Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 8 a.m.
Serious spice at Szechuan on Snelling Avenue
Whether you live in the suburbs, or find yourself outside your regular stomping grounds in search of restaurant options, there's value in knowing more about all the great eats beyond Minneapolis and St. Paul's most covered neighborhoods. In our Suburban Bites series, we'll explore the best places to eat and drink in the greater metro area.
What brings you to Roseville, dear Hot Dish reader? Are you here trying to find your way out of the gigantic Forever 21 at Rosedale Mall? Maybe you're strapping on skates and feeding your childhood Olympic dreams at the Roseville Oval or just going for a Target run at arguably the best and most consistently stocked store in the Twin Cities? In any one of these scenarios, you're going to end up hungry, so we've compiled a list of some of our favorite places to eat in this little north-of-St. Paul gem.
There are always at least two neon letters out or blinking in the sign above Szechuan Restaurant, but hopefully that won't cause you to miss it entirely when you're breezing down Snelling Avenue because this is seriously good, spicy, saucy Chinese food. So good, in fact, that in 2010 we voted it our very favorite Chinese restaurant
. Szechuan is still going strong and though they serve some standard Chinese-American dishes like sesame chicken and Kung Pao beef, you're guaranteed a better experience by selecting stuff from the more traditional Szechuan side of the menu. Get the numbingly hot Ma La boiled fish with pungent pickled mustard greens, rich and crispy double-cooked pork belly with leeks and shredded Szechuan hot peppers, or share a big bubbling hot pot and cook your own meat and veggies table-side. Extra adventurous eaters should put this place on their short list: Szechuan Restaurant serves all manner of oddities from frogs and pork intestine to sea cucumbers and jellyfish.
Don't mess around with getting a sandwich anywhere else in this 'hood. Just head straight to Maverick's and get a spicy Italian beef or brisket sandwich on a soft pumpernickel bun with a smear of fresh horseradish. Those are the rules. It's what Maverick's has been doing so well since 1999 and though they have other items, there is really no reason to get anything but the beef here. Actually, we'll amend that. In the colder months we also highly recommend getting one of their fork-and-knife open-faced sandwiches, like the turkey one with mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce all smothered in light poultry gravy.
Few places outside NYC deign to make their own bagels. We have a few here, including Common Roots
, but we were especially impressed with the chewiness of the St. Paul Bagelry bagels and soft, almost whipped texture of their house-mixed cream cheese, which comes in a variety of flavors. Go for breakfast and boldly start the day with breath-killing everything bagel and scallion cream cheese or hit them up at lunch for a stacked corned beef sandwich on toasted sesame.
Strip-mall sushi doesn't usually inspire a lot of confidence, but Osaka delivers solid food and a fun group experience. One side of the restaurant is devoted to Benihana-style hibachi, with all the onion volcano-making, knife-slinging, sake-squirting, and shrimp-skewering action, and another area for sushi and other Japanese dishes. The namesake Osaka roll is super fresh and light, with silky salmon, yellowtail, and tuna rolled together with thin sheets of cucumber and topped with daubs of flying fish roe. If you're sharing with the table go for the chef's choice sushi boats, which are generous, gorgeous, and come with miso soup and a ginger-dressed crunchy salad.
Minneapolis went crazy for the Anchor when it opened in Northeast a few years back, mostly because people believed we didn't have a decent place to get paper-wrapped fish and chips already. Those people were obviously unaware that Mac's had been doing the English fry meal better than anyone, operating for decades out of a humble former gas station building near the intersection of Larpenteur and Hamline. They offer a couple of different options for the fish part of your fish-and-chips basket including cod and halibut, but the best bet here is the good ol' Minnesota walleye. Get it on its own, with thick, fluffy fries and slaw, or on a bun with tartar sauce. It's all delicious. Pro tip: If you can't make it to the original location, look for Mac's at the State Fair Classics concession stand at Target Field.
Even if there was another nearer option, we'd always elect to make the brief drive to this outpost of India Palace for their lunchtime buffet. For under $10 you'll be sufficiently stuffed, try some new things, and even get dessert -- the same cannot be said for any of the inferior neighboring chains. India Palace offers a nice balance of tandoori meat dishes and vegetarian options like gobi Manchurian, that addictive fried cauliflower dish with the sticky, vinegary sauce, chana saag with tender chickpeas, and mysterious but delicious soft little "veggie balls" in a creamy, almond-enriched curry. If you're ordering from the regular menu, plan to get a full naan for each person you're dining with. The butter-slicked plain ones are essential for sopping up hyper hot vindaloo sauce and the stuffed ones, like the keema naan filled with spiced ground lamb, are a meal unto themselves.
So you can't really eat here (though they do have food trucks in the lot on Fridays and they'll give you bags of potato chips to snack on if you ask nicely), but we took a real shine to this little brewery and taproom, tucked away in an industrial park near Grumpy's in Roseville. The brewers and owners of this place are specifically devoted to reviving some older, uncommon styles of beer and seem to favor sour beers in particular. Basically expect the unexpected. These two companies have recently merged and it stands to reason that they'll only become stronger. Check them out and be sure to get a growler of their homemade soda for the kiddies at home.
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