Anelace Coffee, 2402 Central Avenue NE

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My visit to Anelace Coffee is abruptly cut short by the impending arrival of a thunderstorm, combined with the realization that windows are open at home. Prior to departing I bus my half-full coffee cup and empty water glass to the counter. The young man at the counter answers a question and leaves me needing more info. But time is short. A sudden wind burst swirls leaves and debris down Central Avenue.

“What does ‘Anelace’ mean?” I ask.

He looks slightly surprised. “Anelace. The dagger. The name of the dagger is Anelace.”

I had imagined it to be the name of the owner’s daughter, or an amalgam of two names, although what those names might be had not been well considered. Anel and Ace? Ane and Lace? An and Elace? Nope. It’s a dagger, begging the next question–why name a coffee shop after a type of medieval dagger? I will need to return to find that out, as their website gives no clue, and a bit of research uncovers no connection with coffee.

848459501861863A cup of the brew of the day is my order, and I am offered a glass of still or sparkling water. Nice touch. “Sparkling, please.” Scanning the pastry case, I see a single dark chocolate cookie, a single croissant, a single scone, many bagels, and several squarish pastries with almonds on top. I inquire and learn that they are a type of brioche. Morning, maybe. Afternoon, no. I stick with the beverages.

The seating spans the length of the south side of the space. On the right is the service area and counter seating. A wooden bench against the wall spans three tables. As a view of the proceedings is essential to my work, a seat at the bench is in order. The back is quite straight. Good posture, Gail. Seven solo patrons focus on laptops or phones. No conversation is happening at Anelace except between the two workers, who also spend a lot of time involved with their phones.

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The decor is spare with a provisional feel. White subway tile, black fixtures. Not much in the way of decoration. The building is old, evidenced by the back wall of rough brick and the substantial oak door.

img_3690.jpgMy reason for choosing a coffee shop today is the need to complete some online training for work and to write an agenda for the upcoming gathering of a group I facilitate. Problem numero uno–the training requires listening and I didn’t bring earbuds. Problem numero dos–the coffee, dispensed from a thermos pot is not super-hot, and tastes stale. Why this is a distraction I am not certain. But it prevents me from getting settled in and comfy.

Then comes the storm. Have you noticed that you can feel a storm as it approaches? I don’t mean when you are standing outside in the wind being pelted by small stones and plastic debris, I mean within yourself. A tingling vibrational awareness of atmospheric change. Yes? I feel it and look out the large front window. Gray-white swirls and rags and globs of cloud speed across the sky.

I visit the restroom (when in doubt, go) and ask the workers, who are looking at their phones, if a storm is coming. “Yes!” My marching orders arrive and I pause only to ask about the name “Anelace”.

Hence the half-cup left upon departure.

Back soon…

 

Hill Valley Cafe, 3301 Central Avenue NE

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The modestly signed exterior.

Last week’s Eating and Writing up Central guest was my two year old granddaughter. This week’s companion will soon celebrate her 92nd birthday. My paternal aunt Lydia, who has a great sense of humor, works out with a trainer 3X/week, and went sky-diving on her last birthday, joins me for lunch at Hill Valley Cafe.

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Note counter constructed of doors.

Friends have recommended Hill Valley as a worthwhile breakfast/lunch spot. Our experience is mixed, due in part to there being a solo person doing the cooking and serving. There is only one other customer, the service is less than great, but hey, we are in no particular rush. Lydia opts for the B.F.C., a sandwich with turkey, ham, bacon, cheddar, lemon mayo, tomato, and greens, easily justified, as she worked out this morning. I choose the Veg Burrito, which comes filled with potato, eggs, veg sausage, spinach, tomatoes, and cheese.

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The B.F.C. I get that B=bacon, and C=cheddar, but what’s with the F?

The coffee is topnotch; the food is pretty food; the place is charming. Lydia’s sandwich is sizable. Half returns home with her for a future nosh.

