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."
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."
Since 1986, Champps Americana's kitchen has sizzled with 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.
In 1962, Lawrence William Yanz opened Hastings Bierstube, where he dished out German delicacies such as bratwursts, Reubens, and 6-ounce sirloin steaks. After his passing in 1983, his sons, Jim and Mike, started two new locations before forming a fourth with a family friend. The sons expanded Hastings Bierstube’s already extensive menu, introducing the Taste of Deutschland sampler platter, which features a selection of wienerschnitzel, sauerbraten, and house-made spaetzle.
Along with slinging authentic cuisine, the owners send lucky diners on vacations to Germany during giveaways, which fall on special occasions such as Oktoberfest and David Hasslehoff’s half birthday. For visitors remaining on American shores, the restaurants host weekly events, including bingo, open mics, karaoke, and live music.
At the suggestion of her son, Mary Hogan-Bard named her coffee shop Claddagh Coffee. The name (pronounced kla'-dah) is an Irish symbol of two hands holding a crowned heart. It signifies love, friendship, and loyalty—qualities embodied by the West End cafe. The hands-and-heart logo appears on everything from windows to tees, and its meaning comes alive as baristas cheerfully craft Midwestern-roasted coffee, espresso drinks, and Irish-themed specialties. An espresso drink named Ceili (Gaelic for "dance") combines caramelized pineapple puree with coconut-cream milk foam. Foodsmiths prepare breakfast pastries, small plates, and paninis with organic ingredients, and hosts lead events including live concerts and book discussions. Large umbrellas, which can also be used to accent very large tiki drinks, shade the outdoor patio. Catering is available.
Chorizo, chihuahua cheese, lemongrass, and bamboo shoots are equally at home in Señor Wong’s kitchen, where executive chef Cody Monson 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. Señor 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. 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 Yuzo Sour Baby cocktail, which mixes rye whiskey, sour mix, egg whites, and lemon-peel essence.