Appetites: Food developments in unlikely placesby Tom Crann, Minnesota Public Radio
ST. PAUL, Minn. — There's a cavalcade of new food developments in the Twin Cities.
James Norton from the website Heavy Table tell us about a new burger bar that also serves elk Wellington, an ambitious attempt at serving sushi in the Minneapolis Skyway, and a 21st century approach to food delivery.
Tom Crann: Start with Skyway sushi --is that even a good idea?
James Norton: Normally I'd say no, but the people behind this new restaurant are Sushi Avenue, who developed Masu in northeast and the Mall of America. I think Masu is one of the best Japanese restaurants in the upper Midwest.
Their new spot is located in IDS tower's skyway level, and it's called One Two Three Sushi. The would-be killer app that One Two Three Sushi offers is a build-your-own sushi roll. You pick two fillings, white or brown rice, a topping, and a sauce and they roll it for you in real time to your specifications.
It's basically a Subway "sandwich artist" spin on sushi creation, which is interesting and a reversal of the classic omakase approach to sushi eating, which is to say the chef tells you what to eat and you're grateful for his advice.
Tom Crann: How's the sushi?
James Norton: What I liked about the sushi at One Two Three Sushi was that it was generously stuffed with fresh-tasting fish. You're getting decent value and quality in a setting -- the skyway -- where both of those qualities are often lacking.
I wasn't thrilled with the rice, which tasted overly gummy. But I'd be surprised if they don't turn it around, if they haven't already.
The ramen that we tried was simple but enjoyable. Not quite at Tanpopo or Masu levels of excellent, but perfect for a quick lunch downtown.
Tom Crann: Let's talk about BiteSquad.
James Norton: BiteSquad is a local delivery service that launched last August and is really changing the map in terms of how people get food delivered from restaurants to their homes in Minneapolis, and they've newly expanded to cover St. Paul.
They're already working with more than 100 different local restaurants, and the whole service is driven by proprietary and very smart mobile and Internet software.
The service has actually changed my life. I don't like to exaggerate, but it's true. I should qualify this by saying it hasn't necessarily changed it for the better because I am ordering in a lot more takeout food than I used to, when what I really need to be doing is eating more quinoa and turnips.
Tom Crann: What's different about it?
James Norton: The main thing is the online interface, which is just as slick as you can imagine. Every restaurant has the same sort of easy-to-navigate menu. There are photos for lots of the dishes. It's all click-to-add or click-to-delete, and once you order you can see the progress of your order in real time, like Domino's pizza tracker. It's very accurate about when your food will actually arrive, which is kind of magical.
And because your credit card is already in the system, you can actually tip the driver before he or she shows up, too.
Secondly, and other delivery services have this effect, too, I am just crazy about all the options offered and how I can now get food from northeast and uptown delivered to my south Minneapolis home. It has put stuff like the Gardens of Salonica on my list of dine-in options, which is awesome.
Tom Crann: Finally, Heavy Table recently reviewed a new burger bar near 50th and France called Red Cow. What's their story?
James Norton: Red Cow is the brainchild of owner Luke Shimp, formerly of the Blue Plate restaurant group -- think Highland Grill, Longfellow Grill, and so on. Good solid family-friendly places.
It's dressed-up comfort food in a clean, trendy, but not painfully hip atmosphere; a lot of interesting pricey burgers; more than 30 mostly local beers on draft, and a low-key atmosphere.
Tom Crann: What were some of your food highlights from your visits?
James Norton: The elk Wellington -- yes, Beef Wellington with elk -- was comforting and balanced. It was almost like a pasty, albeit with puff pastry, wild game, and a mustard sauce rather than beef and pork stuffed into a lard crust with gravy.
The burgers were good, but sometimes a little fussy and pricey, but the buns were a hit with our reviewer.
It's the sweet potato fries that steal the show. Crinkle-cut and extra crispy, dusted in seasoned salt, they're among the best sweet potato fries we've had.