Reetsy Reviews: Abu Nader Deli

I drive past Abu Nader Deli several times per week, and I finally decided to stop at it last week to pick up a late lunch for gerg and I.

It might be easy to drive right past it because Abu Nader Deli isn't big on appearances. The deli and small market is situated on the corner of a somewhat busy intersection, but it keeps a low profile, inside and out.

Everything at Abu Nader Deli, from yogurt to the pocket bread, is made from scratch; even the chickpeas for the hummus are freshly ground.

If there's one reason to stop at Abu Nader Deli, it's the Shawarma. Shawarma is commonly made by placing strips of beef and lamb (or other meats) on a spit. Traditionally, an onion or tomato are placed at the end of the spit.

The rotisserie combination of beef and lamb at Abu Nader is cooked until a slight char forms on the outside, and then shaved off in chunky pieces. They take those tender, charred pieces, stuff a lot of them inside a whole piece of their homemade pocket bread, and then top it off with tomato, onion, and a generous helping of cucumber sauce. They wrap it up in wax paper and foil and send you on your way, with a load of Shawarma under your arm.

The home made pocket bread holds most of the cucumber sauce inside the sandwich, rather than allowing the sauce to spill all over the place. Still, these types of sandwiches are notoriously messy, and Abu Nader's definitely delivers in that department.

The falafel at Abu Nader Deli is different than the falafel at Mim's, just up the road. Abu Nader's falafel is dense with chickpeas and generously seasoned with cumin, parsley, red pepper flakes, and other spices.

The hummus at Abu Nader is available for purchase at their deli. It's made fresh and served topped with a generous amount of virgin olive oil and paprika. The deli also also carries homemade yogurt, tabuleh, spinach pies, and meat pies.

Despite its proximity to the State Fair grounds, business doesn't slow at Abu Nader during the State Fair, it increases, according to their website. I guess that's not surprising. Afterall, isn't tender and juicy charred beef and lamb on a rotisserie just a giant piece of meat on a stick?

Eat Giant Shawarma Sammiches
Abu Nader Deli
2095 Como Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55108
(651) 647-5391

[where: Minnesota, Food, St Paul, Shawarma, 55406]

Casper & Runyon’s Shamrock's: The Nookie Challenge

March is a strange time of year in Minnesota.
Mostly, it's just plain soggy.

So on a day off in March, a proposition like this might be interesting: "Wanna come to Shamrocks's and watch some guys take the Nookie Challenge?"

Yes, I did. So I pulled on my boots, grabbed my bag, and headed to Casper & Runyon’s Shamrocks in St Paul.

Shamrocks is the sister restaurant to The Nook in St. Paul. The Nook is widely recognized for its Juicy Lucys, served two ways. Their Juicy Nookie burger is a burger stuffed with runny American cheese. Their Paul Moliter Burger is a burger stuffed with pepper cheese. They serve up hand-cut fries with their burgers, and they source their buns from P.J. Murphy’s on Randolph Ave. Shamrocks offers a similar menu to that of The Nook, and definitely carries the famous cheese-stuffed burgers.

I arrived at Shamrocks and ordered a Smithwick's. I was hopeful that my husband would split a Juicy Nookie with me. [He did. The Juicy Nookie was nicely charred, but slightly overcooked.]

Soon, the challengers arrived. They were seated at their reserved table, and presented with the challenge. The challenge was simple enough in theory: it required that one eat two Nookie Supreme burgers with fries.

photo swiped from Challenger John's Facebook page

One Nookie Supreme is two 1/3 cheeseburgers and special sauce on a bun with a heap of fries on the side. So the challenge was to eat 2 of these giant double cheeseburgers and two orders of fries. Yep, that's about a pound and a third of beef with all the fixings and fries.

4 men attempted the challenge. Two conquered it. All 4 of the men consumed both of their giant cheeseburgers, but only 2 of the 4 consumed all of their fries along with their burgers. According to the challengers, the fries became cold and unappetizing as the burgers were consumed.

All agreed it was a lot of food, and the two that completed the challenge were definitely feeling the pains of overeating.

The prize? A T-shirt that reads, "Have you had your Nookie Today? I did!" and, of course, bragging rights.

Eat giant burgers; get a shirt!
Casper & Runyon’s Shamrock's
995 Seventh St W
St Paul, MN 55102
(651) 228-9925

PS - I forgot to take my camera, but I managed to capture a couple of shots with my phone. Mea Culpa.

