BY DEBRA KEEFER RAMAGE
Openings and closings
Several local favorite restaurants have changed hours recently. In April, Tiny Diner reopened for all-day service, including dinner. They’re now open from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m. every day and the patio is rocking. Modern Times recently shortened their hours a bit and are now open from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. daily.
A new iteration of Keefer Court, the beloved Chinese bakery and takeout place formerly on the West Bank, will be opening soon at Asia Mall in Eden Prairie. This was a momentous closing last year, causing much regret. The new spot is helmed by Michael Bui, owner of Pho Mai, with locations both at Asia Mall and in Dinkytown. A longtime fan of Keefer Court, Bui shared his plans with founder Sunny Kwan and daughter Michelle, who gave him their blessing and all of their recipes.
Kehm Rai, 23, who emigrated here from Nepal nine years ago, already has had a rich life as a famous YouTube gamer, but he wanted to do something more difficult and of use to his community. So he got together some partners to purchase the site of longtime “trouble spot” the Lamplighter Lounge in St. Paul with the plan to start up a new and different grocery store. Their project, Karen and Nepali Foods on Rice Street, opened May 13. See Sahan Journal (sahanjournal.com) for details.
New certification doesn’t mince words
On my visit to one of my reviewed eateries below, Hi Flora!’s market annex (which opened a few months before the cafe will), I discovered a new ally in a passionate struggle of mine: the quixotic (and it surely should not be!) fight to end child slavery in the chocolate supply chain. (See my first public writing on this topic at southsidepride.com/2019/01/21/do-you-want-slavery-with-that-chocolate?) Previously, when people asked me how to tell if a chocolate was free of the moral taint of slavery, my answer was long and complicated. If this new wave of activism catches on, that may no longer be the case. A new certification was launched by a group with the uncompromising name of slavefreechocolate.org. Check it out, and try the Up Up chocolate, available at Hi Flora! on 26th Street just west of Lyndale.
One big fast-food workers’ union!
The fact that the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is both the fastest growing and possibly now the largest private sector union in the U.S. and Canada says a lot about the changing labor landscape in these two wealthy countries. And its
explosive growth since 2020 says a lot about the changing consciousness of labor and the working class. Now, SEIU’s ambitious plan is to organize geographically in the fast-food industry. It’s the old slogan “One Big Union” finally come to life. Read this deep interview with Mary Kay Henry, from the left news service Portside: portside.org/2023-05-02/how-biggest-private-sector-union-wants-transform-restaurant-workforce.
Various food tidbits
A May article in Eater Twin Cities, “Where to Eat Ice Cream in the Twin Cities,” started out with a Dairy Queen! I’m not a fan, but I was happy to learn that the Lexington Avenue Roseville DQ dates from 1947 and still has its vintage neon sign. It finished with my three personal favorites: Sonny’s on Lyndale was noted for its pinot grigio sorbet, while Pumphouse Creamery and Sweet Science are two local brands that use only fair trade (i.e., slavery-free) chocolate in their recipes.
Eater also ran a snarky piece in May called “Everybody Please Shut Up About Ramps.” Just to be contrary, here are links to two articles about ramps, which I recently tried cooking for the first time after reading that article. From Bon Appetit, “What Are Ramps and Why Is Everyone, Like, Obsessed With Them?” bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/common-mistakes/article/common-mistakes-ramps and from Real Simple, six cool recipes in realsimple.com/food-recipes/recipe-collections-favorites/popular-ingredients/ramps.
Eat Street Crossing – Ouro Pizzaria, cocktails, and valet parking
I talked my neighbor and friend Julie into a visit to Eat Street Crossing. Being in her car, we were able to use the valet parking. It works well, but the cost has gone up to $8. Worth it, in my opinion. We visited the bar first. I had an old-fashioned, which was very modern. Here’s the recipe: Japanese whisky + bourbon + soju + piloncillo + sansho + bitters. I don’t even know what half of those things are, but it was good. We also visited the onsite liquor store. The shop centers local and BIPOC producers and manages to get a lot of variety into its tiny space. I had a special Brazilian pizza from Ouro Pizzaria that was a tribute to Mexico due to it being around Cinco de Mayo when we visited. I loved it! It was topped with an elote-like mixture of corn kernels, herbs and chilis, and queso fresco. I adored the rich-tasting, chewy crust, which was a golden saffron color, but the reason for the coloring and the entire recipe are a family secret.
Hi Flora! preview – a brave new world of mushrooms, weed and vegan tacos
On May 13, I visited Hi Flora!’s storefront. They have a dizzying array of products featuring herbs and magic mushrooms like reishi and lion’s mane and euphoric tinctures and drinks containing THC. They have a short but exciting menu of brunch foods, all vegan. I had a street taco made with Nixta tortillas. It was OK, but honestly I don’t remember what was in it. I also had a fancy drink from their cooler full of fancy drinks, but not a THC one, because I was driving. I bought a few of their fancy wares to take home (see photo).