Editor's note: former Downtown restaurateur Pam Sherman's "Food" column will appear every other week in Skyway News.
People are always asking me, "What's your favorite restaurant?" I don't have one. Nor do I have a favorite food...I like just about everything, prepared in any style and served in any reasonably clean environment, as long as it's made well.
I was raised on a menu so predictable that we didn't need a calendar to know the day of the week -- Fish Stick Friday, Steak Saturday. The only variety came from the introduction of new foods, like when Tater Tots replaced Creamettes in Thursday's hamburger hot dish, or Cheeze Whiz was melted over frozen broccoli instead of a labor-intensive white sauce.
I didn't like those advances and still don't. I love to cook from scratch. However, I know that not everyone has cooking as their first priority and that time and budget restrictions determine where and what we eat. This a column dedicated to Downtown food of all types - what's new on the restaurant scene, or wonderful ingredients hiding on store shelves or in the Farmer's Market, or great low-cost lunch options you shouldn't turn your nose up at.
Sapor, 428 Washington Ave. N., has re-opened their patio after a two-year hiatus due to road construction. Julie Steenerson and chef Tanya Siebenaler have a new appetizer menu they call their One Bite/Two Bite that includes their signature wasabi potato cakes, tuna skewers with roasted eggplant or grilled green beans with Parmesan Reggiano sabayon sauce, all priced in the $1.50 to $2.50 range.
Vincent Francoual of Vincent's, on the Mall at 11th Street, and Brenda Langdon of Brenda's, at 1st Avenue North and 4th Street, are excited to once again cook vegetables from their local growers. Brenda is celebrating 10 years of organic veggies from Sandra Jeans Farms; and Vincent is tickled to again have leeks from Red Cedar Farm's Jennifer Kampf. Jennifer is willing to take the time to grow leeks the European way, blanching them (mounding them with dirt so that more of the vegetable is white and tender). Both chefs' summer menus reflect the local season -- a good reason to give them a try. Many chefs buy locally in season from small suppliers -- but more about that in a future column.
At 1831 Nicollet Ave., we peered in the windows of Big E's Soul Food, which is under construction. I talked to owner and chef Eric Austin; he hopes to open in two to three weeks. Eric told me he learned to cook from his grandmother in Mississippi. His mother sent him south every year as soon as school let out in Brooklyn; grandma put him to work cooking and sewing.
I'd read in this very paper that a restaurant serving authentic Indian fare - The New Delhi Bar and Restaurant - is going into 1400 Nicollet. New Delhi promises a full Indian buffet weekdays until 2:30 p.m., a special weekend buffet, a 4-6 p.m. happy hour, a sidewalk caf, and take-out.
A reminder not to overlook old favorites: Peter's Grill, 114 S. 8th St., is a gastronomic time machine. Aside from location, nothing has changed in decades, including the wait staff. Best of all, the cooks still prepare everything from scratch.
I ordered the hot turkey sandwich, which because of the late hour was $2 less than the menu price. What a bargain! Real food freshly made -- I'm always impressed when restaurants roast their own turkey; it's far better than commercially prepared.
Flaky-crusted from-scratch pies come with ice cream at Peter's (if you don't want a la mode, you must ask to have it neat). Peter's serves their house-made corned beef hash at breakfast, but our waitress cautioned, "We often sell out."
Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me where you find great food Downtown.