The aroma of simmering lamb and curried vegetables wafts from Flamingo Restaurant’s kitchen, where owners Shegitu Kebede and Frewoini Haile ladle hearty meat stews onto spongy disks of injera. The duo’s traditional East African cuisine has been lauded by the Star Tribune as “flavorful and lovingly prepared.”
But Ms. Kebede’s and Ms. Haile’s passion for African cuisine is not the only bond they share: both women embarked on a dangerous escape from their respective war-ravaged countries, Ethiopia and Eritrea. As reported by MPR News, the refugees fled Africa on foot, alone, dodging rebels and government armies en route to freedom.
Once in the United States, Ms. Kebede and Ms. Haile joined forces to rebuild their lives and preserve their cultural identities. The result is Flamingo Restaurant. There, traditional African art adorns the walls, and imported African spices flavor the owners’ family recipes. Both women are always on hand to greet guests with a smile or conduct a tableside primer on their favorite dishes. Says Kebede, "We want people to see that, even though your countries fight [for] over 35 years, you can still be friends."
After immigrating to the United States at age 20, Greece native Dino Adamidis cut his teeth in the restaurant industry as an employee at his sister’s steakhouse. He enjoyed the work, but still aspired to own his own business, a dream he carried with him from Greece. In 1982, he and his wife Vona decided to pursue that dream by opening a small white and blue stand at a local art fair where they sold gyros to spectators, often cinching a sale with free meat samples, saying, “We knew if the people would try it they would love it.” Love it they did, but it wasn’t until 1986—four years and several food stands down the road—that the couple opened the first freestanding Dino’s Gyros with only eight booths and a single particle accelerator.
Today, Dino’s is run by the two oldest children and serves quick Greek and Mediterranean cuisine from six locations. The menu still highlights the classic gyro, often with innovative twists, such as the Greek Philly, a gyro-meat mound sautéed with onions, green peppers, and swiss cheese. Catering services offer the same delicious fare as box lunches, family-style buffets, or busts carved from gyro meat.
Chocolat Celeste owner and artisanal chocolatier Mary Leonard crafts handmade chocolates using ingredients sourced from local farms and first-cut cacao imported from Europe. From extensive training with master chocolate makers under her belt, Mary expertly crafts collections such as the beer-pairing collection, which infuses chocolates with complex beers from craft brewer Rush River Brewing Company. The Pan Asian collection’s flavors—such as jasmine crème and Asian pair pecan—are inspired by the Far East, and Celeste Bichon Frise bonbons thrill dog lovers with Michel Cluizel ganache centers and decorative pics of the pups.
Each preservative-free bite-size sweet comes nestled in shiny foil, and several are decorated with geometric graphs and swirls. Customers can also personalize their sweets with corporate logos, colorful designs, or phrases such as “Happy Birthday” or “Please Do Not Disturb."
At Faces Mears Park, Chef David Fhima's use of local, sustainable ingredients puts a contemporary spin on traditional bistro cuisine. His chefs seek out grass-fed beef for their steaks, hand-make pastas with organic whole wheat, and stock the wine cellar with as many organic and biodynamically produced bottles as possible. This approach results in fresh renditions of classic American and Mediterranean comfort foods, such as an Asian-style tuna melt on house-made sourdough and lamb tagine with a cinnamon and onion marmalade. Even the pizzas manage to incorporate some more inventive toppings, including options with everything from Sicilian andouille sausage and a fried egg to salmon, kale, and chevre.
The bistro's dining room shares a similarly casual, yet modern aesthetic. Large plate-glass windows line the front walls of the atrium section and allow plenty of natural light to flood the space during the day. The mixture of hardwood and gray-tiled floors complements the rich earth tones of the tan walls and sturdy columns. At the same time, the restaurant gets a contemporary, industrial vibe from its gleaming metal tables and Charlie-Chaplin-manned pizza assembly line.
Since 1986, 7th Street Tavern, formerly known as Champps Americana, has served up burgers and classic American dishes, satiating sports fans and families with a comfortable, welcoming atmosphere. Amid the sunlit dining room, diners at wooden tabletops have views of 25 TVs broadcasting sports games, competing with a cluster of arcade games for eyes' attention. Chefs cater to taste buds by plumping up pastas with chicken, shrimp, and vegetables and piling rolls with beef patties, barbecued pulled pork, and spicy buffalo chicken. Behind the bar, bartenders whip up specialty cocktails and margaritas and fill goblets with an expansive selection of draft beers and wine. The bar and grill draws guests with regular specials and events throughout the week, including daily happy hours, Thursday-night trivia, and Sunday brunch. Every Tuesday, the restaurant serves up free meals to children, as a magician saunters table to table, entertaining kids with tricks and balloon art, crafting replacement siblings on request.
Chorizo, chihuahua cheese, lemongrass, and bamboo shoots are equally at home in Se?or Wong?s kitchen, where the executive chef fills the menu with Asian Mexican fusion plates. Tacos topped with barbacoa or smoky black beans join entrees such as szechwan steak stir-fry served with jasmine rice. Se?or Wong also pairs more traditional bar bites, such as what the Star Tribune thinks ?might be the best sweet potato fries in town,? with 18 draft craft beers from breweries such as Surly Brewing Co. and Summit Brewing Company. Vegan and vegetarian options are also available. Weekly special events such as trivia and karaoke further foster the laid-back pub vibe, as patrons can sample sakes or sing lullabies to the Paloma En Fuego cocktail, which mixes Hornitos Reposado tequila, serrano pepper, grapefruit soda, hopped grapefruit bitters, limeade, and smoked salt rim. Friday and Saturday nights also feature live music from various local musicians.