By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
One of the problems in being a restaurant critic in a smallish biggish city is: I don't know where you have eaten. Yes, you. Specifically you. Have you been to La Loma, in Mercado Central? I've certainly raved about the place before. They've reliably got the best tamales in the region, bar none. But maybe you were busy that week? So it's news to you? Or maybe you think you don't even like tamales? But chances are you would, if you had good ones. I dragged one of my pals who thought he hated tamales to La Loma, and now he thinks he loves them.
We had a tamale buffet of one of each: plump, moist corn-husk-wrapped classics including red chili pork, the corn meal dyed a pleasant brick red with the spice; lightly perky chicken; sweet, whole-kernel sweet corn; and modest herb-touched vegetarian. And then there was a single rich, plush, jungle-scented, spicy, and memorable banana-leaf-wrapped Oaxacan tamale, made with smoked chilies. Plain tamales at La Loma cost $1.85 each, or $5.99 for a frozen pack of six; Oaxacan ones cost $2.95, and they are, in a word, the best. Well, two words. The La Loma in the MGM also sells liquados, those Mexican fresh fruit-based blender shakes. A mango liquado ($2.95) and tamale is a great walking-around snack while you explore the many corners of the market.
Manny's is another place that I just don't know if you've been to. If you haven't, you need to know that tortas are the overstuffed submarine sandwiches of Mexico City, and that Manny Gonzalez is the king of tortas around here. His fame comes from his signature combination of fresh bread, sweet and hot chipotle mayonnaise, and sandwiches so overstuffed they put a Thanksgiving turkey to shame. Try the spicy eggs and chorizo ($5.60), the thin-pounded pork loin ($6.25), which would not be out of place in mainland Spain, or the veggie one ($5.60), an object of cult fascination in several Powderhorn households. 612.870.3930
But I know you've been to Holy Land, because this seems to be the one restaurant that everyone in this city, rocker or banker, peacenik or hunter, bike greenie or SUV meanie, agrees on. Or, every man does anyway. The main location in Nordeast has so many packs of men in it some lunch times it looks like the deer opener. Which is neither here nor there, but the Holy Land satellite is a delight to behold. There's a grocery arm with all the fresh baked pitas, the whole line of Holy Land hummus, a big deli case full of olives, feta cheese, and miscellaneous Mediterranean pickles (try the sour and spicy stuffed marinated eggplant), a rotisserie chicken case... and then things really get rolling. There's all the kebobs, shawirma, stuffed grape leaves, sovlaki, falafel, tabbouleh, gyros both chicken and traditional. I'm going to have to wrap this up, or it will take up the rest of the paper. You know the drill.
If, for some reason, you don't (you're a newborn baby? Yo u were in an underground crypt playing the organ for a few decades?), try most everything at the lunch buffet: $7.99 on weekdays from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.; $8.99 on weekends from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Takeout hounds should also note that the restaurant offers a few spectacular takeout platters, called "Sheik's Dinners." The vegetarian one has falafel, hummus, stuffed grape leaves, tabbouli, spinach pie, rice, sautéed vegetables, dessert, and tea, and costs $19.99 for two, or $29.95 for four. The meaty one has all that, plus gyro, chicken gyro, kabobs, and Greek chicken, and runs $29.95 for two, or $44.95 for four.
And something for the vegetarians! As soon as you see the giant bubbling chiller-dispenser of mango lassi, you know that you have found the vegetarian gem of the market. You might know Everest from its big sister restaurant in St. Paul, Everest on Grand, and if you do, you know that the restaurant prides itself on its soft, fresh, pretty momo dumplings. And that's what they mainly offer at the satellite too. Be sure to order a giant cup of sweetish, sourish mango and yogurt drink ($3.50) to sip while you wait for your pile of translucent momo. When those Nepali dumplings arrive, in a vegetarian version with sautéed spinach and onion, or with meat, you'll know what Nepali comfort food is all about. (Five momo cost $4.65.) Everest also offers fist-sized potato- and vegetable-stuffed samosa ($2) served with a bit of spicy chili sauce, and I had a delicious lemony soup one time that was made with bamboo shoots and black-eyed peas.
If you live in the vast, vast area of Minneapolis between Uptown and the Mississippi, you probably often find yourself gnashing your teeth while yelling, "Who do I have to bribe to get some sweet mountain Gorgonzola within easy driving distance of this house!" Well, gnash no more, because Jakeeno's, that longtime, distinctly non-trattoria-like institution at Chicago Avenue and 36th Street, has opened a fascinating outpost in the Midtown Global Market, one that has a lot more going on than the hot slices that immediately catch the eye. Like what? Like high-end Italian cheeses, fine salamis, hams, and other charcuterie, Cerignola olives, and par-baked bread from La Brea and the New French Bakery. Seriously, don't be distracted by the pizza slices, this place has easily the best cheese counter betwixt Uptown and St. Paul. They pull their own mozzarella and have fresh local Minnesota chevre, too.