If you were to seriously try to eat your way down Lake Street, from Lake Calhoun to the Mississippi River, you could spend a lifetime and never succeed in completing the task – the artery that runs through the heart of south Minneapolis is a gastronomic hot zone, where new restaurants are constantly being born and dying.
A much more realistic goal would be to hit the Taste of Lake Street this Saturday, September 13, from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Minneapolis Exchange Commons, Lake Street at Elliot Ave. S., and just eat your way through all of the samplings that participating restaurants will be offering. Among the restaurants: Gandhi Mahal (innovative Indian), Los Andes (Colombian and Ecuadorian), Namaste Café (Nepalese), Maria’s Café, (Colombian), El Neuvo Laredo (Mexican) Hamdi (Somali), Amore Victoria (Italian), Blue Nile (Ethiopian), McMahon’s Pub (Irish), the Signature Café, the Town Talk Diner, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and many more. The $25 ticket price also includes wine and beer. All proceeds go to support Minneapolis food shelves.
I’ve written about Ngon Vietnamese Bistro in Saint Paul before, but each time I go back, I am more impressed with the food. The art gallery ambience, with original art on the walls, is date-worthy, they are now using a lot of local organic and/or sustainably produced meats and produce, and the menu seems to keep getting more adventuresome. One side of the menu is classic Vietnamese fare – noodle soups and rice dishes, all for under $10, (including several made with Thousand Hills grassfed beef) while the other side offers more creative entrees, such as medallions of Minnesota venison with lemongrass rice, mustard greens, mushrooms, and a tomato basil confit ($20) and a Wild Acres Farms duck breast with a curry carrot and sweet potato puree, green beans and shiitake mushrooms ($19). The entrée I enjoyed on my most recent visit, braised shoulder of wild Texas boar, simmered in pho spices and served over a bed of roasted sweet potatoes ($18), wasn’t exactly local, but it was lean and very tasty.
The wine and beer list is also a quite impressive; an all-Minnesota list of beers, and one of the most extensive lists of organic and sustainable wines I have seen anywhere.
Ngon Vietnamese Bistro, 799 University Ave., St. Paul, 651-222-3301.