I ask the server, a youngish guy, about the history of the building, which occupies a corner right across from the Columbia Golf Course. He reports that as far as he knows, it was once a law office, prior to that a private residence, and at one time a candy store. As it appears quite old, it likely has had many other incarnations. Online research reveals that it was built in 1924. On a real estate site it is described as a multiple family dwelling of 3046 square feet, with no mention of a business. Have we stumbled into the ultimate zoning mystery?

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The door leads to Z-Amore, a vintage shop that will be the subject of a future posting.

The decor is a mish-mosh journey through time, which I love. Lydia appreciates the old cookstove which serves a counter for beverages. As noted above, an interior door leads one step down to a mid-century modern vintage shop. We take a browse through, not buying but appreciating the quality, variety, and whimsicality of the merchandise.

Friends, this marks the end of our lunching adventures. It is today, and at this moment, I have arrived back at Diamonds Coffee Shoppe, where I sit in a tubular chrome chair sipping from a bottomless cup of brew, having devoured a piece of zucchini-pineapple bread.

Happy place.

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Diamonds Coffee Shoppe noir. Note bare foot in upper right. It is that kind of place.

Next week we will begin anew, slowly working our way back up Central NE, visiting non-restaurant businesses: Mecca Linen, Anelace Coffee, Divinas Boutique, Fair State Brewing, and Valeria’s Carniceria (that will be a real thrill for a yours truly, a diehard carnophobe!), and many, many more.

See ya soon.

 

 

 

Chimborazo, 2851 Central Avenue NE

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Flowers and candle on table.

This week I am accompanied by a charming guest, who is an adventurous eater, and sharply opinionated on any number of topics. I am anxious to see how she will react to the food served at Chimbaroza, an Ecuadorian/Andean restaurant popular with diners both in and out of the NE Minneapolis area.

First, four words of caution–beware the back parking lot. This is actually my third Chimbaroza visit. Each time I’ve parked in the lot, and each time I have struggled to get out. Easy in, tough out. Maybe it’s just me, but next time I will repeat this mantra–Park on the Street. My guest and I arrive right at 5:00, their evening opening time. Being a hot late afternoon, we decide to opt for indoor dining over the pleasant back patio area. Not surprisingly, we have our choice of tables. Over the next hour it will fill with happy diners of all descriptions.

My chum approves of sharing an order of Chupe de Pescado, described as “halibut sauted with pepper, onion, tomato, and a splash of white wine. Served with rice and patacones.” A peek at the appetizer section confirms that patacones are plantain patties. While awaiting our food we snoop around the two-room dining area and take photos.

The space is pleasant and comfortably lit. Wall art features photos of Andean people and scenes. Just as other diners begin arriving in droves, our food arrives. The kind server brings an extra plate for sharing.

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Perfection on a plate.

As you can see, the plate looks appealing. My companion first tastes the plantain patty. “Yum!” Then she tries the rice. “Yum!” Finally the fish. “Yum!” Forget Michelin Stars. Chimborazo has received the coveted 3-Yum Seal of Approval from my almost-2-year-old granddaughter!!! A sidenote–last week she and I were at the State Fair with other family members, including her mommy and daddy. Just outside the horse barn she looked at the Golden Gophers tee shirt I was wearing and spontaneously said, “I don’t like that.” “You don’t like my shirt?” “No.” It’s a good thing that in addition to being opinionated, she is beautiful, sweet, and brilliant, says her totally unbiased grandma.

The halibut dish really was fabulous. When you dine there, please order it and report back.

This is the 16th Eating and Writing Up Central blog posting. What an adventure it has been! Meeting unique people and eating mostly great food, while spending time in places that I would likely never have visited otherwise. Next week I shall document my final restaurant visit, this to Hill Valley Cafe on 33rd and Central. From there we will rewind and start again with a coffee at Diamonds. The plan is to chart a course back up Central, documenting interesting non-restaurant businesses along the way.

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Yum!

Thanks for reading. Go forth and have your own adventure!

Al Amir, 2552 Central Avenue NE

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Al-Amir means “the prince”.

Al-Amir joins the pantheon of my Central Avenue favorites, based on food, friendliness, and sparkly table coverings. I order at the counter from a young man for whom English is a distant concept. Yet we communicate just fine. That is until later when I ask to buy a bag of pita to take home.

