Adelita’s Mexican Restaurant, 2405 Central Avenue NE

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Back entrance from alley parking

Do you ever suspect when someone asks you a question, for example, “How was your day?” what the person actually wants is for you to ask about their day? It’s true, friends, and we all engage in this slightly manipulative conversational maneuver.

Me: “So, what’s your favorite day of the week?”

You: (Fill in the blank)

Me: (Waiting for you to ask me the same question.)

You: (After an awkward conversational pause) Um, what’s your favorite day of the week?

Me: I’m so glad you asked! It’s Wednesday, without a doubt.

You: Interesting. (Spoken in an overtly ironic, disinterested tone.)

Me: Not only do I get to have lunch at a new restaurant every week and eat interesting, if not always fabulous food, I have the joy of writing about the experience and sharing it with my friends, who may or may not give a rat’s behind. But, hey! I love it.

You: Whatever.

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Interior

 

Meanwhile, back to Adelita’s. There is more to this place that one might suspect. The restaurant area is spacious, with comfy booths, two bar areas, and a karaoke booth. The menu is vast and tantalizing. Upon being seated a server brings me water, a basket of see-through thin tortilla chips, and a dish of pretty good salsa. After examining the menu and scrutinizing my fellow diners, I order a veggie burrito and a Pacifico beer. The beer and food arrive in record time. The burrito is the size of a

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Yup, its a BIG burrito.

small animal and arrives unadorned. My suspicion is that the burrito is vegan, and this is confirmed by a lack of cheese in the filling. No matter, the mixture of rice, beans, cabbage, lettuce, cilantro, corn, peas, carrots, celery, and onion is more than enough, and tastes quite delicious when doused with Valentina Salsa Picante, a bottle of which I will seek to purchase on my next grocery outing. If I ordered the burrito again, it would be with a side of guacamole.

Overall, I like the energy of the place. The servers are pleasant and efficient if not overly friendly, and the Mexican music enhances the atmosphere. The business is steady and mainly comprised of folks who probably know good Mexican food. Adelita’s offers a happy hour with $3 imported beers and $4 margaritas. Check it out.

Until next week from Kao Hom Thai. Let me know what you favorite day of the week is, and why it’s your fav. Really, I do want to know! 🙂

 

 

 

Football Pizza, 2339 Central Avenue NE

img_3143.jpg“Are you a health inspector?” Shortly after I take my place at a table a man named Joe stops by and in a benign manner asks me this unexpected and potentially disconcerting question. I tell him that I’m just here to eat, and ask him what he does. “I do some maintenance around here.” He sets his reading glasses and water bottle on my table and disappears into another area of the building.

At Football Pizza, one orders at the counter. img_3148.jpgOptions include pizza and Afghan dishes. I order bean korma from the guy at the counter, who tells me his name is Wais. Later I learn that he is the owner of the building and the business. I ask what happened to Crescent Moon Bakery, the former occupant of this location. He tells me that it is still Crescent Moon, but because of the pizza factory, they changed the name to reflect that, so people know where the pizzas are made. Along with eat-in and take-out, one can buy frozen pizzas and bags of pita bread.

Why “Football Pizza”? I discover that the pies are football-shaped. Based on the name of the establishment, one might mistake this for a sports bar, but that would be an error.However, there are TVs, including a huge one right across from where I sit. The set is tuned to TNT, which is broadcasting a movie featuring a man with a sewn-together face that looks like the work was done by a complete stitching novice. Terrible and not terribly appetizing.IMG_3147I remain undeterred, attempting to not look at the giant TV screen, especially while eating.

After I get my plentiful plate of food, Wais comes over to deliver a pitcher of water. He explains that the place is not busy today due to the Ramadan fast. Normally, he said, they do a great business, and are starting a lunch buffet in addition to the current evening buffet. In the windows and inside hang many “Best of” awards, mainly for the pizza, which lead me to plan a future return visit to sample a signature football-shaped pie.

The tasty bean korma is neatly served with a lemon wedge, seasoned rice topped with raisins, a lettuce salad, and quarter of toothsome pita. For those who may be wondering, IMG_3145
Afghan bean korma is made of beans, in this case kidney and chickpeas, and onions, served in a tasty thick sauce. When I eat the leftovers at home, I will add a dollop of plain yogurt.

In the course of our conversation, Wais mentions how NE Minneapolis is changing, noting that home prices have doubled. I share that the impending transformation is one the motivating factors in my “Eating (and Lunching) Up Central” project. He approves.

