Suburban Bites: The 7 best places to eat in Bloomington
|Smoky perfection on a plate from Wally's.|
For a lot of Minnesotans, Bloomington begins and ends with the Mall of America. But this suburb has a lot more to offer than a Hooters and a parking lot. Bloomington is the fourth largest city in Minnesota, and though it is dominated by huge, national chain restaurants, if you move a couple of blocks away from the big-box food stores you can find some hidden gems. Here are seven of the high points.
|A plate of succulent, crackling meats at Mandarin Kitchen|
In last week's installment of Suburban Bites, we raved about the plain and perfect sandwiches at Maverick's in Roseville. This week we discovered another cult-classic roast beef spot: Wally's. It's a little more old-school and a little more blue-plate special than other one-off spots in this category, which makes sense because Wally's owners haven't strayed too far from the menu they opened with in 1969. Smoky, thinly sliced, medium rare roast beef is the star of the show here, tucked away in the Southtown Office Park on Penn. Go for the deliciously messy French dip or the classic Philly beef, loaded with peppers, onions, and cheese. Super special bonus: Almost everything on the menu is under five bucks.
Mandarin Kitchen is in the running for the best Chinese restaurant in Minnesota, with an exhaustive menu of Mandarin, Szechuan, Cantonese, and Hunan entrees. Long celebrated for its epic dim sum on weekend mornings, Mandarin Kitchen holds its own at dinner as well. We recommend getting an order of crispy Peking duck for your first dinner visit. The duck itself is crispy, greasy perfection that comes with sweet bean sauce and simple spring onion pancakes. Once you've had a couple of pancakes slathered in sweet bean sauce and gotten your fill of succulent duck, you may need a little meat-induced nap in your car before heading to your next location.
When we pulled up into a sea of office parks, it was hard to imagine much good food coming off the grill at Lucky's 13. But this place knows how to deliver great food quickly for a business lunch. The whole service team was working in near perfect tandem, refilling waters, grabbing depleted condiment containers, and deftly handling special orders. When we visited we opted for the chicken Cajun pasta. Not an ounce of the spicy cream sauce went to waste, as we sopped up all the post-pasta remnants with the warm rolls that accompanied our entrée. Regular readers will recall our love for Lucky's Bloody Mary, which is garnished with a half BLT sandwich and comes with a mini bottle of Coors Light.
We get it. There are Green Mills everywhere, so why would the Bloomington one, nestled inside a Holiday Inn, be different? The main difference is that this is a townie bar combined with a hotel bar. The entire climate is a delightful cold front/warm front mix-up of Winnipeg folks down for a shopping trip and Bloomington firemen throwing back a couple of Captain Cokes looking to tell some Canucks how much better American hockey players are. Your referee for the night is ace bartender Melissa. She's the type of barkeep you think hates you but remembers your standard drink order before you do. And we're the type of customer who likes that. Grab one of whatever is on special, order the tasty bruschetta, and get your people-watching on.