Naem khao at Soul Lao
Looking back on Soul Lao's earliest menus, even in winter 2016 when it was a small pop-up, naem khao ($20) was on it. Access to this pork-studded coconut crispy rice salad has always been sporadic. Now the food truck from co-owners Sabrina Boualaphanh and Eric Phothisanh has a permanent home. Soul Lao, serving richly flavored, soul-sustaining Lao cuisine, softly opened last week and begins regular hours (3-9 p.m. Tue.-Sun.) Sept. 10.
The interior is cozy, with just a few tables, but this mobile food vendor knows how to make the goods that travel well, and online ordering is available through Toast.
It's been a yearslong journey for the couple, from a life-changing visit to Laos, where their mission to cook and share the food from their ancestral homeland crystallized and Soul Lao was born. The Twin Cities has since been reaping the benefits. Every dish I've sampled is expertly balanced with textures and flavor nuances that beg for one more bite, even after the fork comes back empty.
Naem khao comes as a small mountain of rice that's been seasoned, sauced and cooked until crispy and laden with strands of cilantro that's more key ingredient than flavor garnish. It is best eaten with your hands, scooping up hunks inside lettuce leaves to fully experience the range of crunchy textures. It's divine, and every bit the type of food I crave when the temps turn chilly — the warm spices radiate through the body — yet it's also perfect for those hot, muggy days, when the zing of lime juice squelches the back of the taste buds, cutting through the sweaty heat.
Simply put, tucked inside St. Paul's Sibley Plaza strip mall — around the corner from Aldi, but right next to that cool, new brewery — is a small, new restaurant you have to try. (Joy Summers)
2465 W. 7th St., St. Paul, soullao.com
Prime rib egg rolls at Gary's Supper Club
There's nothing like a 20-degree temperature drop to usher in comfort food season, and supper clubs can be one of the best places to find it. Gary's took over the former Harry's Scratch Kitchen in Lakeville about a year ago, embracing obligatory supper club traits with style: welcoming leather doors, heavy velvet curtains, cozy booths, large portions, relish trays (featuring housemade pickles and gummy bears), popovers, fresh seafood, Friday fish fries and prime rib specials. And it's so fun.
We got our first taste of the top-notch prime rib on the appetizer menu. Egg rolls were stuffed with the tender meat, along with cabbage, mushrooms, red peppers and just a bit of cheese, all fried to crispy perfection ($14, $9 during happy hour). Served with au jus and horseradish dipping sauces, it was everything we love about a fancy French dip, but portable.
The egg rolls also whetted our prime rib appetite. It happened to be Supper Club Wednesday, when a three-course prime rib dinner — salad, prime rib with two jumbo shrimp, cheesy au gratin potatoes and dessert — is $35. It's a rich (and shareable) meal that we wouldn't eat often, but this was an offer we couldn't refuse. And we didn't regret it one bit. (Nicole Hvidsten)
20790 Keokuk Av., Lakeville, 952-469-5696, garysupperclub.com
BLT at Rose Street Patisserie
Back to school meant a lot of scrambles in our house, from the barely slept hypervigilance of Tuesday morning to the bleary stagger of what-day-is-this Wednesday. Making it through the first week definitely set the stage for some sort of reward, and this week it was a quick breakfast treat with a fellow fatigued mom at Rose Street Patisserie.
The bakery from John Kraus and Elizabeth Rose is beloved by many for the stunning array of master pastry chef-created desserts, but I have a frequent-visitor/savory breakfast lover tip up my sleeve: Order the BLT ($15) for breakfast.
For starters, it's a sandwich centered on bacon. Plus, it's an opportunity to revel in the last-of-the-season's ripest tomatoes. But most of all, it's built upon the legendary Patisserie 46/Rose Street baguette — a wonder of the floured arts.
The sandwich is so ample that we ended up sharing it while talking in that mile-a-minute way parents who rarely get a word in do. I don't think we finished a single thought or story, but we did clear out that whole BLT — with a sweet treat for the road. (Joy Summers)
171 N. Snelling Av., St. Paul, 651-556-4488, rosestreet.co
Elote Pizza from Bear Paw Pizza
You have to respect a brewery that's plopped in the midst of a Maple Grove office park, yet creates a pastoral, tree-shaded setting that nearly erases the khaki-colored buildings beyond its wood-post fence.
Omni Brewery & Taproom does just that. The temperate night I visited, there were families playing board games at scattered picnic tables and a cornhole tournament for entertainment. And, new to the scene, a brick-oven pizza truck parked at the curb, making lovely, char-edged pies. Bear Paw Pizza is Omni's in-house food purveyor at both of its locations, here in Maple Grove and at its winery in Rosemount.
My family of four snagged three of the smallish pies and we had leftovers. Favorites were the Veggie ($16), which was bursting with the freshness of a summer garden, and this Mexican street corn-inspired pie ($18) that kicked up the crust with a hint of lime and chili, and drizzled the corn and red onion combo with a tangy citrus crema. It paired deliciously with the Melt, Omni's raspberry passion fruit sour — and a fizzy grape Northern Soda for the littles. (Sharyn Jackson)
Omni Brewery & Taproom, 9462 Deerwood Lane, Maple Grove, 763-424-6664; Omni Winery & Taproom, 15701 Biscayne Av., Rosemount, 763-286-2258; omnibrewing.com
Strawberry and cream croissant from La Delicious Bread
One of my favorite memories of my grandmother was when we'd share a quiet moment in the morning, and she would place a green glass bowl filled with summer strawberries in front of me with a matching sugar bowl and then pour just a little cream over the top — always declaring the treat "so wicked."
I hadn't tasted the dish in years, but after one bite of the glorious mountain of whipped cream and fresh berries inside a croissant at La Delicious Bread ($6.25) I was right back at the oilcloth-covered table with her.
This small bakery is right off the intersection of Rice Street and County Road B in Maplewood, and a must-stop for croissant cravers in the metro area. La Delicious Bread opened during the pandemic under father and son team Tieng and Brandon Vang. Brandon studied pastry in Paris, and the craft is evident in everything we sampled on a recent visit. But there's whimsy and delight to be found, too — like those impressive croissants. In addition to the sweet stuff in the bakery case, La Delicious also serves bành mí and a coffee selection that includes iced Vietnamese coffee. (Joy Summers)
2158 Rice St., Maplewood, 651-797-4620, ladeliciousbread.com