Jim stops by for his reading glasses but leaves his water. With a pleasant nod, he leaves.

Until next week from Adelita’s Mexican Restaurant, stay cool and be good.

La Colonia, 2205 Central Ave. NE

 

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Back lot

The first bit of good news about La Colonia Columbian & Ecuadorian restaurant is the large parking lot in back, complete with a rear entrance. Parking on Central can be a bit of a challenge. The second is the music, Latin and so appropriate to the setting. The third arrives shortly after placing the order—a tomato de arbol (wine tree tomato) milk shake. Having no previous experience with wine tree tomatoes, or with tomato milk shakes generally, I am skeptical but intrigued. The server attempts to explain what a wine tree

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Happiness

tomato is, but we run into a language barrier. All I can say is muy bien. It is sweet, but not too, and tastes of tomato in a surprisingly positive way. It reminds me that a tomato is, after all, a fruit. The fourth bit of good news is that the muted TV up on the wall (not generally my favorite feature in any setting) is showing highlights of last night’s Twins game on a Spanish version of Fox Sports. And I love the Minnesota Twins in any language.
Sipping on my shake, I eavesdrop on the one other couple sharing the room. The late middle-aged man describes a recent DNA ancestry test. He is surprised by the results (less Scandinavian than anticipated). The woman appears to be entranced by the story. Perhaps they are dating. When I run out to my car to retrieve my cell phone, they promise to watch over my laptop. Nice people. As noon approaches, other customers drift in, taking their places in surrounding booths. La Colonia has three separate seating areas and a small bar area. A two-for-one happy hour is advertised. The place is clean, attractive, and comfortable.

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Lunch!

For the main course I order Encocado do Pescado, described as “cod fish cooked in a coconut broth and served with rice, avocado, and sweet plantain”. The fish is meltingly tender and has a delicate coconut flavor, which is enhanced by the garnish of chopped cilantro. The fried plantains are tasty and not overly greasy. The rice is rice and the avocado is avocado. A ramekin of fresh-appearing and perky-tasting hot sauce is served on the side.

When I conceived the idea that became “Eating (and Writing) Up Central”, I expected this adventure in near-weekly eating and blogging to be fun. But it far exceeds my imagination. This marvelous diversity of places and people and food is within two miles of home. My only regret is not starting sooner. After working my way up Central Avenue NE and visiting all the non-chain restaurants as far up as 694 (this will take awhile!), my plan is to continue weekly adventures. Maybe museums, or parks, or galleries, or historic buildings, or off-the-beaten path neighborhoods. Ideas? You, too, could fashion your own adventure and share the experience with others.

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Concert posters on back door

My novel Borderland continues to take shape. Claire, the main character, is slowly being transformed and awakened, despite a bad self-inflicted haircut and a embarrassing encounter with funeral home director Richard Davies while seeking to avoid Brad, her scary apartment manager.

Until next week.

 

 

Mill Northeast, 1851 Central Ave. NE

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On a Wednesday at 11:23, the clientele at Mill Northeast includes an older scholarly-appearing woman wearing round glasses, diligently correcting or editing papers in her booth. At the counter sits a long-haired man wearing a hoodie advertising a local film company. At the side of this “larger than life” guy is a long-haired woman. They engage in lively conversation. On the counter next to the man rests an interesting black case with a large silver cross on the lid. It resembles a briefcase but the dimensions are smaller and the case is taller. In a booth near, me two guys are having a meeting, perhaps a job interview, as the younger guy can be overheard presenting his credentials as an engineer. Nope. It actually seems that younger guy is selling something, a service maybe. The older man uses the phrase “alpha product”.

On the menu is a veggie burger, always my favorite, but given the recent question from a reader, ‘why on earth would you order a veggie burger at Bonicelli?’ (see previous post), IMG_3077I decide to eat outside my box and order the caprese beet salad. It is constructed of house-pulled mozzarella, beets (obviously) both gold and red, crushed pistachios, a bed of arugula, topped with a balsamic glaze, and garnished with olive oil powder. Tasty, tasty! In my perfect world a nice plate of salad would always be served with a nice piece of bread. Yes?

The atmosphere is pleasantly noisy, and the comfy interior is nothing fancy. I ponder the original function of the building, as it has the look of being repurposed, like a garage turned into a man cave. Perhaps it was IMG_3078a drive-in with indoor seating? I ask Sara(h), the very nice server, and yes, she confirms that it began life as a Porky’s. Cha-ching!