“Pizza? No pizza.” He gestures at the menu posted above our heads.

“No pizza. Pita!” I attempt clear articulation.

At this point a woman emerges from the back. “You need help?”

“Yes, thank you. I would like a bag of pita to take home.”

“Ah, you want bread.”

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5 of these pillowy beauties for $3.00! Review from my granddaughter, age 2: “More.”

The woman, whose name is Faduah (I think), speaks of the popularity of their Iraqi bread. She asks me if this is my first visit. When I confirmed that it is, she fries me a sambusa to take home. No charge.

“Tell your friends! All the food is wonderful!”

Dear Blog Friends, consider yourselves told.

I am the solo in-house diner, choosing a table which gives view of the door and of the counter. As noted above, the tables (there are 5) are covered with sparkly plastic, covered again by plexiglass. Any child, including yours truly, will find themselves entranced.

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I don’t like to compare because you might have a totally different experience, but in my opinion, Al-Amir trounces Holy Land. The falafel sandwich is delicious, served with hot crisp fries, on soft chewy bread. Something in the sandwich is just-right spicy and the texture of the falafel is spot on. Plus, there are pickles inside! Woot-woot!

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Yum.

The end of my planned route up Central Avenue is in sight. Next week, we will visit Chimborazo, and the following week will feature Hill Valley Cafe. There are those who are encouraging me to continue. My thought is to backtrack and check into non-restaurant businesses. This would include for example, a couple of bakeries, the Fair State brewery, maybe even the psychic. Or perhaps a visit to the psychic should come first to properly chart my course forward!

Be cool, friends. And share ideas, please!

 

Eastside Co-op, 2551 Central Avenue NE

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Happy mosaic on exterior wall

Full disclosure–I visit the Eastside Co-op at least once each week and have been a member for about a decade. However, until this week I had never purchased food from the deli, being the kind of person who tends to “cook her own” rather than do take-out. And if a meal out with a friend is on the agenda, I would lean more toward an actual restaurant than a deli.

Eastside underwent a major rebuild and renovation maybe three years ago. It was transformed from an old-school co-op to more of a Whole Foods-type set up. Initially I was unthrilled by the change. Now I am resigned, and in some respects appreciative of the care shown in the design and layout.

On to lunch. The deli has a made-to-order menu, hot and cold buffet/salad options, as well as pre-made salads, sandwiches, and desserts. I opt for the black bean burger with chips and pickles. The alternative side option, hummus and carrots, sounds a bit too healthy to suit my wild and crazy mood. For dessert I select a slice of raspberry bundt cake with vanilla icing. (I CANNOT think or write the word “bundt” without hearing the My Big Fat Greek Wedding version, accompanied by the perplexity inspired by a cake with a hole in the middle.)

The burger is above average, with a pleasant beany flavor, served on a toasted whole wheat bun with chipotle mayo. The accompanying chips and pickle are inoffensive. The cake is dense and flavorful. It takes me a bit to identify the spice used, but eventually I land on nutmeg, which I probably wouldn’t use my myself but then again, it was generally pretty good.

While the  deli is located in the far back corner of the store, the eating area is near the entrance. where there is also a coffee and snack area. The lighting and sound level are good, and the chairs and tables comfortable enough to sit for awhile and people watch.

I don’t take pics in the dining area as a number of the tables are in use, and it seems pretty creepy to be photographing people at fairly close range. Even I have my limits. The crowd is diverse, trending young, with a very high level of device usage. At one count, of the nine total diners/loiterers: a solo eats and studies with a pile of books and an often-checked phone, one couple and three singles sip beverages and nibble snacks while being engrossed on laptops or notebooks, a pair of women converse intently, and a group of three eat while making awkward conversation, interspersed with phone checks. I, of course, devote my time to eating, spying and jotting notes. Ah. The joys of Wednesday lunch.

Until next week from Al Amir Bakery, which appears to also sell food. We shall see…

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On another topic, what’s the deal with this stoplight?!

