From ramen to roast beef, here’s a rundown of our food writers’ dining diaries over the past seven days. What were your top eats of the week? Share the details in the comments section.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg cookies at PJ Murphy’s Bakery
I like what they have done with the place.
“They” are spouses Francois Kiemde and Melissa Borgmann-Kiemde, and the “place” is the bakery that the couple purchased three years ago and have been quietly making their own, one pound of butter at a time.
Yes, Kiemde’s croissants are a delight. The caramel-pecan coffee cake is temptation personified, and there’s a reason why Twin Cities chefs are lining up to buy the first-rate sandwich buns. And, yes, the apple turnovers, prune kolaches and maple-iced long Johns are all worth a visit.
But right now, cookies are the bakery’s most attention-getting attraction. Not just any cookie, but edible homages to the life and legacy of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The idea for them popped up overnight, literally, following Ginsburg’s death on Sept. 18.
“She died on a Friday, and I woke up on Saturday morning and shot a text to our decorator, Sharaya Mickelson, asking if there was anything we could do to honor the likeness of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” said Borgmann-Kiemde. “She immediately wrote back and said, ‘Let me see what I can come up with.’ ”
A few months earlier, in the shadow of the police killing of George Floyd, the bakery launched a cookie-centric fundraiser to support Healing the Heart of Our City. They decided to follow a similar format with Ginsburg.
“We thought that making cookies would help people both grieve and celebrate her life,” said Borgmann-Kiemde. “We kept circling as a staff and thinking about what we could do in support of women.”
“It’s really taking off,” said Borgmann-Kiemde. “At last count we were looking at a $500 donation. It’s been a sweet spot for who we are as a bakery, and in our own little way to be a part of the community.”
The RBG six-pack will be available through the U.S. Senate’s confirmation hearings for Ginsburg’s replacement, Amy Coney Barrett.
As for the cookies, they’re delicious. That is, if you can bear to bite into them, because who wants to disrupt Mickelson’s meticulous royal icing handiwork? They’re the kind of soft-yet-crisp sugar cutout that I’ve never been able to perfect. Which is why I’m glad that there are bakeries.
In other news, although they’re not quite ready to share the details, Kiemde and Borgmann-Kiemde are working on rebranding their 99-year-old bakery.
“It’s growing into who we are,” said Borgmann-Kiemde. “We’re not P, or J.” (Rick Nelson)
1279 Randolph Av., St. Paul, 651-699-9292. Open 6 a.m.-noon Mon. and 6 a.m.-3 p.m. Tue.-Sat.
Ramen from Zen Box Izakaya
Takeout ramen is a tough order. The broth has to be hot, the noodles firm, the egg soft. That’s an uphill battle when the Japanese soup has to travel across town in a plastic to-go container. But Lina Goh and her husband John Ng, who own Zen Box Izakaya, engineered a way to get their ramen out the door with integrity by developing a take-home ramen kit.
“We never did takeout ramen before COVID,” Goh said. “We had to think on our feet.” Similar to how pho is often packaged at Vietnamese restaurants, they separate the broth from the toppings and give customers instructions on how to reassemble the dish at home so it’s restaurant quality.
This is one of several recent adaptations at the nine-year-old downtown Minneapolis restaurant. At the start of the pandemic, they turned to a pay-what-you-can model to ensure all their guests could eat despite rampant unemployment. They witnessed downtown traffic slow to a trickle and then come to a halt, after the riots following George Floyd’s death. They installed a patio in late summer, even though ramen, their signature dish, isn’t exactly the kind of meal people want to eat on a 90-degree day. (“Although, some people argue it’s ramen season every day,” Goh quipped.)
Now, they’re about to take the patio apart, and as of Nov. 1, are reverting back to takeout and delivery for the winter with a pared down menu.
“Our staff are front-line workers and they’re important to us, and their health and safety are important to us, so that’s what we’ve decided to do,” Goh said. “We have to start taking things away.”
The ramen, thankfully, isn’t going anywhere. The tonkotsu ramen, above ($15), is built from an astoundingly deep, 18-hour heritage pork bone broth. It’s topped with slices of pork belly, strings of wood-ear mushrooms, seasoned bamboo shoots, a soft-boiled egg and black garlic oil. Those chewy noodles bring it all together, with the rich broth clinging to each wavy strand.
The dish is inspired by Goh and Ng’s winter travels to Japan, and they hope its magic will sustain their business in takeout form this coming winter.
“It’s cold, but when you eat ramen on the street, it warms you up instantly,” Goh said. “It’s the feeling that brings us back to Japan. It just warms your soul.” (Sharyn Jackson)
602 S. Washington Av., Mpls., 612-332-3936. Open for takeout (and patio dining through Oct. 31) 4-8 p.m. Tue.-Sat.
Roast beef sandwich at Maverick’s Real Roast Beef
Arby’s made the roast beef sandwich a commodity, but for the real thing, head to Maverick’s.
