Greeting Text

Following twenty years of farmer's markets selling locally grown vegetables, native fruits, and local honey Linda created Marianne's Kitchen in Shoreview, MN, an oasis of good food, conversation and laughter in a suburban food desert. Operating from 2011-2017 the cafe offered home made soups, fresh bread baked daily, great sandwiches and treats and a complete line of gluten-free soups, pickled products, jams, jellies, salsas and locally sourced soups, honey and grains.

The Marianne's Kitchen of sharing, conversation, and learning continues with ongoing commentary, food reviews and food finds as we grow, cook and eat our food and sample local restaurants.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Mama Sheila's Soul Food Buffet ... We Are Going Back!!

Mama Sheila's Soul Food BuffetMama Sheila's Soul Food Buffet on 38th ST in MPLS

Well, well, well.   We've driven back and forth 38th St. in Minneapolis numerous times over the last year in search of the food that you can't find in the 'burbs.   We've grown fond of the Standish, we keep missing our chances at Victor's, we tried Funky Grits--not as good as we expected, dined at Blackbird a couple of times--mostly good but not always consistent.     But tonight it was time for BBQ.

Our Benchmark for BBQ / Soul Food

John's all time favorite place for BBQ was a cement block building somewhere in rural South Carolina (I was working at a 2 bed hospital in Tennessee and this was a side trip on they way)...with no name, just a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood that was spray painted 'BBQ Thursday - Saturday'.  And for once in our lives, it was actually Thursday!    A big cement block building filled with picnic tables in long rows...and there, in the wall (that divided the 'dining room' from the kitchen) were beautiful stainless steel 'troughs' of delicious Southern favorites.   Eat your fill of collards, black-eyed peas, all kinds of BBQ meats, corned bread, mashed potatoes and gravy....I could go on and on (and we did while we were there), grab a sweet tea and a place at the tables.   When you can eat no more, you find the person taking your money and you pay the $5 per person.   John has never recovered....he's dreams of a cement block building fairly often.

 Mama Sheila's Soul Food Buffet:  Non-descript exterior and wonderful interior

Mama Sheila's Soul Food BuffetTonight, it's the relatively new Mama Sheila's Soul Food Buffet at 38th and Bloomington.   A really non-descript building (it used to be a corner store and a hardware store we think), there's a banner with the Mama Sheila's name.  No permanent sign.  Okay, let's go for it.
Mama Sheila's Soul Food BuffetWhoooooaaaaaaa......the interior is not anything that you expected when you walked in.   Pay at the counter (you can get take out for $7.95 a pound) and specify your beverage....not unlike the typical Asian buffet.   But then you step into one of the gold-clad seating areas and start to take in the glitz.   Gold and mirrors and chandeliers, and rows of photos of famous Black entertainers along the ceiling; grab a booth - photos of Maya Angelou or Mae Jemison.   Classic old ceiling...but clad with gold; an aquarium with a fish mural....    I felt like I was stepping back in time to the age of glamour and glitz.

Mama Sheila's Soul Food Buffet:  How it works

The buffet has its own room, and it's not serve yourself.   The food is safely tucked behind glass windows to keep all those grubby hands off the serving spoons and out of the food bins.   I like this already. 

For the most part, there are tags naming each of the items (there were 2 or 3 missing...a good excuse to go back for a second plate tonight).   Mac & cheese with tons of cheese on top,  collards, red beans & rice, mashed potatoes and gravy, black-eyed peas, yams, cabbage and potatoes, meatloaf, spaghetti, BBQ chicken, smothered chicken, jerk, you can ask for ox tails or catfish (we're saving that for our next visit).
My, my, my......why haven't we heard about this place?   We've driven by 3-4 times, but always spotted it on the way back from somewhere (as we passed it saying 'hey, what's that place?').