[where: Minnesota, Food, St Paul, Nookie Challenge, 55406]

Maple Syruping in Minnesota

Making maple syrup is a harbinger of spring in Minnesota, and a fun way to produce something tasty in your own back yard. We recently attended the "Maple Syrup Madness" event at Wargo Nature Center to get the skinny on making our own maple syrup.

Visit to read more about our trip to the Wargo Nature Center and to see some photos of hot maple syruping action.

[where: Minnesota, Food, Minneapolis, DIY Maple Syrup, 55406]

Housemade Sausages at the Black Forest Inn

German migration to Minnesota peaked during the decades of the 1860s and 1870s. The historical German opposition to prohibition in Minnesota is reflected in a strong beer making tradition throughout Minnesota, and we have a fair share of German restaurants, to boot.

The Black Forest Inn has been around a long, long time in Minneapolis - 41 years, to be exact. I figured it was about time for me to stop in and try their sausages because it's no secret that I *heart* housemade sausages.

Erich Christ's reasons for making sausage from scratch make sense to me: "At a time when other restaurants were buying more and more of their products finished and pre-packaged we were trying to stay in the same price point, and make our food better, fresher and more interesting."

For our lunch, I sampled three sausages (from left to right): the polish sausage, the bratwurst, and the chicken curry sausage. The links were served with their German potato salad and some rye bread.

From left to right: The polish sausage was a bit dry, and the flavor was slightly barny. The bratwurst was lean, moist, and lightly seasoned; the ground meat was finer than a typical bratwurst. The curry chicken sausage was seasoned with a light hand as well and was lean and moist. The sausages were cooked properly - with casings that were clear and crisp. Overall, I would have preferred a slightly heavier hand when it came to seasoning the sausages.

The German potato salad was prepared with sliced potatoes, bacon, onion and cider vinegar. The bacon was cooked properly, and the cider vinegar added the appropriate level of tart acidity that I appreciated. The rye bread was light in texture, color, and flavor.

The rathskeller-style dining room and bar make for a fun atmosphere, perfectly suited to flights of German beer.

Interesting sausages made fresh in Minnesota definitely peak my interest. It would be great to see them take "home made" one step farther by sourcing local meats for the sausage they make.

[where: Black Forest Inn, Sausages, Minneapolis 55406]

The Blue Door Pub: Burgers with Fans

Rave reviews and lines extending out the door made Blue Door Pub too tempting for us. On a sunny weekend in March we simply had to stop in. The truth is, we'd tried stopping before, but the line around the block was too long for our growling stomachs. We picked 2pm on a Saturday afternoon, and headed to St Paul.

A short line of about 6 people was gathered right inside the door. 9 tables, a bar, and a window bar seat roughly 35-45 people.

Among other pub fare, the Blue Door Pub serves Juicy Blucys. Here's how they describe them: "Our twist on a culinary and cultural phenomenon! We pay homage to our brethren across the River with an incredible line-up of original Juicys - a Twin Cities favorite burger in which the cheese is stuffed inside the fresh ground beef patty."

It's also worth mentioning that they serve some decent beer, Spam bites (Spam, cream cheese, and pickle breaded and deep fried), a Jiffy burger (a burger topped with peanut butter, pepper jack, and bacon), and deep fried pickle spears. They also offer veggie burgers and grilled cheese - for the veg heads out there.

We waited about ten minutes for 2 seats to open up at the bar. I ordered a Dirty Farm Girl (Belgian-influenced ale) from Left Bridge Brewery in Stillwater. Gerg ordered a Coca Cola. Then we reviewed the menu. After a lot of deliberation, we selected two Blucys.

Gerg ordered a Blue Door Pub daily special: the Merriam Park Blucy. This was a burger stuffed with bleu cheese, garlic, and bacon, and topped off with red currant jelly. I was sure the garlic and bleu cheese would be too powerful, but overall, based on the bite that I had, the flavor was well balanced. I couldn't really taste the red currant jelly in my bite, so I tried a bit on my fork. It was slightly tart, and sweet. The fried tater tots were fried until crisp.

I ordered the Blue Door Pub Bacon Blucy: a burger stuffed with American cheese and thick cut bacon, with pickle slices. I ordered mine with grilled onions because I like burgers with bacon, cheese, onion, and pickles. The burger was charred, tender, and juicy. The thick-cut bacon was cooked to a crisp before it was stuffed inside the burger. The bun was soft and unsubstantial, which meant napkins were definitely required. I had fried green beans on the side, and they were crispy and served with ranch dressing.

