A downtown Minneapolis staple for more than 38 years, Emily's Lebanese Deli was an obvious stop for Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. The authentic food there didn't disappoint—the Food Network host lauded the lamb shish kebab and kibbi, which he deemed "the Lebanese version of steak tartare." Using recipes passed down through generations, Emily's culinary team makes such specialties on-site every day without preservatives or additives or correction using Auto-Tastebud. The Fieri-praised dishes aside, the deli's menu sports plenty of other Lebanese classics, included zucchini stuffed with lamb, rice, and spices. The cooks also cater to vegetarians with meatless mains built around fixings such as stewed lentils and kidney beans.
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.
Today's culinary triumphs are the product of thousands of years of experimentation. The staff at Annona Gourmet doesn’t see any reason why that march of innovation should end, so they fill the shop’s shelves with exotic twists on staples such as pasta, sea salt, and vinegar. 20 varieties of olive oil pour from large stainless-steel tanks called fusti, their straw-hued droplets hinting at everything from Sicilian sunshine to Persian limes. After tasting balsamic vinegar infused with cinnamon and pears or figs, patrons peruse the inventory of pastas beneath coastal murals that give one the feeling of being at a beach free of sailors with boring albatross stories. Jars of sauces and dressings hint at a spectrum of flavors with earth-tone hues, and sea salts take on the flavor of black truffles or ghost peppers in an escape from seasoning conventions.
Offering more than 300 varieties of cheese from 15 countries, Surdyk’s provides one-stop shopping for cheese aficionados, party planners, plasticine Englishmen and their put-upon dogs, and nests of mice disguised as parka-wearing human shoppers. Liven up your next book club, Civil War re-creation meeting, or Civil War creation meeting with the Australian Roaring ‘40s blue, English Colston & Basset Farmhouse Stilton, and Stinging Nettle Gouda varietals. Tongues frightened by the thought of pronouncing Ekte Gjetost can cheese it a little closer to home with domestics such as Constant Bliss from Jasper Hill Farm, 10-year-aged cheddar, and Cypress Grove Midnight Moon. If you're not sure which variety is best for party platters or swan-shaped centerpieces, Surdyk's knowledgeable cheese consultants will happily impart their know-how and enthusiasm to anyone who asks. And because man does not live by cheese alone, Surdyk’s 12,000-square-foot store also provides plenty of wine and deli-pairing options to further pique the palate.
Fru-Lala celebrates the healthier side of dessert by arranging marriages between a selection of four frozen yogurts and a plethora of flavor-enhancing toppings. A small cup of the classic California tart flavor ($2.99) should be enough to convince your paranoid palate to lower its jawbridge and let in an invasion of French vanilla, espresso, and pomegranate flavors. From there, advance to more-adventurous flavor concoctions by nose-diving into a large cup of pomegranate yogurt ($5.49) garnished with a pleasant sprinkling of toppings ($0.35 each) such as kiwi, lychee, and grapefruit. Or go a little crazy by adorning a coneful of French vanilla with gummi bears, blueberries, and mochi and then smearing it over a tinfoil hat while making bird noises. Crumbling bits of graham cracker over an espresso scoop, on the other hoof, will bring back nostalgic memories of cooking coffee s'mores over your computer's heat vent during long cubicle campouts.