Observing a burger being served to one of the business meeting people, I notice that the accompanying fries look fabulous–golden, skin-on. Yup. I do love a good fry, and briefly consider asking the guy if I can try one, but didn’t want to disturb their conversation about “food modeling”, another interesting phrase.

Today’s lunch is earlier than usual. At 1:00 I will attend a funeral in St. Louis Park. In addition to writing, I work part-time as a hospice spiritual counselor. In addition to that, I freelance for funeral homes in planning and leading services. This leads me to spend a lot of time with dying people and at funerals. You might see this as odd or gloomy. Someone once said of my hospice work, “Well, I guess someone has to do it”, as if it was a vaguely distasteful endeavor. It is interesting to observe how people can be appalled by death, which in truth, is every bit as natural, if not as cheerful, as birth. But these feelings provide much of the raison d’etre for my role with patients and families. Being invited to share in an experience as intimate and tender as death is a huge privilege.

From the book of Ecclesiastes, following on the famous passage about everything having its season*, we read: What gain have the workers from their toil? I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with.  He (sic) has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil.

Until next week from Las Colonia, enjoy all that comes your way!

* Used by Pete Seeger as the text for “Turn! Turn! Turn!, the number one hit for The Byrds in December of 1965. The exclamation points are in the title.

 

Bonicelli Kitchen, 1839 Central

20180426_123357.jpgMy visit to Bonicelli Kitchen causes me to reflect on the past, present, and future of Central Avenue NE. I have had the pleasure of meeting folks who grew up in this area of Minneapolis from the 1920s through the 1950s. All expressed surprise at its transformation from a neighborhood of predominantly Eastern European immigrants to an area populated by diverse peoples, many coming from East Africa, Latin American, and the Middle East. This demographic transition is reflected in the thrilling variety of the street’s cuisine. Now is the time to visit and enjoy, as I detect that another round of change which is already in process, not to imply that this is bad. Buddhist teaching would confirm that change is the basic nature of reality.

But first, the food.

Those who are following this blog may grow weary of veggie burger pics, but here’s a dandy. Housed in a pretzel bun is a burger made with lots of healthy stuff that manages to taste really good. 20180426_121509Served on the side are Asiago roasted potatoes, house-made pickles, and spicy mayo. Yup. I am happy. And my sense of well-being is enhanced by the excellent decision to order a Fair State Vienna Lager. Drinking at lunch is something I never do, but never say never. (Apologies for the cliche.) Perusing the menu I spy another 5 or 6 items that I would be happy to try in a future visit. On the right is a picture of the interior decor.20180426_115308

Back to the reflection on a neighborhood in the process of being reincarnated. The presence of an up-scale, chef-owned restaurant planted less than a year ago on the same block as Central Deli and Coffee (see my posting of a couple of weeks ago) is an example of the change coming to Central Avenue. As NE Minneapolis becomes a center for artists drawn here by studio and gallery space available at reasonable prices, people with money to spend will follow. The more affluent folks may see this as an area worth exploring, maybe even a place to call home. Real estate prices and rents rise, people of modest means move or are unable to buy, existing businesses may close or move. It is an evolutionary and inevitable process.

But for now, I joyfully eat and write.

My novel Borderland also continues to not only grow but to evolve. Those who write know what I mean. Characters take on a life of their own, and begin to have a hand in the plot. This past week I have been shaping and reshaping a scene in which Claire, the main character, is unwillingly drawn into a regular relationship with her neighbor Violet. In the process, Violet has to me revealed unforeseen complexities in her personality. Meanwhile, Claire is troubled by mysterious nighttime sounds on the other side of her bedroom wall.

Until next week.

 

 

 

Maya Cuisine, 1840 Central

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Maya Cuisine is colorful, with the exterior and interior painted in shades of lime, papaya, and red pepper. As you can see by the photo, the restaurant is located right next door to a psychic reader. The psychic was out on Wednesday. My own powers of insight suggested that even if she (I’m assuming gender) had been in, I’m better off saving my money and letting the future unfold as it will.

Time for lunch.

Inside Maya the seating options are varied, including a long window table with stools looking out to the street, a row of booths opposite the cooking/ordering area, a back area with table service, and farther back, a bar. At the take out counter are menus with photos and descriptions of the offerings—tacos, tamales, burritos, salads, quesadillas, platillos (plates), and tortas. Each is available with a choice of meats, or (yay!) vegetarian. To this Minnesota native, the food seems authentically Mexican, beef stomach and beef tongue being offered in addition to standard meats. Beverages options include Mexican beers and sodas. So there you have it.

