Boughatsa at Gardens of Salonica
When this popular Greek restaurant opened in the early 1990s, there was a different business plan in place.
"We intended to have a wholesale business, selling Boughatsa," said owner Anna Christoforides. "If you look at the entrance there's still a sign that says 'Boughatsa Inc.' But we added tables, and then the restaurant took over."
Thankfully, they kept turning out these fabulous triangle-shaped delicacies ($7), made with untold layers of delicate, golden phyllo dough and filled with all kinds of savory goodness.
My Boughatsa of choice for what seems like forever — plucked from the grab-and-go case at my neighborhood co-op — is the one that's stuffed with spinach and a salty, feta-style cow's milk cheese. A friend of mine, who was obsessed with the spinach-filled croissants at the long-gone Croissant Express in Uptown Minneapolis, used to affectionately refer to Boughatsa as "Greek croissants," and that description is not so far off the mark.
But the restaurant offers several other options: roasted peppers, mushroom, leek (which is vegan), beef-mushroom and what Christoforides said someone has dubbed a "Greek sloppy Joe," a mix of the kitchen's moussaka sauce and sheep's milk cheese.
Starting May 19, Boughatsa will be even easier to buy, because they'll be available in a handful of Lunds & Byerlys stores. (Rick Nelson)
19 NE. 5th St., Mpls., 612-378-0611, gardensofsalonica.com. Open for takeout 1-7 p.m. Tue.-Wed., 1-8 p.m. Thu.-Sat. Indoor dining available Thu.-Sat.; cafe service from noon-4 p.m., table service from 5-8 p.m. Also available at Wedge Co-op, Seward Community Co-op, Eastside Food Co-op and Hampden Park Co-op.
Tacos at Chef Shack Bay City
Road trip! This charming seasonal destination, about an hour's drive southeast of downtown St. Paul, is the rural brick-and-mortar outpost for Twin Cities food truck pioneers Lisa Carlson and Carrie Summer.
The dining room's tasting menu ($95) returns on May 21 and features a half-dozen or so ever-changing courses ("I wish we could change the restaurant's name to Moody's, because the menu is always based on my mood," said Carlson), and Summer tops off the final luxurious moments with a spread of four to five desserts.
"We don't want to have people decide on just one," she said. "We want them to try everything."
For a more casual experience, the duo's fire engine-red food truck is at the ready (paired with a flower-filled patio), with an affordable ($3 to $14) roster of skillfully prepared tacos, burritos and curry dishes. Carlson and Summer just returned from a road trip of their own, and it's a reason why the three tacos (smoked beef brisket, pulled pork and sweet potato) that I inhaled were so impressive.
"Our four months in Mexico definitely helped me up our taco game," said Summer. "We learned some nice tricks."
They did indeed, because no detail feels left to chance. The twice-cooked beans — a mix of chickpeas and black beans, seasoned with roasted garlic — were a revelation, and I wish that I could have purchased a jar of the colorful tomatillo salsa, with its quiet smoked-onion bite.
Inside at the bar, Summer is mixing all kinds of libations fueled with Wisconsin-sourced CBD. The truck also serves takeout cocktails ($5, including a refreshing mix of gin, rosemary-infused simple syrup and lemonade), proving once again that Minnesota could take a few lessons in liquor law modernity from its neighbor to the east.
"People here are serious about their alcohol," Carlson said with a laugh. "If the drink isn't strong enough, they'll pass it back and say, 'Would you Wisconsin this?' " (R.N.)
6379 Main St., Bay City, Wis., chefshackbaycity.com. Food truck open 5-7 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sun. Dinner in the dining room Fri.-Sat. starting May 21.
Sabudana vada from Muddy Tiger
Andrew and Jyotiee Kistner are on a mission: to introduce Minnesotans to Marathi cuisine, or Indian street food. And their Muddy Tiger food truck is helping to make that happen.
The Kistners started Muddy Tiger in 2018 as a pop-up and at farmers markets — their first pop-up was at Chef Shack Minneapolis — but the food truck is just a month old. We spotted them at a local brewery. We couldn't decide what to have, so ordered one of each off the menu and shared, which is never a bad idea. The vada pav ($4), a spiced potato patty with sweet-spicy peanut chutney on a bun, was a good place to start. The Chicken Boti Bombay Frankie ($10) — thin soft roti wraps filled with street-style chicken, pickled onion and housemade sauce — was a close second (think Indian taco).