Oh, My! Mama Sheila's Soul Food Buffet Delivers

Mama Sheila's Soul Food BuffetIf you want to try some Southern home cooking, this will fill the bill.   Good collards (although John tells me mine are better-- one of our Southern customers at Marianne's used to tell me mine were just like back home--I took that as a big compliment as a MN girl), oh so wonderful BBQ chicken--light, slightly sweet BBQ sauce on falling off the bone tender chicken, yams candied to sweetness but holding their texture, a most interesting smothered chicken - we couldn't get the cook to reveal even a single ingredient in the recipe, SPICY! jerk chicken with
Mama Sheila's Soul Food Buffet
great flavor (interestingly, the jerk chicken was next to the old fashioned sweet yams on John's plate---if you had a bite of chicken that happened to touch the yams, it was the most perfect combo of heat and sweet ever), and many, many more choices.  I liked the red beans and rice (although the Treme version I used to make at Marianne's were waaayyy good---a recipe from a little old Southern paperback cookbook about 10 pages long), but John didn't care for them as much.   I didn't try the mashed potatoes and gravy, the spaghetti, or the cornbread....just too much for one sitting.
Mama Sheila's Soul Food Buffet

Mama Sheila's Soul Food BuffetBut I did go back for a second small plate to find out what the items were that were missing the labels tonight.   Cabbage and potatoes---really well prepared with the potatoes holding their shape and texture (no small feat on a steam table line), the black-eyed peas that were creamy and tender, meatloaf--meaty and not greasy--lightly spiced....and I still passed on a few more items.  John and I shared this little plate and tried our best to make it through.
We talked to one customer in line....he comes for dinner once a week.  We had a fun conversation about our preference for this style of 'buffet'...agreeing that sometimes we can't stand the common serving spoons.  The buffet server was very good at matching my 'size' instructions--when I said a little bit of this and a medium amount of that, she was right-on.

If you could possibly make room for dessert, tonight they had strawberry cake, sweet potato pie, a third cake that now escapes my memory...but was topped with a pinky topping...maybe on chocolate.   I resisted temptation.

Conclusion:  Everyone should experience Mama Sheila's Soul Food Buffet

Mama Sheila's Soul Food BuffetEveryone should experience Sheila's soul food buffet.   Transforming an old corner store into a mirrored and gold-leafed and chandeliered 'room', with classic music videos playing--not too loud--many 'smooth' classic singing groups in matching suits.   Spotlessly clean, with comfortable booths and tables with nicely padded chairs--this truly was an experience.   The owner, a smartly dressed older gentleman, was pleasant and cheerfully answered our questions.   One of the servers told us that they have been open just about a year and enthusiastically asked us to spread the word about them.

Mama Sheila's Soul Food BuffetWe're more than happy to oblige.   This is Southern style home cooking, served by friendly staff, in a throw-back style room bursting with personality.   The buffet is about $16.95 per person....we didn't really look at the bill for Mpls extra taxes, etc.  The drink was included.   The dessert might be, too...but who had room (on this trip at least).

Show 'em some love...and have a great experience! 

Date of Visit:  5/6/2019
Location:        Google Maps 

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Portillo's in Roseville: What has happened to this place?

portillos roseville mn reviewOh Portillo’s (Roseville, MN) - what happened to you????

Needed a quick bite tonight after a busy day (& my horse didn’t come in at the Derby—-he fell back during that crush in the last 1/8 of a mile). Maybe my Kentucky Derby luck was a preview of things to come.

Pretty empty in Portillo’s (Roseville), so we took our time ordering (no one in front of us in line) & then one couple ordered after us.

Portillo's is Slow Even with few people

Why did it take more than 10 minutes (maybe 15) to get 2 salads and a sandwich??? 

And who is the jerk handing out the food who throws it on your tray or in your bag? —-John’s muffin was not a baseball—-and this guy doesn't have Mark Hamburger's pitching arm---it ended up as a squished mass of wetness....ewwww.

And frankly, if I was a skinny short guy I wouldn’t toss a guy’s food at him if he’s 6’ 2” and looks a little grouchy (just sayin’).

Portillo's Food ... quite unpleasant

portillos roseville mn chicken sandwich review
Croissant Chicken Sandwich
Look at this chicken sandwich....could it look much worse? 

Then try to pick it up—all the ingredients hanging out... with mayo (on the driest croissant ever that instantly crumbled). A bunch of lettuce was on the outside of the box. Total disaster!

Portillo's Salads:  the low point & the high point

Then there were the salads. My side salad was the best thing we received—-except I watched the manager try to scrape some lettuce from the last dregs in the pan to try to get enough for a small salad. There were a few more toppings—-he at least tried to fill the bowl.

portillos roseville mn bbq chipotle chicken salad
BBQ Chipotle Chicken Salad
John had the Chipotle BBQ chicken salad. This seemed to be the source of our waiting time. As I passed the prep areas on the way to the pick-up area I looked at the ‘salad station’ (too many years in the restaurant biz—this stuff jumps out at me)—-my thought as I passed—-‘why hasn’t anyone refilled those pans on the line’? That’s gonna mess them up big time.