 

Holy Land Deli, 2513 Central Avenue NE

unknown1.jpegAfter a two-week vacation hiatus, the blog is back. A Huge Thank You to the three people who said they missed the postings (one of whom was my only-begotten son). Ha! I don’t do this for the glory, my friends. It just makes me happy.

I fell in love with falafel on the streets of Jerusalem, where it is the ubiquitous street food, often served with French fries and pickles stuffed into the pita. However, falafel is a food eaten across the Middle East, enjoyed by folks of all traditions and ethnicities. And small wonder. It is delicious, nutritious and inexpensive. Win, win, win!

img_3419.jpgHoly Land is an institution in NE Minneapolis, as an eat-in or take-out deli, grocery store, and bakery. It is owned by a  Jordanian gentleman, and has expanded to an additional location in the Mid-Town Market on Lake Street. The Central Avenue location grocery is my go-to destination for freshly baked pita bread, and all manner of Middle Eastern ingredients. It’s an overall good-energy kind of place.

Today I am lunching with long-time friend Judy. She orders the falefel salad, I order the falafel sandwich. The falafel balls are crunchy and tasty, as they should be, and the bread is fresh.

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Judy’s salad. She had already eaten half, so we covered that part with the pita. I had already demolished my sandwich, so no pic was possible.

Judy and I have some catching up to do, so this report is lacking in atmospherics and overheard conversations (alas, my fav!). I can share that the clientele is diverse. During our meal a woman, perhaps Mama Fatima herself, stops by our table with a gratis dessert for us to share–two marshmallows stuffed with fruit jam and a piece of honey cake. How nice was that! And they are yummy.

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Our free dessert!

As I finish editing this is, it is Sunday afternoon at 4:45, and I am craving more Holy Land falafel. Should I drive over there for a take-out dinner, or should I be a good girl and eat the left over pasta primavera in my fridge?

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The wall art is pleasant and appropriate.

Next week’s blog will explore the deli at the Eastside Co-op. Until then, consider this quote from novelist Virginia Woolf: “One cannot think well, love well, or sleep well if one has not dined well.”

Sabor Latino, 2505 Central Avenue NE

My meager Spanish is clearly not up to the task of ordering at Sabor Latino. The menu is in Spanish, the kind server speaks little English. So I end up eating an anatomically intact fish with MANY bones. This presents a gastronomic challenge on several levels!

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As you can see by the photo, the mystery fish, which my daughter subsequently suggested may have been caught in Lake Harriet, is accompanied by fried plantain, beans, and rice. With the addition of a spicy green sauce, it all tastes pretty good. “Sabor”means flavor or taste, from the same root as “savor” and I’ll give a thumbs up the the flavors. However, my fish-related queasiness casts a bit of a pall over the dining experience.

By noon the place is hopping with diners, most of whom seem to know each other. Many happy greetings are exchanged, all in Spanish, so my ability to communicate and listen in is foiled. The space is long and narrow, with the kitchen area on one side, where there is also a counter for take out orders. Beer is available.

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The view from my booth. Door on left is the restroom.

The biggest excitement comes courtesy of two little girls, ages around 4 and 6, who lock themselves in the restroom. Their dad, realizing their dilemma, stands at the door, attempting, or so I imagine (again the language barrier) to coach them on how to deal with lock. After maybe 5 minutes, during which the father’s mounting frustration is apparent, the door opens and the girls emerge, smiling as if nothing adverse had occurred. Dad commences to address them in a tone suggestive of a gentle lecture on the dangers of locking oneself in a restroom without the requisite skills to complete the unlocking procedure.

Directly above the restroom door is a large television tuned to Telemundo coverage of the world soccer tournament. No game was in progress, but I am treated to many scenes of celebrating fans, mariachi bands, and dancers, which are interspersed with the ubiquitous trio of commentators common to all sports broadcasts.

After lunch I head next door to Holy Land Deli, the site of our next dining adventure, to pick up some of their marvelous fresh pita from which I will construct pita pizza for a family dinner this evening.

Will I return to Sabor Latino? Probably not. Would I discourage you from dining there? Definitely not. Just bring your favorite interpreter and contemplate the wonders of living in a community with such marvelous diversity!