I choose the veggie quesadilla with guacamole and a side of pinto beans. It arrives in a IMG_2984few minutes. A garnish bar offers salsas and other toppings. The quesadilla and beans are filling. My only gripes are that the free water from a glass jar with spigot tastes weirdly musty, and my booth table rocks back and forth on an uneven bottom.

The place is busy for lunch, with a clientele skewing young, seasoned with a savory selection of older folks. The front section, being near the ordering and cooking areas, is fairly noisy, but the table and bar section are a lot quieter if your dining plan focuses on serene conversation.

The highlight of my Mayan adventure is a conversation with two young women in the rear bar area. Observing me snooping IMG_2989around and taking photos, they ask in a friendly way what I am doing. I share my strategy of visiting all the non-chain Central Avenue restaurants in NE Minneapolis and blogging about the experiences. They love the idea and proceed to recommend other restaurants. Their favorites? Ginger Hop and an Ecuadoran place, but they couldn’t recall that name. I’m thinking maybe Chimbaroza? We’ll get that far up Central by about mid-summer if all goes according to plan, which of course it most likely will not. And that’s OK.

A work colleague asked me recently if I was dining alone on these outings. Having given thought to inviting friends to share the experience, I told her that I had decided to go it alone because, at least for me, solo dining encourages observation and interaction.

The rewrite of Borderland continues apace. Claire has met and been interrogated by Violet Swenson, her cranky and outspoken across-the-hall neighbor. Violet will later come to have a profound influence on Claire.

Next week I plan to lunch at Bonicelli Kitchen, a relative newcomer to Central Avenue. The website description is as follows: “A spacious patio offering Italian dishes with global flair alongside a thoughtful beer and wine list.” One fervently hopes that they also have indoor seating!

Be good to yourself.

 

 

Central Deli and Coffee, 1831 Central

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According to my tightly structured plan, today’s lunch site is Kim’s Vietnamese. Pulling up in front, I observe tightly shut blinds. Posted in the window is a handwritten sign informing the world that due to retirement, Kim’s is now closed. I would swear it was open just last week…alas.

IMG_2963Next in line up the street is Central Deli and Coffee, a non-descriptively named East African eatery of unassuming appearance. Upon arrival the only person visible is a red-vested man sitting in a booth. I later learn he is one of the owners. After perusing the menu, being a non-meat eater, I need help figuring out which items are suited to a vegetarian who eats fish but not seafood. The red-vested man suggests fish and rice, so I order fish and rice.

After taking a seat in a booth by the front window, I observe a man coming in, dressed in sports jacket, jeans, and an orchid color dress shirt. He spots the writer and does a double take. Perhaps not too many slightly past-middle-age women of Scandinavian ancestry eat here? As the gentleman eats his food, he carries on a conversation with his phone on full-volume speaker, which bothers me not at all. Thereafter, several other customers enter, still leaving me as the only woman, and only person of non-East African descent—and I feel perfectly at home. As to the furnishings and décor, there are a total five booths and two tables covered with a pleasant dark-red printed fabric, which nicely coordinate with the booth upholstery and the wall color.

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In just the right amount of time for me to check out the place and begin writing, delivered to the booth is a heaping plate of lightly coated white fish cooked to a nice crunch, on a bed of saffron rice with raisins and tiny vegetable bits, topped with mild onions sautéd in a spice that had turned them a pale orange. Iceberg lettuce and a container of SPICY avocado green-colored dressing accompany the main course. After a bite of incautiously dressed salad, followed by many sips of water, I discover that a tiny dab of the dressing is great on the fish. The meal comes accompanied by a whole banana, which I find charming. All in all, the food is delicious. I would return, and I would again order the fish and rice.

Today is “coming out” day for me as a writer. I launched my website, www.gaildnord.com, and posted my first blog, from last week’s lunch adventure at IMG_2974Diamonds Coffee Shop. Feels good. In the course of the past week’s rewrite, Claire, the main character in Borderland, arrives at her home-in-exile. Following a daunting night at the Wigwam Motel, she works on getting settled, while trying to keep herself to herself. People being people, this proves a challenge, beginning with her potentially dangerous landlord, Brad.

(On my way home I stop at Aki’s Bread Hus for a post-lunch treat, selecting two cookies—a snickerdoodle and an oatmeal raisin. They are dangerously yummy.)

More to come next week from Maya Cuisine!