Blue Door Pub offers 10 variations of their Juicy Blucys. After you've enjoyed all 10 of their Blucys you receive a complementary t-shirt. We saw a guy receive one while we were there. He was pretty pumped about it.

As we ate at the bar, the line continued to grow, and was out the door by the time we left. Good timing on our part, but probably just luck. We had a line of people standing next to us, either with their arms folded over their chests - or sipping a decent beer. They were trying not to drool as they watched the burgers being served and devoured, and I got the impression that people just can't get enough of these burgers.

"Was it better than a Juicy Lucy at Matt's?" I asked gerg after we finished eating.

"It's hard to say because they're different. Matt's burgers crisp and well-charred, and more puckish. These are thicker and less charred," explained gerg.

I guess it's not about who makes the best stuffed cheeseburger, for gerg. It's more about appreciating all the variations and enjoying a well made burger, and I totally feel that.

I bet you'll find a burger you appreciate at Blue Door Pub.

The Blue Door Pub
1811 Selby Ave
St. Paul, MN 55104
(651) 493-1865

Post Script: For the record, my favorite burger is still the King Burger at King's Place in Miesville.

[where: Blue Door Pub, Juicy Lucy, Minneapolis Burger, 55406]

Groundbreaking HIV/AIDS Prevention Research Discovered at the University of Minnesota.

"Researchers have identified a compound that, applied vaginally, can prevent transmission of the primate version of HIV. While its not a cure and the compound still must go through human clinical trials before it used to prevent HIV the research is a huge step toward prevention of the devastating disease that impacts 33 million people around the globe. More here."

D'Amico Cucina is Celebrating Restaurant Week All Month Long!

(Click on the image for better resolution)

That's right, D'Amico Cucina is offering a restaurant week menu all month long!!

3 courses for $30 throughout the month of March!

[where: 55406]

Restaurant Week 2009!

It's the best tasting week of the year, and we're all invited!

Until Thursday, participating restaurants will be hitting us with specially priced meals that define and distinguish their culinary offerings in the Twin Cities.

Last year, we were blown away by Campiello's porketta style pork shoulder and apple pecan cake during restaurant week.

This year, we're definitely hitting Masa for dinner, as the D'Amico restaurants seem to be offering smoking hot deals.

Masa's menu for restaurant week (for $30):

Choice of Starter:

Guacamole Picado
Mashed avocado with white onion, tomato, chile Serrano, cilantro, and lime; served with raw vegetables and tortilla chips
Ensalada Verde
Mixed baby leaf lettuces, cherry tomatoes, red onion, and cilantro-lime vinaigrette
Queso Fundido con Camarones
Melted Oaxacan cheese served with poblano chilies, chipotle, onions, roasted garlic and Florida gulf shrimp
Ensalada de Jicama y Mango
Fresh mango and jicama salad, cilantro, lime vinaigrette and cotija cheese

Choice of Entrée:

Pollo con Mole Colorado
Half chicken cooked in authentic mole Colorado; served with fried plantains, rice and warm tortillas
Puerco Veracruzana
Roasted pork shoulder marinated with lime, garlic and chile ancho; cooked in banana leaf, served with broiled pineapple in adobo sauce and black bean puree
Bistek con Chipotle Ancho Marinado
Grilled 10-ounce Black Angus hanger steak with chile and ancho-chipotle butter; served with frijoles charros, grilled onions and pico de gallo
Enchiladas con Jaibas
Two traditional light corn tortillas filled with king crab, Chihuahua cheese; served with lettuce, pickled onions, salsa verde, cotija and crema

Choice of Dessert:

Pastel de Tres Leches
Three milk cake
Flan de Coco
Coconut flan
Crepes con Cajeta
Buttered crepes with goat’s milk caramel and candied pecans

The Red Stag Supperclub is also looking good to us (for $30):

Choice of Starter:

Bowl of Squash Soup
Pear Chop Salad

Choice of Entrée:

Pork Chop
Top Sirloin
Linguini and Clams

Dessert: Chocolate chiffon cake with milk chocolate mousse and toasted hazelnut ice cream

For a list of participating restaurants and their menus, click here.

[where: 55406]