Chef/owner Timothy Hughes bought the business in 2018, and in the intervening years he’s obviously been channeling his energies and skills into improving the kitchen’s standards and slowly expanding the menu.
My go-to remains the classic roast beef sandwich ($8.99), a case study in how carefully considered preparation and uncomplicated presentation can yield jackpot-level payouts.
It’s composed of lean eye of round that’s roasted, low-and-slow (the math is roughly 12 to 14 hours at 140 to 180 degrees), until the deeply flavorful beef is ridiculously succulent and mouth-wateringly pink. The meat is thinly shaved to order, then generously stacked into a bun (from Franklin Street Bakery) that gets the toasted-and-buttered treatment. As buns go, it’s an ideal choice, because it manages to retain a softness while being sturdy enough to stand up to the beef’s juices and an essential swoosh of the kitchen’s snappy horseradish-sour cream sauce.
Next time, I’m going to try Hughes’ open-faced version ($13.98, and also available with pulled pork or roast turkey), which incorporates a generous dollop of mashed potatoes and a pool of savory gravy into the equation.
“We make our potatoes and our gravies from scratch,” he said. “It’s perfect in the fall and winter because it’s a big, hot, steamy plate of food. It’ll warm you up and put you right to sleep.” (R.N.)
1746 N. Lexington Av., Roseville, 651-493-9672. Open for dine-in, takeout and curbside pickup 11 a.m.-8 p.m. daily.
Tandoor-baked salmon at Curry in a Hurry
The happiest news to come along in ages is that Ruhel Islam is back in the kitchen.
The chef/owner of Gandhi Mahal lost his popular south Minneapolis restaurant when it was destroyed in late May during the riots following George Floyd’s death.
Islam estimates that rebuilding his 12-year-old business could take several years. In the meantime, he’s picked up the lease of the former Chef Shack Ranch and has started a takeout-only operation. Talk about resilience.
The Curry in a Hurry menu reads as an abbreviated Gandhi Mahal greatest-hits roster. Islam is keeping his tandoor oven busy, deftly applying its concentrated heat to chicken, lamb and salmon. It’s a smart strategy, because this style of cooking really travels well, a foil to the quality-dimming rigors that can dampen enthusiasm for takeout dining.
The salmon — plentiful portions of thick fillets — was dreamy ($18), its crisped-up exterior humming with a lively five-spice rub and its interior lusciously creamy and flaky. We paired it with a well-seasoned biryani peppered with crunchy cashews and sweet golden raisins, and of course Islam’s soft, slightly tangy naan. A totally satisfying dinner, and an equally delicious lunch of leftovers the following day.
Yeah, this welcoming pop-up definitely belongs on your takeout rotation. (R.N.)
3025 E. Franklin Av., Mpls., 612-729-5222. Open 4-9 p.m. Tue.-Sun. Lunch service and delivery coming soon.
Cocktails at Cora’s Lounge
My wanderlust is getting so bad that I even miss the chaos and frustration of travel. Heck, I’d take my shoes off just for a drink in an airport lounge. Fortunately, TSA screening is not necessary to get into Cora’s Lounge, a just-opened extension of Holman’s Table at the St. Paul Downtown Airport.
Because of indoor dining restrictions, and the end of patio season, the already small restaurant with runway views is down to just 11 tables. So, the owners made a necessary expansion into the 1939 terminal’s lobby, installing midcentury furnishings and offering small plates, cocktails and happy hour.
“It’s all about trying to go back to that era, ’40s, ’50s, when this building was hopping,” said co-owner Troy Reding.
The lounge is named after Cora M. Fuller, Minnesota’s first licensed female pilot.
To lend the place some exclusivity, it has a different menu than the special occasion-worthy main dining room. A few signature items cross over, such as the $300 Burger, an homage — with inflation — to the age when pilots would land at the airport, fuel up and grab a burger for $100. At a preview of the new space this week, I marveled at that decadent burger, swimming in truffle gravy, melty foie gras slathered on top. Relax, it’s not $300, just $18. (The rest of the menu stays well below $12.)
The highlight for me, though, was the cocktails. After months of home bartending, I still can’t get over the luxuriousness of having someone mix me a drink. I ordered the Hemingway Was Here (rum, Luxardo, grapefruit and lime, $10, on the right) and my friend got a pretty serrano-pepper spiked paloma ($11). Pretty quickly, I got over my longing for beverage cart mini bottles at 35,000 feet. (S.J.)
644 Bayfield St., St. Paul, 612-800-5298. Lounge open 3-9 p.m. Tue.-Thu. and 3-10 p.m. Fri.-Sat.