Born in Vietnam and raised in the United States by Chinese parents, chef Nina Wong has always infused her dishes with a variety of Asian tastes. After marrying Thomas Gnanapragasam—a third-generation Malaysian of Indian descent—Wong discovered more unique flavors to integrate into her signature sauces and syrups. Originally opened in 2005, Chin Dian Café channels the pair's unique backgrounds through Asian soups, salads, and noodle and rice dishes, even offering some gluten-free options. Popular dishes, such as chow mai fun and chicken-and-chive dumplings, keep patrons rolling in and have earned the restaurant media acclaim from the Star Tribune, Minnesota Monthly, and the dictionary.
After cooking at her family's restaurant for 20 years, Nina Wong struck out on her own with Chin Dian Caf? in 2005. Her new restaurant swiftly accumulated loyal fans, who'd crowd the dining room ordering their favorites and sampling dish after dish. And while it's not uncommon for diners to request to-go bags for their leftovers, at Chin Dian Caf?, servers started reporting something unexpected: customers wanted to take home bottles upon bottles of Chef Wong's sauces. Her signature ginger syrup got raves, her black stir-fry sauce was applauded, and her dumpling sauce was poured into handbags by the spoonful.
Chef Wong heard their enthusiasm?and answered it by creating her own line of syrups and sauces. But the more ambitious home chefs among her fan base were still not satisfied and wanted to learn her recipes. That's how she came to open Nina Wong Cooking Studio, where she now teaches enrollees to craft spring rolls and other dishes in her hands-on classes.
In her native Lebanon, Zakia mastered traditional Mediterranean recipes by preparing meals for her husband and seven children. After further refining her skills in another Minneapolis deli for more than 15 years, she finally opened her own shop in 2007.
Here, her pita sandwiches pack such tasty fixings as lentil and rice spreads or baked kibbe meat, both of which come crowned with Lebanese salad. Patrons can assemble their own sandwiches, too, with ingredients such as honey-wheat bread, pastrami, and chipotle spread. Zakia also showcases Lebanese specialties, including meatballs made from ground beef, parsley, and onion, not to mention plenty of vegan and gluten-free dishes. Everyday specialty entrees include favorites such as gyros and falafel plates, baked chicken, and kibbi, or baked meat squares culled from lean ground beef, cracked wheat, and savory onions.
Similar to the Great Wall of China, the menu at Pagoda is a daunting, seemingly endless composition: more than 200 items populate its 20-something pages. The length of the menu makes a bit more sense when patrons realize the restaurant serves dishes from China, Japan, Malaysia, Korea, and Thailand.
Such a wide variety is a good thing, too, considering Pagoda "really has an eye on feeding the busy neighborhood," according to the Star Tribune. It does just that with chef-recommended creations, such as pork rib stew and walnut jumbo shrimp. For dinner, diners can opt for entrees with bottomless sake specials, and for lunch, they can choose from more than 90 dim-sum dishes until 3 p.m., when local students awake from their afternoon naps and collectively howl in anticipation of dinner.
Minnesota Monthly's 2008 Readers' Choice Silver Spoon Awards named Erbert & Gerbert's Sandwich Shop one of the top takeout spots. Yelpers give Minneapolis's 1500 4th Street location (not included in today's Groupon) an average of 3.5 stars.
Two beady eyes stare up at you from a cocoa-brown complexion. The same color shades the creature's body, from its horns all the way to its spiked, yellow-tipped tail. With anticipation tingling through your fingertips, you stab it?with a chopstick. The beast is actually Mango Factory's dragon roll, a specialty sushi roll also known as Capricorn Island.
It's just one of many specialty rolls named for and modeled after Zodiac signs, like most driver's licenses. For instance, the signature Taurus Treasure bears the horns of the Taurus around a "head" of yellowtail, tuna, and rice with shrimp tempura. In addition to the whimsical sushi, chefs also create kitchen entrees (think teriyaki and seafood soup) and Asian tea and desserts.