Potato Mozza at CrunCheese Korean Hot Dog
Photos showing lines snaking out the door of this corn dog spot have been all over social media since it opened on a busy Dinkytown corner last month. The idea of having to wait for something I didn't think I needed when it wasn't even State Fair season kept me away. Too long.
CrunCheese is an expanding chain that originated in Las Vegas but has roots in South Korea, where corn dogs are a popular snack. Puffier than a pronto pup, crunchier than a Poncho Dog and doused in sauces and powders, Korean corn dogs take everything great about deep-fried food on a stick, dial it up and serve it all year long.
Case in point: I asked the cashier what to get, and she directed me to the "Potato Mozza" ($6), shorthand for a mozzarella stick that's been battered and fried until molten. The whole thing is coated in crunchy cubes of potato, like a blessed marriage between hash browns and a Jucy Lucy. There was no hot dog inside, though if there was, this combination would have been equally, if not more, satisfying for hitting every existing texture and level of saltiness.
Other options wrap a dog in mozzarella or cheddar, potatoes or sweet potatoes, or skip the dog and are stuffed with two cheeses or a chewy rice cake. Squid ink is another menu item. Staffers top them from a condiment station with your choice of jalapeño ranch, garlic Parmesan (my pick), sweet chile sauce, and good old ketchup and mustard.
There was, fortunately, no wait to order when I went, though there was still a small crowd waiting for their corn dogs to emerge from the fryer. Waiting for mine took considerable patience, but I'll consider it practice for the State Fair. (Sharyn Jackson)
401 14th Av. SE., Mpls., 612-354-7858, cruncheesehotdog.com
Birria ramen at El Sazon Tacos & More
Finding top-notch birria at an Eagan BP was not on my dining bingo card. But less than a half-mile from I-35E, El Sazon has set up shop in the gas station, and word is traveling fast that it's worth seeking out.
Chef Cristian DeLeon is at the helm of this family-run counter. Although the Guatemalan native's specialty is Latin cuisine, there are global influences up and down the impressive menu, including the birria ramen ($13.38). Ramen noodles soak up the fiery broth and are topped with a hefty helping of birria and garnishes of onions, cilantro, radish, avocado and cilantro. Served with two flawless birria flautas, it was the comfort food I needed to power through a busy week. Pro tip: If you're ordering dinner for two, split a del birria pizza ($12.38) and chips and salsa verde ($3.10) and tack on the ramen for lunch the next day.
If you're over birria, there are options galore. Carnitas, chicken al pastor, asada, seafood and vegetables are all available in taco, mulita, burrito, bowl and torta form.
El Sazon is takeout only — it is inside a gas station, after all — but the personal touch isn't lost. It was a pleasant surprise to open our (labeled!) containers to find the food carefully "plated" as if we were at a sit-down restaurant.
Ordering ahead made pickup a breeze. Be sure to follow their Facebook page for off-menu specials and occasional family meal pop-ups, but be warned: Taco night will never be the same. (Nicole Hvidsten)
1815 Diffley Road, Eagan, 763-276-0654, elsazonmn.com.
Khinkali dumpling at 112 Eatery
Here's a blast from the past. Burch Steak closed during the pandemic, and with it went its imaginative side dish menu featuring dumplings of the world. When Isaac Becker and Nancy St. Pierre's happening four-star spot opened in 2013, the Star Tribune's Rick Nelson called that dumpling lineup — the work of Becker and chef Daniel del Prado — "a joy, and an ingenious celebration of the possibilities that happen when flour and water come in contact with skill and creativity."
So, you can imagine the thrill of seeing one of those plump dumplings at the center of a pool of pale yellow sauce on the Instagram of sister restaurant 112 Eatery with the words "We got you a present" and "#burchfavorites." The Khinkali dumpling in lemon butter sauce ($12) is back.
Modeled after a Georgian meat-stuffed dumpling, with the hallmark twist at the top, these baseball-sized pockets are filled with ground veal and pork in a rich coating of herbs and spices and a sprinkle of dill on top. When I sat at the bar and ordered one the other day, the bartender described it as "like a taco," which was not at all what I was expecting based on my experience with Eastern European or Middle Eastern flavor profiles (Georgia lies at the crossroads). But he was spot on. The ruby-colored interior had all the pop and heat of a chorizo taco, yet was mellowed by that subtle butter sauce. As far as bar food goes, this is the one to beat. Welcome back, Burch. (S.J.)
112 N. 3rd St., Mpls., 612-343-7696, 112eatery.com
Chocolate and crème pie at Edwards Dessert Kitchen
We were playing the North Loop waltz — that fun screech-vroom-stop dance to try to find a parking spot in the buzzy Minneapolis neighborhood — when I saw that Edwards Dessert Kitchen had reopened. My eye caught a glint of gold and bit of plush navy decor through a window visible only because of an empty spot outside one of the remaining historic buildings. Of course the spot was in front of a restaurant — always my geographic north star.
Edwards Dessert Kitchen is a counter-service eatery that serves sweets worthy of their own occasion from executive chef Jasmine Weiser. First opened in May 2018, the restaurant has an open dining room bathed in natural light and a menu that leans heavily into the belief that dessert should be ordered first. A case is stocked with irresistible and artful creations: cookies, bars, dessert jars and ice cream.
There's a small selection of savory snacks and a full bar, with cocktails made by Aynsley Jones, who's also pouring the good stuff at Mr. Paul's Supper Club in Edina.
Forgetting the entire reason we started waltzing in the first place, I dashed forward for a TrueStone coffee drink and ordered four desserts for the two of us. The chocolate and crème pie ($12) is piled with fluffy chocolate mousse stacked atop a rectangular cut, gluten-free cookie base. A little zigzag of white chocolate chantilly tops it off. The result is a plush chocolate experience with crunchy cookie bits on the bottom. Like all of chef Weiser's desserts, it dances right up to the edge of sweetness without ever dallying too far. (Joy Summers)
200 Washington Av. N., Mpls., 612-800-0335, edwardsdessertkitchen.com.
Shawarma pie at Filfillah Mediterranean Grill
Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan, was recently celebrated by Muslims around the world. It's usually marked with something sweet, and I ordered a slice of basbousa, a lovely orange flower water-soaked semolina and coconut cake topped with nuts, from the Columbia Heights Middle Eastern restaurant Filfillah ($3.50).
But something else on the menu caught my eye, and I'm glad I added two of Filfillah's "pita pies" to my cart. These use housemade pita dough almost like a pizza crust for flavor-packed toppings found in more traditional iterations elsewhere on the menu.
I got a zesty za'atar pie ($6.30), a dinner-plate-sized disk of crisp-on-the-bottom flatbread topped with loads of tangy sumac, oregano and sesame. And this boat-shaped shawarma pie ($10) aligns more closely with its Italian counterpart while also calling up Georgian khachapuri. The dough wraps ever so slightly around slices of beef and lamb shawarma, fresh tomato and red onion, and ample, gooey mozzarella, and is baked to a toasty gold.
I'll be back to try lahmacun and spinach pies next. But seeing as how doughs are a specialty here, I wouldn't pass up some of Filfillah's unbelievably fluffy Turkish bread, either. Get it as the foundation to any sandwich, or for $1.75 apiece. (S.J.)
4301 Central Av. NE., Mpls., Columbia Heights, 763-781-2222