IGGERS DIGEST | You don't have to be Muslim: Sampling Minneapolis' Iftar buffets

A sampling of the fare at Big Marina's Iftar buffet.

Ramadan, the Muslim month of prayer and dawn to dusk fasting, runs through July 28. The faithful break the fast each evening with a festive dinner, and a number of local Middle Eastern restaurants mark the occasion with well-stocked buffets. These are so popular that some of the restaurants set up special outdoor tents to handle the overflow. Top local spots for Iftar buffets include the Marina Grill and Deli (2424 University Ave.) and Big Marina Grill and Deli (4755 Central Ave., Columbia Heights and 128 W. Lake St., Minneapolis) , Marhaba Mediterranean Grill (2801 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis and Crescent Moon Bakery (2339 Central Ave., Minneapolis).

The menu varies a little from place to place, but you can expect to find some of the same dishes at nearly all of them: lamb shanks, roast beef, kofte (ground spiced meat), roast chicken, rice pilafs, baked fish, tabouli, hummus, baklava and other pastries, and some of the same items that you might find at an Old Country Buffet - roast chicken, chicken wings, spaghetti and more. The going price seems to be around $14, for all you can eat, beverage included. At the W. Lake Street Big Marina, which I visited most recently, the dining room clientele was almost entirely East African men, with a few women seated in an alcove; on previous visits to the other restaurants I have listed, the clientele has been more diverse.

 

Big Marina buffet table

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  • I've known the family who owns Crescent Moon since 1988 when we were in college. I was introduced to Wais, the owner, by his cousin, Masoud (Matt) several years ago. I've eaten there many times for lunch and dinner, and attended Iftar last year. When Wais, or one of the family has time enough to breathe, to offer hospitality, they're at your side, but the restaurant and bakery, behind the scenes is really busy. One of Wais' brothers, Sear, is an internationally renown singer among the global Afghan community. Their personalities, when up front, are, How may I help you? and also with an interest in chatting if there is, again, time enough to breathe. This is a popular restaurant. Sear leads prayer when available. Iftar meal is served on the second floor in the banquet room. The room is used for holidays, weddings, birthdays, and other days for celebration. For those who are unsure of their ability to walk up flights of stairs to get to the banquet room, Crescent Moon Bakery and Restaurant on Central Avenue has an elevator with enough room for a family and wheelchair. For more information, please review http://www.yelp.com/biz/crescent-moon-bakery-minneapolis?start=40. There is one not so great comment on the page, but most people love the atmosphere and the fresh food. If you love the NFL, you'll love the trademarked football-shaped pizza the restaurant offers. For a little money, you can get the best pita bread gyros in Minneapolis. All of the baking is done onsite from the very early morning hours. The restaurant has a smaller shop near Van Cleve Park at the north end of 15th Anvue SE, coming from University of Minnesota's Minneapolis Campus -- the same road that Bierman Field and the Dinkytown McDonald's is located on, but all the way down to, I believe, Saint Anthony Blvd. http://www.yelp.com/biz/crescent-moon-bakery-minneapolis?start=40 has a telephone number for you to call the main restaurant for directions for students and others in that neighborhood -- or foodies who love to try home-baked food (from their commercial kitchens) with a family touch of youth. If anyone asks, tell them that I sent you! Ramadan kariim! Barry N. Peterson South Minneapolis - by Barry N Peterson on Fri, 07/11/2014 - 10:58pm

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Jeremy Iggers's picture
Jeremy Iggers

Jeremy Iggers (jeremy [at] tcmediaalliance [dot] org) is the executive director of the Twin Cities Media Alliance. Find Jeremy on Google