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The 5 best things our food writers ate in the Twin Cities area this week

Reuben Burger at Brunson’s Pub

It’s not bad to add sauerkraut to your dinner. Here at St. Paul, we’re embracing this oft-maligned ingredient in all sorts of new and interesting ways — on pizza, in spring rolls, and on that glory of burger majesty.

All of the burgers on the menu are reasonably thick, which is good for those who might be tired of the smashburger. The Reuben burger ($13) is topped with spicy, thinly sliced ​​pastrami, a shot of Russian dressing and a handful of kraut held together by a square of melted Swiss cheese. The spiciness of the sauerkraut cuts through the richness of the Angus beef patty while amplifying the flavors. (That acidity is why people put pickles on a burger; sauerkraut is just a tad better.) The whole business holds together thanks to a sturdy pretzel bun that can withstand the juices released by the average perfectly prepared burger. It’s the best of all things in one bite. (Pro tip: fries are an option, but order this one with the house fries and a side of their signature dip.)

Brunson’s is an old neighborhood bar on the east side of St. Paul with a beautifully modernized menu. Thomas and Molly LaFleche bought and reopened the former Schwietz bar in 2017, with chef Torrance Beavers creating a menu that remains virtually intact. The idea was to keep all the comforts of a St. Paul bar — a well-worn bar, the kind of hospitality where the staff knows a regular’s order before they cross the threshold — and build a better program of cocktails, a rotation of the craft beer list, and even good boxed wine. The result is pretty much one of the most comfortable and heartwarming places in town. (Joy Summers)

956 Payne Ave., St. Paul, 651-447-2483,, open 11am-11pm Sun-Thu, 11am-midnight Fri-Sat The kitchen closes an hour earlier.

Pie & Mighty Dandy Pie Butternut Squash

Last weekend I “won” the Pie & Mighty lottery for the second time in two years. (That honor means I won the chance to buy a pie, an opportunity that only benefits a fraction of the people who want one every week.) I hadn’t seen on the menu before.

A “Dandy Pie”, aka a hand pie, is a newer offering from this delicate pie shop. “We just played with them as long as time allowed. It’s been a fun side project that we’ve wanted to pursue ever since – god, ever?” said co-owner and baker Rachel Swan. Dandies have only been on the menu for about three weeks, and like the regular pie slices available during the shop’s limited opening hours, you have to act fast to get one ($5-$6).

Last week’s flavor was butternut squash with sage, caramelized onions and cream cheese. (This coming weekend, look for potato curry.) After a long queue on a cold, windy day, this warm, grilled hand pie – well, it’s the size of two hands – was the comforting bandage I needed. (Sharyn Jackson)

3553 Chicago Ave. S., deputies, 612-822-2132, Take-out only, 3-6 p.m. Fri., 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Sat.

Taqueria Los Compadres Taco Combo

Sometimes you find the tastiest treasures in the most unexpected places. And this taco shop, tucked away in a strip mall on Interstate 35 in Lakeville, is a prime example.

It’s also a great example of good Mexican food. Calling it a taqueria seems understated; the depth of the menu is impressive. Homemade tamales, pozole, tortas, alambres, sopes and platillos (with a whole tilapia!) were alongside the most anticipated quesadillas, enchiladas, burritos and nachos. With so much to explore, I felt a bit sheepish ordering the taco combo ($10.99) – a craving is a craving – but I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

Like all good street tacos, these are minimal to let the ingredients shine: homemade tortillas, meat, cilantro, onion, and lime. The topping choices were almost daunting – asada, al pastor, carnitas, barbacoa, chicken tinga, chorizo, birria, fish and half a dozen others. We settled on asada, al pastor, chicken and carnitas. The meat was flavorful and juicy, tortilla perfection. (Never forget the lime.) Making this a combo means that in addition to two tacos and a drink, you also get refried beans and rice. While traditional side dishes can be fat laden and heavy, that’s not the case here.

There’s not an overabundance of seating — it’s a fast-casual, counter-service store — but online ordering is a breeze. (Nicole Hvidsten)

11276 W. 210th St., Lakeville, 952-456-0038, Open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday.

Emerald Lounge Tom Kha Mussels

St. Paul’s W. 7th Street is a neighborhood full of bars with many historic watering holes mixed with old and new restaurants. However, the new Emerald Lounge is exactly what the neighborhood has been missing. Owned by two women with a passion for hospitality, its homely elegance features dark wallpaper, dark green upholstered antique train car seats that replace cabins, and lots of lush greenery.

Global comfort dominates the flavors of the small bites menu, including the exquisite mussels in tom kha broth ($14). Mussels (from Prince Edward Island) are simmered in a broth of coconut milk, ginger, chili peppers and woody mushrooms. It’s an appetizer that works just as well as the Thai soup it’s inspired by. Not a single drop should be missed. It’s rich and tangy, spicy and lush – all the flavors balanced in a generous bowl. This dish is a perfect bridge between the dark days of winter and the warmer spring days on the horizon. (JS)

455 W. 7th St., St. Paul,, open 4pm-10pm Sun, Wed-Thu, 4pm-11pm Fri-Sat Walk-in only.

Jalapeño Cheesy Grits Bullseye from Mojo Monkey Donuts

For my first back-to-normal brunch, a friend brought over a giant box of donuts from Mojo Monkey. Each oversized, frosting-laden pastry was a winner, but none wowed the group as much as this one. A zesty donut in a honey cornbread crust, topped with a hearty scoop of cheddar oatmeal sprinkled with chopped jalapeños and a maple-glazed waffle that balances prodigiously on top – what is it? what not to like?

“I grew up in New Orleans part of my life, and oatmeal was a breakfast staple,” owner Lisa Clark said. “Of course, we used bacon grease from the can on the stovetop growing up in the South, but I didn’t add that to the Mojo version.”

Instead, she incorporated another flavor – maple – which she grew up with. Hence the mini maple waffle, for a sweet and savory punch. And the cornbread? “I think honey cornbread is good with just about anything,” she said.

The exact composition of this elaborate donut ($4.50) can vary — it’s sometimes made with white cheddar cheese and bacon. For now, you’ll find cheddar and jalapeño on the menu. (S.J.)

1169 W. 7th St., St. Paul, 651-224-0142, For take out only, 7am-1pm Fri.-Sun.

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