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.
Though inspired by the northern California cafés of the early 1980s, Espresso Royale fits right in with Michigan’s modern coffee drinkers—in 2014 readers of The Michigan Daily voted it Best Coffee Shop for the fifth year in a row. Their coffees include a house blend developed in 1987, which has since been joined by a seasonally appropriate autumn spice blend and a southern Italian-style espresso called Napoli. Royale's customers also clamor to the counter for favorites such as raspberry mochas, mint hot chocolates, and ginger dragon, a tea layered with fresh lemon and steeped ginger root that can be served iced or heated by a dragon named Ginger.
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.
Steps away from the University of Minnesota Campus, Mapps Coffee permeates rich local culture and the aroma of fresh, house-roasted coffee. Each cup of flavorful java and tea is sourced from the shop's direct-trade partnerships, which award farmers a fair price for their labor and goods without interference from middlemen, huge conglomerates, or monocle-wearing robber barons. Surrounded by colorful canvases painted by local artists, live musicians strum and sing as their audience sips sweet apple cider, chai, and rich Turkish coffee and espresso. Iced lattes and warm mugs of hot chocolate triumphantly arrive wearing a crown of whipped cream.
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.
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.