Portillo's ... lots and lots of 'waiting' and not much 'happening'

We were the recipients of that ‘big time’ in big wait.

One of the managers picked up our order slip (for the 3rd time), picked up a salad bowl, and then stared into the empty food pans. It was not a happy look on his face.  He disappeared for several minutes and then returned with some greens in John’s bowl...which he had carried off to some netherworld in search of lettuce. He then tried to finish adding all the ingredients from the ‘remains’ left in a couple of pans.This was truly a scraping the bottom of the barrel experience.

This glorious assortment of truly awful was then subject to the Mr. Toss-It treatment—-uh boy.
We kept wondering—-there were at least 8 or 10 people ‘working’, yet the 2 managers prepared most of our order. What were the other 8 people doing? While we were there, the only customers were a couple and then a group of 5 clearly coming from some dress-up event. I saw one order go out the drive-they window.  "What was everyone doing?"
With a staff that big, at Marianne’s we would have been able to crank out food for 50 in the time we waited....and the sandwiches would have been tidy. When the managers end up doing the work, something has gone wrong with the ‘systems’.

So, here’s my plea to Portillo's:

If you’re listening; maybe you can go back and re-train them so they can find the missing ingredients from the pans.

And, please, work on that last guy’s attitude!!

An option for recycling would also be responsible!!

portillos roseville mn no recycling
No Recycling at Portillo's Roseville
Date of Visit:   5/4/2019 @ 9:30 PM
Location:         Google Maps

Friday, May 3, 2019

Salty Tart on a Sunday ... St. Paul's Lowertown Delivers!

salty tart lowertown st. paulSalty Tart in Lowertown ... wonderful!!

What a great Sunday for a visit to the Salty Tart for lunch.   It's a little bit overcast, so the big windows make the space pleasant and any table in the place.

What to order at Salty Tart?

We squeaked in on the Brunch menu which provided some interesting options.   (See our review of the Coop.....I was thinking about creating a green shakshuka).   So, as I do the first perusal of the brunch menu, I immediately see 'green shakshuka' and point it out to John.....who immediately orders it (I guess I'll have to use my long fork reach across the table to give this dish a try).
salty tart lowertown st. paul

I moved toward the bottom of the menu and spotted curried chicken salad.   That sounded like a good contrast to what I was going to steal from John's plate (insert evil emoji here).

John chose a made-to-order cucumber lime soda; I opted for a cold brew.....because I have to compare them everywhere.

Now, the hard part.....grab a table along the bench at the north end, near the windows and big, plush pillows... or a cute round table in the middle of the room....we opted to locate close to the double doors that head out to the farmers market spot and CHS field.  We had the view from the east windows and the windows on the south, plus the big doors that opened every time a coffee and treat-seeking group made their way in to look over the baked goods counter and grab an espresso drink.

Our Lunch at Salty Tart

salty tart lowertown st. paul Lunch arrived relatively quickly, and John was immediately giving his lunch in the beautiful handled ramekin the once over.   He took the first bite...and wasn't quite sure.  So, he dug in...and struck gold (maybe green gold!!).    There was baby thin asparagus, baby broccoli, edamame, the mostly thinly sliced zucchini...all nestled in a base of slightly spicy green chile sauce with 2 sunny side eggs smiling up through the green sprinkling of herbs and baby veggies that adorned the dish.   John said the eggs were perfectly cooked....a nice edge with a touch of browning, with nicely cooked yolks.   John's lunch was accompanied by 3 slices of Salty Tart baguette....a generous portion of crusty bread with a great-textured interior and wonderful flavor.  The nicely sized veggie pieces in the shakshuka were prepared to make it easy to get an assortment of flavors on your fork.   The only weak spot in the dish was the average tasting green sauce....but the balance in the rest of the dish made that fairly unimportant in the overall composition and flavors.    This was not the green shakshuka of my imagination (mine would, of course, include some tart, citrusy tomatillos---roasted until they started to brown slightly, and exuded their juices which thicken on the baking sheet), but it was a really good spin on green shakshuka....we'd order it again any time.  

