Shrimp Jumbo prawns brushed with a garlic-lime sauce and
grilled to perfection. Served with Thai-style fried rice and steamed broccoli.
-Night Market Noodles-Vegetarian noodle dish tossed with a special
recipe chile garlic sauce and topped with fragrant Thai basil.


Thai-Style Bananas Foster
Spring roll-wrapped ripe bananas, fried until golden
and then drizzled with chocolate and dusted with powdered sugar.
Served with coconut ice cream
Anajak Thai Cuisine on Urbanspoon


Seattle Restaurant Reviews

On a recent trip to Seattle, I managed to do a ton of dining out on a shoestring budget. Here's what I found, what I recommend, and what I don't.

Green Papaya

If I lived in Seattle, I'd eat at Green Papaya as often as possible. Though their Vietnamese food is somewhat anglicized, that doesn't bother me when it's full of flavor, beautifully presented, and reasonably priced. They also have a wide selection of tofu dishes and a nicer atmosphere than most Vietnamese joints. Don't miss the spicy banh mi and the lime ginger mint drink.

Green Papaya
600 E Pine St
Seattle, WA 98122
Green Papaya Website

Dilettane Chocolates

On a Sunday evening, this popular Seattle institution is quite crowded and full of energy. They serve all kinds of desserts, most of which involve chocolate. With a much wider selection than you'll find on any restaurant dessert menu, Dilettane is the perfect place to get your sweet fix. They also sell truffles, cakes, and gourmet coffee drinks. My slice of hazelnut cake (called japonaise gateau) had a bit of that stale display case taste. It was also too dry, but the presentation was gorgeous. Prices are reasonble for what you get (my generous slice of cake was $7). I've been underwhelmed on both visits, but my friends and everyone else seem to love this place, so you probably will too.

Dilettante Chocolates
416 Broadway E
Seattle, WA 98102

Dragonfish Asian Cafe

Dragonfish, an Asian fusion restaurant on the outskirts of Downtown, reeled us in with the promise of cheap happy hour drinks and sushi. Since moving to LA, my standards in sushi have shot through the roof, but my untainted friends were pleased with their rolls, which are all standard combinations involving shrimp, crab, avocado and cucumber. This happy hour isn't actually a good deal though: with rolls at $2, you only get 4 pieces, and the $3 drinks are really watered down. In addition to sushi, you can also order $3-4 small plates like fried tofu, tamarind chicken satay, beef satay, and spring rolls with nuoc cham.The atmosphere was nice, though, and the place appeared to be a popular dinner spot, so you may do better here if you stick to the regular menu.

Dragonfish Asian Cafe
722 Pine St
Seattle, WA 98101

Owl n Thistle

Like most bars, this is not a place to go for food, but rather to watch sports, enjoy live Irish music five days a week, and drink beer. The burger seemed like it had been frozen previously, and you should avoid the sickly pink raspberry vinaigrette dressing when ordering a salad, but the hummus plate is quite tasty as long as you're a fan of garlic. Other vegetarian options include grilled cheese and a Gardenburger.

Owl n Thistle is off the beaten path - it's around the corner and downhill from the much more prominent Fado. Owl n Thistle's beer is $1 cheaper though and the atmosphere is more casual. It's also a bit moody--the bar has few windows so it's dark even during the day, and the dark wood tables, faux red leather booths, exposed pipes and exposed wooden ceiling beams don't make things any brighter.

Owl n Thistle
808 Post Ave
Seattle, WA 98104

Honey Hole

With its wild decorations and lengthy menu, Honey Hole is a great place to pick up a sandwich at just about any time of day. Whether you like your sandwiches hot, cold, meaty, or vegetarian, you're bound to find something tasty. They also have a full bar, which would seem out of place in most sandwich shops, but somehow fits right in here.

Honey Hole
703 E. Pike St. Seattle, WA
Hours: 10am-2am daily
Honey Hole Website

Bauhaus Books and Coffee

When you think Seattle, do you think coffee shop? Bauhaus does Seattle's reputation right by serving strong, frothy, delicious lattes in a friendly, non-corporate setting complete with books you can read and a cozy (or crowded) upstairs. Though the music can be too loud, this is still a great place to linger over a book and people watch--and judging by the almost constant stream of visitors, I'm not the only one who thinks so.

Bauhaus Books and Coffee
301 E Pine St (at Melrose Ave)
Seattle, WA 98122


Restaurant Review #175, Tacos Worth Begging For: Tacos Por Favor, Santa Monica

Al pastor and asada tacos

You plunge your hand into the paper bag and fumble amidst the tortilla chips for your foil packet prize. The metal scorches your fingertips, and you know it will be worse on the inside, where steam and grease will add to the pain. But this is no time for self-restraint.

You huddle in your car, which you've parked on a dark freeway bridge because there is no parking lot at the taco mecca. You don't have time to eat in, but to consume these tacos through the haze of driving would be blasphemy. Eating in your parked car is a viable compromise. Beemers and beater trucks whoosh past and you ponder the strangeness of this busy yet desolate spot. Headlights whiz by underneath you as you try to tame your empty belly at a slow enough pace that you actually taste what you consume. If you don't pace yourself, you'll all too soon be left with nothing but a fiery tongue tip and greasy prints on the steering wheel.

No, you must slow down and experience the marinade, the char, the chew, and that orgy of meat, tortilla, and sauce. Surely this is the most perfect sustenance ever conceived. Enjoy this moment, because in five minutes it will be a memory.

Asada taco

Tacos Por Favor
1408 Olympic Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA
They deliver! $7.00 minimum order, $1.50 delivery charge
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 8AM-8PM, Sun. 9AM-5PM
Tacos Por Favor on Urbanspoon