But I was smitten with the day's special, the sabudana vada ($6). Nutty fried patties are made with mashed potatoes, roasted peanuts, tapioca pearls and herbs and spices, and served alongside a delightfully springy cucumber yogurt chutney. (I had a hard time sharing those.) The texture was different from anything I've tasted, thanks to the tapioca pearls, and although fried it wasn't heavy, even on a warm day. Delicious.
Chef Jyotiee said they'll rotate the menu every month or two, and now have two new sandwiches. The chicken ghee roast sandwich is chicken marinated and cooked in clarified butter and mixed with a chili masala and topped with an Indian style slaw. The second, the pav bhaji, is what the Kistners call the Indian version of sloppy Joes: A buttery vegetable mash, topped with onions and Amul Indian cheese. Both are served on grilled New England-style buns. Count me in.
But behind all that great food is also a great story. The menu is inspired by the food Jyotiee grew up eating in the state of Maharashtra in western India. For a peek behind Jyotiee's culinary upbringing, her appearance on a recent episode of TPT's "Relish" web series, hosted by chef Yia Vang, is a must-see.
If you're looking for Muddy Tiger, you can't miss it: The truck is bright and bold, just like the food. There's usually a long line of people, too, meaning they are well on their way to accomplishing that mission. (Nicole Hvidsten)
Throwdown Wafel from Wafles & Dinges
In a place the size of Mall of America, it takes a lot to stand out. But the relatively new Wafels & Dinges — it opened in August — holds its own. It could be the vibrant storefront, or the sense of humor evident in the store decor, or the sweet smell of waffles that hits you as you round the third-floor corner by Nordstrom. Yeah, it's definitely that.
The location is only the second outside of its New York home base, where Thomas DeGeest launched it as a food truck in 2007 to bring "proper" Belgian waffles to Americans. And they do taste different from your average waffle — denser and chewier with pockets deep enough to stand up to the over-the-top (in a good way) toppings. But first, two things to know: There are two types of Belgian waffles — they serve the liege style, which is smaller and round; and dinges is the Belgian slang term for "thingy" or "whatchamacallits."
I chose the Throwdown Wafel ($7.91). If it was good enough to beat celebrity chef Bobby Flay in a challenge, it was good enough for me. The waffle is topped with the butter-like Spekuloos spread (speculoos is the generic name for traditional Belgian crispy spiced cookies) and the mound of whipped cream was a creamy foil for its richness. A dusting of cookie crumble added a little crunch, and a new favorite dessert was born.
The WMD ($10.70), or Wafel of Massive Deliciousness, was a close second, topped with bananas, strawberries, chocolate and whipped cream. If there's fruit it has to be good for you, right? Or, start with a plain liege waffle and add your own dinges.
If waffles aren't your cup of tea, there's also hot chocolate and hand-spun shakes, both equally over the top. If you can't decide, just ask. During our visit, the worker was delightfully friendly and knowledgeable about all things wafel and dinges.
But a pro tip: While certainly tasty, these waffles are best shared as a treat, not eaten as a meal. As the late Uncle Al Sicherman would say, "A nice person wouldn't ask how I know that." (N.H.)
Mall of America, 360 West Market, 952-322-7074, wafels.com. Mon.-Thu., 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
Afghani-style chutney from Maazah
Best Minnesota-made condiment? This is easily a contender.
In 2014, siblings Yasameen and Sheilla Sajady had a eureka moment at the family lunch table. Their mother, Fatima, had mixed ginger into her cilantro chutney, and the impromptu addition was a game-changer.
"The only conversation was, 'Can you pass the chutney?' " said Yasameen Sajady. "That was in February. By the summer, we were selling it at the Northeast Farmers Market."
The Sajady sisters now prepare three varieties. The original formula has a bright, fragrant cilantro aura, punctuated by garlic, ginger, lemon and jalapeño peppers. The appropriately named "Hot" variation is fueled by serrano peppers, and the creamy "Aioli" version borrows from a practice the sisters have long followed: they mix a vegan mayonnaise into the original recipe.
All three are versatile kitchen staples ($8.99, or $24.99 for a three-pack). I reflexively reach for Maazah for dressing up fried or scrambled eggs, and the sisters recommend it for salads, grain bowls, tacos, roasted vegetables and all kinds of grilling applications.
"The more traditional uses are with rice and kofta, or rice and dal," said Yasameen Sajady. "But we like to communicate that you may have been introduced to it at an Indian restaurant, but you can put it on anything." (R.N.)
Order at maazah.com. Available at many natural foods co-ops, including Lakewinds Food Co-op, Wedge Co-op, Seward Community Co-op, Linden Hills Co-op, Eastside Food Co-op and Valley Natural Foods, and twice a month at Mill City Farmers Market.