Aki’s Bread Haus, 2402 Central Avenue NE

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Our destination.

Aki’s Bread Haus is located amidst an area of rich possibility. On the same block you will find Sabor Latino, Holy Land Deli, Al Amir, and Eastside Coop. Walk a block south to Sen Yai Sen Lak, El Taco Riendo, Khao Hom Thai, and Adelita’s. I may just sell my home, rent an apartment above one of the businesses, and dwell in this land of diversity.

According the the friendly woman who is working here today, Aki is the childhood nickname of the owner, who emigrated from Germany,  Although the “Bread Haus” designation helps us to know what is being purveyed (usually enough for this lover of baked goods), we must ask and experience to learn the specifics. Aki’s makes breads, pretzels, pastries, and cookies with a German twist. One can also order the soup of the day.

Yes, I have previously visited Aki’s to assuage a cookie craving. While the cookies are great, today I am looking for lunch. Hence a cup of mushroom barley soup and a LARGE cinnamon bun. Ooftah! This is why I limit my food adventures to once per week and attempt regular exercise in between.

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The server gave me a spelt roll gratis! After contemplating the options, I ate the cinnamon roll and took the spelt roll home.

First, the soup–chewy barley, toothsome cremini mushrooms, carrots, celery, onions, all in a tasty broth with good body. I approve. The coffee is amongst the best I have tasted on my Central Avenue adventures, better than some of the coffee shop brews. And then there is the cinnamon roll–soft yet sturdy, with a great cinnamon flavor, not too sweet nor excessively iced. The spelt roll will be taken home and experienced later. It is cute.

During my visit, while several patrons came to purchase bread and pastries, I was the solo eat-in customer. Come on, people! Abandon your usual haunts and take a drive down Central. You won’t be sorry.

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On display at Aki’s; some items are for sale

As noted in an earlier posting, NE Minneapolis is undergoing rapid change. Next week we will take an observational walk from 18th Street up to 28th Street and back, noting enroute what businesses have come and gone since our adventure began in April.

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Holy Land Deli across the street

Bon voyage!

 

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!

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!

Sen Yai Sen Lek, 2422 Central Avenue NE

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Sen Yai Sen Lek means “Big Noodle, Little Noodle”. Cute. My personal noodle envisioned lunch at Costa Blanca Bistro, the next dining enterprise as we head up Central. But no. A sign on the door informs me that they open at 4 p.m. So much for lunch there! Fortunately, about 10 steps north one walks into the inviting atmosphere of Sen Yai Sen Lek. We (yes, for the first time on this adventure I have a lunching partner, long-time friend and former neighbor Janet who defected to the Pacific Northwest nearly a decade ago) choose the high-top table by a large window fully open to the sidewalk.

Open air dining at its best.

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Janet waits for lunch. Note my bag on the right. Mid-meal I rescue it from an elbow-induced near-fall out the window.

Our server told of us the lunch menu. For $12.99 one can order from a selection of Thai dishes. The special includes a choice of teas or Thai Iced Coffee. Easy choice on the beverage. If you haven’t had Thai Iced Coffee, as much as I cringe at the “bucket list” concept, add this to yours. All the lunch menu items are available with a tofu option, and heat level warnings are included. Janet selects the Pad Pad Taohoo (vegetables and tofu), and I choose Pad Bai Gra Pow, never before having eaten a Thai dish topped with a fried egg. Both are excellent. And I need to give props to the server, who is conspicuously gracious and helpful.

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Pad Bai Gro Pow, with a crisp egg drooping over tofu, green beans, onions, chilies, and holy basil. Spicy good!

Sen Yai Sen Lek fills up with a diverse crowd of diners as the noon hour approaches and passes. This being my first accompanied “blog lunch” I observe that I observe less of the atmosphere and people. What one gains from the great pleasure of dining with a friend, one loses in present-moment awareness of surroundings.

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Street view from the window seat. Khao Hom Thai is just kitty-corner across Central.

Towards the end of the meal, my work phone rings with a call to immediate duty for support to a hospice family whose loved one had just died. Over my years of providing spiritual counseling to hospice patients and their families,  many people have commented on how difficult or depressing such work must be. It is neither.

We are all going to die. Some will go suddenly from a heart attack or stroke, others will linger with dementia or another debilitating disease, some will “battle” cancer. The choice is ours only insofar as we take care of ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually while we still have time. Hospice teams make it possible for people to pass with dignity and comfort. Their families have the support to help them come to terms with the reality that is facing their loved one, and also assistance in the tremendously challenging job of caregiving. I love being involved in this respectful process, and am humbled by the trust people show as we are invited into their homes and their lives.

One thing I have learned–joy cannot co-exist with fear.

Until next week from Sabor Latino!

 

El Taco Riendo, 2412 Central Ave. NE

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El Taco Riendo. Next door, next week, Costa Blanca Bistro.

Enroute to lunch, I am stopped at a light behind an oversized all-black pickup with out-of-state vanity plates. The plates reads: BCUS I CN. After a minute, my brain fills the blanks. “Because I can.” Is the driver saying, for example, ‘I will run you over with my giant black pickup________________.’ You can fill in the blank. In this interpretation, the vanity plate is a statement of pure narcissistic individualism. Or is the message intended graciously, as in, ‘I will help old ladies across the street_______________.’ My intuition leads to the first interpretation, perhaps influenced by the size and darkness of the truck, but my cockeyed-optimism leads to the latter.

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Interior, with ordering area visible on the right.

El Taco Riendo features counter service offering “generous portions of Mexican Staples”. I opt for simplicity and order a cheese quesadilla. If a restaurant can do the basics well, the rest should be good. Yes? The quesadilla is huge! Like the black pickup! Only yummier! It includes a simple salad, sour cream, good guacamole, and spicy-enough salsa. The tortilla is thin and tender with crisp edges. Inside is a ton of white cheese, with cilantro and onion. I eat half and take half home. Those who read last week’s post from Khao Hom Thai may recall that I vowed to always bring my own container for leftovers. Well, I did bring one, but left it in the car, and was too lazy to run across the street. Good intentions, faulty execution.

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Tastes as good as it looks.

The atmosphere is comfortable and low-key. I sit in booth right behind two younger men, but alas, the acoustics are such that eavesdropping is impossible, a good thing if you are trying to have a private conversation near a nosy woman. From the kitchen I hear conversation and laughter. (Note: El Taco Riendo means “The Laughing Taco”). The clientele skew young and diverse. Prices are reasonable, to say the least.

Until next week, be good, BCUS U CAN!

 

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Real mini-carnations