Twin Cities specialty food stores wow

Chiles, chutneys, and chicken feet make for unique, delicious holiday treats

Twin Cities specialty food stores wow
B Fresh Photography
Nido is just one of the treats you'll find in the bakery of Mexican grocer La Alborada. Take the tour...

As the holiday season kicks off, your once-empty weekends seem to fill up much too quickly with endless parties and events. It's all great fun, but it also means lots of menu planning, requests to bring a dish to pass, cookie swaps, and forever scrambling for hostess gift ideas. Instead of just heading to Lunds or Cub to pick up the goods, think about taking advantage of our many local specialty food stores. Here's a guide to a few of our favorites.

United Noodles
2015 E. 24th St., Minneapolis

A first-time trip to United Noodles in Seward can be overwhelming. Not only is it the largest Asian supermarket in the Twin Cities, it's the largest in the entire Midwest, and the sheer volume of products is astounding. United Noodles sells beans, grains, dressings, sauces, spices, and of course noodles, from all corners of the Asian continent and even parts of the Pacific Rim. Pick up pantry staples that will allow you to whip up a tasty dinner in no time: Thai curry pastes, kimchi, hoisin, soba and udon noodles, miso paste, mirin, fish sauce, and rice vinegars are all well stocked. Experienced cooks rely on United for harder-to-find items like dried seaweed (if you're making sushi, Coastal Seafoods is right around the corner), chicken feet, burdock, and Asian eggplants, but epicureans of every kind will appreciate the huge selection of frozen dumplings and dim sum buns.

La Alborada
B Fresh Photography
La Alborada

Location Info


United Noodles

2015 E. 24th St.
Minneapolis, MN 55404

Category: Restaurant > Noodle Shop

Region: Uptown/ Eat Street

Ingebretsen's Scandinavian Gifts And Foods

1601 E. Lake St.
Minneapolis, MN 55407

Category: Retail

Region: Powderhorn

Duly noted: If shopping tends to make you hungry, plop down at UniDeli, the counter-service restaurant inside the market, and enjoy a steamy bowl of ramen, agedashi tofu, tea eggs, pork belly, and sticky-rice dumplings.

Best for: Noodles (duh), medicinal and regular teas and herbs, jarred sauces and pastes.

Pooja Grocers
855 45th Ave. NE, Columbia Heights

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Our local Indian markets are the best untapped resource for buying cheap spices, and Pooja Grocers is no exception. Get whole cinnamon sticks, fennel seeds, cumin, peppercorns, coriander, chiles, dry mustard, and ground ginger all for about a quarter of the price you pay at a big-box grocer. Find fresh and frozen naan, samosas, and roti; jarred English and Indian chutneys; several varieties of cucumbers, limes, and pickling vegetables. Discover paneer (a mild fresh cheese) and ghee (butter that's been clarified by removing the milk solid so you can use it to cook at high temperatures without burning), plus fabrics, incense, and scented oils for gift giving.

Duly noted: Pooja is very busy on weekends, so if you're planning to browse, you might want to stop by during the week.

Best for: Bulk spices, jarred chutneys, frozen bread and appetizers, hard-to-find produce.

1601 E. Lake St., Minneapolis

Long a Minneapolis institution, Ingebretsen's remains a hub of Scandinavian art, craft, culture, and especially food. The business started as a family-run butcher shop in the 1920s, and you can see from the tons of Swedish sausage, meatball mix, and herring for sale on the deli side that tradition is still alive and well. In addition to stocking mulling spices for glogg (a spiced hot wine), mixes for rømmegrøt (a thick rice pudding), and gjetost (a distinctive goat's milk cheese), Ingebretsen's has a number of unique Scandi cooking tools. Sandbakkel tins, almond cake pans, krumkake irons, and lefse griddles all make great gifts for the baker who has everything. Want to dig deeper into this cultural heritage? Ingebretsen's offers crafting classes in knitting and needlework, plus an ever-popular lefse-making course.

Duly noted: The store is particularly busy right before the holidays, so be prepared to wait in some lines, but you can always avoid the crowds by ordering from its catalog online.

Best for: Holiday shopping, gifts for bakers, sausage, Scandinavian knickknacks

La Alborada
1855 E. Lake St., Minneapolis

In Spanish, la alborada means "the dawn," and the name couldn't be more appropriate for this venerable Corcoran neighborhood market. Why? Well, for one thing, dawn refers to the time of day you should arrive here for the best and freshest selection of baked goods from the panaderia. You'll find an array of pan dulces, crusty buns, and a can't-miss house specialty creation called chocoflan, a delicious hybrid of layered chocolate cake and traditional flan. While Minneapolis is not lacking in Mexican groceries, La Alborada stands out from the crowd for offering so much under one roof. In addition to the great produce market (with every imaginable type of pepper, nopales, and unique seasonal fruits), the deli case (which offers queso fresco, guacamole, and spicy sausages), and the aforementioned bakery, La Alborada also has a wonderful little lunch counter that serves tacos al pastor and a handful of tortas.

Duly noted: Save yourself the time, hassle, and endless flavor adjusting involved in making your own mole and pick up one of Alborada's homemade mole pastes. Keep it in a bag in the fridge and add a little water before warming up and pouring over chicken or enchiladas.

Best for: Inexpensive exotic juices, lunch, Mexican sweets and candies, uncommon cuts of meat.

Golden Fig
790 Grand Ave., St. Paul

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