Pan con tomate at Petite León
Get this while you still can. A thick slice of heirloom tomato is the star of this open-faced dream of a summer tomato sandwich, which resembles the Spanish griddled bread with pulpy mashed tomato in name only. Petite León chef/owner Jorge Guzmán riffs on an old-reliable mayo-white bread combo using milk bread from Patisserie 46, toasted and slathered with Duke's mayo (why is that South Carolina mayonnaise so good?), topped with the juiciest tomato from farmer Nissa Inselman-Field, and a spoonful of the house-made condiment-of-the-moment, chili crisp. "It's the simplest dish on our menu, but is just a full summer throwback for many," Guzmán said. "Sans the chili crisp." A mound of gorgeous herbs and flowers on top ("whatever we had come in that week from Nissa," Guzmán said) remind you: this is garden-to-table eating at its finest. (Sharyn Jackson)
3800 Nicollet Av., Mpls., 612-208-1247, petiteleonmpls.com. Open 5 to 10 p.m. Tue.-Sat.
Falafelicious hummus bowl at Mediterranean Cruise Cafe
An unlikely success story among this year's new Minnesota State Fair foods was the decidedly un-fairish hummus bowls that were tasty, filling and actually sort of ... healthy? They came courtesy of Baba's Hummus, which you can find in grocery stores. But here's a hot tip: You can also find them at the restaurant where the Baba's Hummus recipe originated: Mediterranean Cruise Cafe in Burnsville.
The retail brand was founded by two siblings — Rana Kamal and Khalid Ansari, the children of the restaurant's founder, Jamal Ansari The siblings perfected and packaged the house-made hummus and, for this year's fair, put it in bowls with fun toppings and sold it from an adorable Airstream trailer. For the next few weeks, you can still get some of the bowls from the fair menu at the restaurant, including the Falafelicious, which features one of Baba's other hit products, their super crispy falafel. It also comes with pickled cabbage, warm chickpeas and, of course, their "creamy dreamy" hummus. (S.J.)
12500 Nicollet Av., Burnsville, 952-641-6222, medcruisecafe.com. Open for dining and takeout 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Pizza puff at EaTo
Speaking of State Fair food, these little pizza hand pies would fit right in. Find them at EaTo, the currently patio-only Italian spot in downtown Minneapolis with a menu by Jamie Malone and Matt Henrickson. The restaurant's signature pizza puffs are meant to evoke Totino's Pizza Rolls or any of the mass-produced frozen pizza-ish foods that keep college students functioning, but with way better ingredients. The pizza puffs come in two flavors: olive and n'duja, which is a crumbly Italian sausage that, when combined with gooey mozzarella, Parmesan and fennel, magically tastes like a homemade pepperoni Hot Pocket. (S.J.)
305 Washington Av. S., Mpls., 612-208-1638, helloeatompls.com. Patio and walk-up window open 4 to 9 p.m. Wed.-Thu., 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Fri.-Sat.
Swordfish with eggplant caponata at All Saints
Our server at the soft opening of this Hennepin Avenue gem said they all felt a little rusty after a pandemic-induced hiatus. But co-owners Denny Leaf-Smith and Kim Tong and their staff didn't miss a beat. Perched on the spacious patio on a crisp weeknight, my dining companion and I shared plates of charred cucumbers, scallops and steak, but the swordfish, served on a bed of eggplant caponata ($16), was the one we wish we'd had all to ourselves.
If you grew up just tolerating or refusing to eat eggplant, you owe it to yourself to try this dish. Tender (not mushy) eggplant is combined with red peppers, celery, pine nuts and basil for a medley that rivals the swordfish as the star of the show. I can see why it was our server's favorite dish. It's now one of mine, too. (Nicole Hvidsten)
222 Hennepin Av. E., Mpls., allsaintsmpls.com. Opens Tuesday. Hours will be 5 to 10 p.m. Mon.-Sat. Closed Sun.
Special fried rice at Lemon Grass
Those who think that all fried rice is created equal have never had this version at chef Ann Ahmed's Lemon Grass. Chinese sausage, barbecue pork, basil and scallions are peppered throughout the perfectly fried rice ($15), creating light, flavorful bites that make it worthy of the "special" in the name. Bonus: The serving was big enough to share at dinner and allow for two leftover lunches at home. And even after a trip through the microwave, it still retained its specialness.
Our visit to Lemon Grass did pique our curiosity about Ahmed's new venture, Khâluna, which is going into the former Harriet's Inn (4000 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls.). While we don't have an opening date, recent social media posts announced that Khâluna is now hiring, so fingers crossed it's soon. (N.H.)
8600 Edinburgh Centre Dr., Brooklyn Park, 763-494-8809, lemongrassmn.com. Open Wed.-Sun., 4 to 9 p.m.