Sushi Sandos at Sushi Dori
A few things have changed at Eat Street Crossing since it opened earlier this year. Gone are the ordering kiosks (order via tableside QR codes or at individual vendors). In its place is a host stand to help the uninitiated navigate the food hall and to explain another new feature, a tap wall stocked with nine beers, a cider and a pair of wines.
The change-averse needn't worry — everything else is still intact, including the where-should-we-eat dilemma. We had been craving sushi, which put John Ng and Lina Goh's Sushi Dori at the top of our list. We started with a couple of rolls, and one should be on every Scandinavian's must-try list: the Three Musketeers, with smoked salmon, cream cheese, cucumber, tobiko, dill and sweet soy sauce ($13).
But we couldn't resist the sushi sandos. The Saigon 88 ($10) takes the bành mí flavors you love — meat (Spam, in this case), cucumbers, pickled carrots, daikon, cilantro and a healthy dose of jalapeños — and sandwiches it between sushi rice and sheet of nori. The Saigon 88 packs a flavorful, textural punch and is deceptively filling. It's one of 10 varieties, with fillings that range from pork belly and kimchi to the vegan Botanical. The sandos are also very portable, so order a couple to go and enjoy them al fresco before the warmth and daylight slip away. (Nicole Hvidsten)
2819 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., 612-345-4136, eatstreetcrossing.com
Trio of salsas at Nico's Taco Bar
When my end of days arrives, I know exactly what I hope to find: a margarita on the rocks with a salty rim, fresh salsa that's both spicy and mild, and a basket of warm chips that never runs out.
My husband and I had an odd weekend day where we had neither kids nor agenda. Rather than squander the wealth of the moment by doing actual housework, we ambled out the door and eventually found our way to the charming neighborhood of St. Anthony Park.
Nico's Taco and Tequila Bar is light-filled sanctuary in the heart of this lovely part of St. Paul. We ordered a spiked and an N/A margarita, and I can report both were divine: tart and salty, crisp and refreshing with just a hint of sweetness.
But it was the simple trio of salsas ($11) — chile de arbol, snappy with an almost raisiny heat that builds with each bite; a medium twangy tomatillo; and a fresh pico de gallo with a spot-on balance of fresh tomato, onion and cilantro — that had me thinking about heaven. I remembered the old TV show "Inside the Actors Studio," where the host ended with the question, "If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?" The idea floated into my mind. In my version of the Good Place: We would have sprawling Saturdays with sun and no agenda that ended at a neighborhood restaurant like this, chomping salty chips cradling precarious puddles of salsa, talking about all the most important inconsequential things. Nothing could be better than that. (Joy Summers)
2260 Como Av., St. Paul, 651-450-8848; 2516 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-345-7688; nicostacobar.com
Pollo a la Brasa from Ceviche Seafood House
I love a roast chicken dinner, especially one that can feed my family. We regularly get takeout family-style meals from Brasa and Toma Mojo, and my colleague swears by Pollo Movil. So, I was thrilled to add another terrific chicken to the lineup.
Ceviche Seafood House is a Peruvian restaurant, with Chinese and Japanese influences, that opened in Plymouth at the start of this year. (It's from the same owners as Kobe Japanese Restaurant, across the parking lot.) Inhabiting the corner of a strip of businesses, the spacious restaurant and bar is bright and charming, with plants cascading from the ceiling.
Befitting of the restaurant's name, definitely start with the ceviche. We enjoyed the Rocoto Ceviche ($20.95), beautifully plated and brimming with whitefish, shrimp and calamari in a red pepper sauce.
There are lots of entrees that demonstrate how Peru is a crossroads for Latin American and Asian cuisines — fried rice, lomo saltado and a long list of sushi rolls. But I went for the pollo a la brasa, moist, fall-off-the-bone deliciousness served with ultra-crispy fries and a green sauce that could rival the iconic one from Brasa. I ordered the half-portion ($18.95), but next time I'll be getting the whole rotisserie chicken ($27.95) to feed the table. (Sharyn Jackson)
3500 Vicksburg Lane N., Plymouth, 763-898-3008, cevicheplymouthmn.com
Silk Road at King Coil Spirits
Matt Lange had wanted to start a distillery. But sometimes dreams take time to, well, ferment. First, he would team up with another Matt (Zanetti), and Jeremy Maynor to open a new brewery inside an industrial complex on the edge of not-much in St. Paul. Lake Monster Brewing became an anchor in the revitalization of Vandalia Tower, now a thriving business center.
When another space within the complex became available, just across the way from Lake Monster, Zanetti said he returned to Lange's original inkling: "And he took some convincing! I had to sell you on it," he said. But it turns out that yes, he did want to become a distiller in addition to a brewer. Now, all those plans and years of work have paid off with the grand opening of King Coil Spirits.
As is the case with Minnesota distilleries, all the cocktails in the taproom are made from spirits distilled on site — and they are impressive. Created by consultant (and former Travail beverage man) David Curiel, there's a front bar menu filled with classics, but the back bar menu is where I'd like to order one of everything. The flavors are complex, sometimes challenging and really show off the prowess of the maker of these new spirits.
The Silk Road ($15) is a clarified milk punch made with King Coil's gin, Earl Grey tea and a warmth of cool-season spices like cinnamon and cardamom. The result is a beverage that's refreshing and cozy all at the same time. It's just one of the drinks that's unlike anything else being mixed around town right now; the black sesame Manhattan will have to be ordered on our next trip. (Joy Summers)
550 Vandalia St., Suite 140, St. Paul, 651-300-9550, kingcoilspirits.com
Bread and dipping sauce from Giuseppe's
The Old World charm here is heavier than a red meat sauce. The music of the Rat Pack plays on a continuous loop, tables are set with thick vinyl tablecloths, and the "brick" walls are signed by couples on first dates and celebrating anniversaries, with a few modern "follow us on TikTok" flourishes. Smiling is inevitable.
The menu is filled with equally classic touches — calamari, spaghetti and meatballs, baked ziti, ravioli, fettuccine Alfredo — with some Giuseppe's flourishes, like the Giuseppe Special, with prosciutto and chicken (or shrimp) in a garlic cream sauce with artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes and onions over linguine ($13.95). The pasta selection spans two pages, with a top price of $19.95, and the portions are generous. We took home half of our dinners — the cheesy Sausage de Sicilia (Italian sausage in a beef merlot marinara over ziti, $17.95) and the Scallop Shrimp Florentine ($19.95), with vegetables tossed in creamy garlic-Parmesan sauce over fettuccine, both delicious.
Turns out we enjoyed the fresh bread with dipping sauce a little too much. The bread, crusty on the outside with a dusting of garlic and salt, is fluffy on the inside and is served warm with a housemade dipping sauce. And that sauce, a blend of oil, pepper, herbs and magic, is a revelation. Others must think so, too — it's available for purchase.
Do I feel sheepish recommending the free bread that comes with a meal? A little. Did we ask for seconds so we could have leftovers? Definitely. (Nicole Hvidsten)
14600 10th Av. S., Burnsville, 952-431-9955, giuseppesrestaurant.org