salty tart lowertown st. paul

salty tart lowertown st. paul My curried chicken arrived on a Michelle Gayer bun, its top jauntily perched at an angle...revealing a mound a fresh baby arugula with some oh-so-tender golden raisins and thinly sliced almonds.   The top of the bun had a beautiful ring of browning around the edge, and upon inspection, was smeared with a beautiful herbed aioli. Thick-sliced chicken pieces were curry golden on the outside and tender and moist in the middle.  The portion
salty tart lowertown st. paul
was more than order to actually pick up the sandwich, I encourage eating 1/3 of the 'filling' with a fork in order to preserve your sandwich's integrity once you lift it off the security of the plate.   Also, dip your fork-bites into the aioli...both to get the 'total package' of flavor, but also because the aioli will not all make it to
salty tart lowertown st. paul
the inside of your face if you leave it all on the sandwich once you've removed 1/3 of the ingredients....napkin truly necessary!   The bun was tender with that little crisp-grilled edge, flavorful and with great texture.   The curry was not strong or overpowering...sometimes curried chicken leaves you with no chicken flavor.   This one could have carried a tiny bit more curry, and still not have been overpowering.  A wonderful sandwich.

salty tart lowertown st. paul The drinks were not quite as good as lunch, but certainly serviceable.   John's cucumber lime soda was a bit too sweet for me....however, after we let it 'steep' for a few minutes after several thorough mixings with the straw, the sweetness was better dispersed.   We think a little more lime would have balanced it out perfectly.  My cold brew was good....but I've had so many tremendous cold brews...that this one didn't stand out from the pack.   But certainly, a nice accompaniment to the curried chicken sandwich.

Salty Tart Ambience

This was John's first visit to the Lowertown Salty Tart (their Mpls location has closed).   I was surprised at how much he enjoyed both the soothing, comfortable surroundings and the interesting lunch options.   He said he could make it a more frequent future dining stop...if only St. Paul could figure out more parking/shuttle/easy walking options. 

Salty Tart and the Challenge of Lowertown

I haven't been panhandled in a while, but we were able to grab the last parking spot right across the street from the building.  In my 10 yard walk I was panhandled, and as I turned to step into the crosswalk (with the 'walk' option in our favor), not one but two cars turning left tried to take me out. 

My recommendation for St. Paul....instead of having all of those parking enforcement cars that circle the blocks endlessly in Lowertown (although I have seen some pretty weird places that people thought were 'parking' on busy Saturday and Sundays there) during the Farmers' Market, add a couple of 'here's where to park' helpers that can direct people to parking (or some alternatives that the city might create to make access to the market more pedestrian-friendly) and give greater priority to pedestrians.....people from outside the city apparently 'forget' what a crosswalk means since pedestrians at busy intersections in the 'burbs are almost as rare as veggie-based food there. 

I'd love to spend more time in Lowertown, so having the City designate some parking areas near the Green Line to encourage us to ride light rail from somewhere outside of downtown (without clogging up streets in someone's neighborhood), would give us more  time to linger there, and maybe even some 'outside the box' ways to transport your summer bounty of Farmers' Market goodies back to your car (I usually have way too many bags that are flopping around...even re-usable bags seem to flop around A LOT...I would drive my fellow light rail riders crazy as my veggies fell out and rolled down the aisle once the train was moving!!!) would make this popular place even more accessible for all ages.  A shuttle from the Flats (there's lot of empty space there) could include a stop at Catrina's  or Babani's for lunch on the way back to load up your car with the bounty of summer.

But that's all beside the point today.  We drove to Lowertown, dealt with a panhandler and made it through the 'walk sign' without injury, and enjoyed both the high-ceiling beautiful space occupied by the Salty Tart, but also had two great lunch options that were both unlike any we've eaten in the past.   They had their own spin on similar items elsewhere---making them an enjoyable 'discovery'!

Dessert To Go From Salty Tart

salty tart lowertown st. paul p.s.  We couldn't come home empty-handed.   A 'plain' croissant, a savory onion tart, and a salted caramel chocolate tart await the return of our appetites later today.   They all look wonderful.

Location:       Google Maps
Date of Visit:  Sunday 4/28/2019