Return to a Midwest jewel

Minneapolis is an interesting city. Less population than of the Westside in Los Angeles, but has a big city feel with a strong urban core. So I’m happy I got a 2nd chance to visit.

The streets between the skyscrapers feel dead, but if you venture up to the 2nd floor, a network of sky bridges connects nearly every building in a continuous mall, much like Hong Kong.

This Skyway network means a lot of local eateries that get overwhelmed by office workers at lunch. But if you venture back down to street level, you can find one of the town’s best-known diners, the Hen House.

This place is full of mashups, including the drinks menu which has a Kombucha Mimosa! I’m torn between two mashup menu entries, Cinnamon Roll Pancakes vs Mac & Cheese Melt. The waiter’s description of the pancakes didn’t help either: “it’s exactly what it sounds like”.

Not knowing what to expect, I go with the waiter’s suggestion of the pancakes instead of the melt. When it arrived, it’s hard to put into words other than “it’s exactly what it sounds like”

The plate comes with two pancakes topped with a generous drizzle of cinnamon roll glazing. I would have preferred a cream-cheese glaze, but the sugar glaze gets the job done. The pancakes themselves are made from cinnamon roll dough and rolled up with sugar and cinnamon before being sliced to cook on the griddle as pancakes.

It’s a buzzard combination, but it works. The pancakes are fluffy and airy like a good buttermilk pancake. It’s all sweet and cinnamon, and you get the occasional toffee-like chewy and crunchy bits where the cinnamon sugar mixture leaked out and caramelized.

The best part is that since this is a diner, the breakfast menu is available all day. Which means you don’t have to feel guilty washing it down at lunch with a Grain Belt Premium lager.

Starry-eyed for donuts

So while we wait for a table at Tasty n Alder, we’ll slip around the corner to Blue Star for coffee and donuts. One of a handful of Portland instutions that have recently expanded to LA, Blue Star elevates the classic coffee and donut counter to classy foodie status.

On Sunday morning any good donut shop should have lines like this, but luckily they aren’t Voodo Donuts long, so we get through quickly. The iconic white tile and blue trim interior makes one think this should be Portland, Maine instead of Oregon.

After ordering you step aside to fill your coffee while hipsters gently load your box, treating each donut as an individual precious object. This is the antithesis of a corner donut-slinging counter.

I’m a sucker for buttermilk old-fashioned, so I jumped on that option here. A nicely dense cake with a slight tang, it’s topped with a light sugar glaze with hints of cinnamon.

The other is a equally fantastic, a simple fluffy sourdough with a super gooey blueberry bourbon basil topping that gets everywhere.

Lastly, this place is famous for its coffee. While good, I don’t know if it stands out over other high-end small roasters. But their coffee does pair perfectly with their donuts. So even if I may not buy it separately, it’s a must-have when eating here.

Super-cheap Sunday breakfast

Early on a Sunday morning there isn’t much available. Even Sha Tin boasts the 2nd largest mall in Hong Kong, most of the shops and dinig are closed. We stumbled into a modern diner chain called Fairwood featuring a strange breakfast fusion of food combos like macaroni noodles with grilled got dogs or vermicelli with fried eggs and toast.

I went with what turned out to be essentially steak and eggs. Black Pepper beef, 2 fried eggs and a thick piece of toast. The beef was tender and the black pepper sauce had the perfect level of spice. The eggs were simple but perfect temperature. Also came with coffee which had milk and cocoa added already. Delicious!

Pearl desperately wanted congee, the rice porridge she is so fond of complete with her favorite 1000 year egg and minced pork. It was part of a meal as well, with fried daikon cakes and coffee as well.

  1. Both meals were pretty good, and the pest part? The entire meal was 52.5 Hong Kong dollars – that’s only US $6.75 total!!

Yet Another Modern Pancake Breafast

Blueberry cornmeal pancakes

Billing itself as “Conscientious Cuisine”, The Mission in downtown San Diego focuses on healthy dining. I assume that means the ingredients, as I’m not sure roast-beef hash and eggs could be considered healthy! Perhaps the profusion of yoga studios surrounding it (including one upstairs) is the explanation. With tons of positive reviews, a line a mile long, and 40 minute wait, this seemed like a great find.

I selected Chicken Apple Sausage with eggs. Served with classic rosemary roasted potatoes, which included a generous helping of crispy, savory pan scrapings, a few tomatoes mixed in, an the surprise Hatch green chile for good measure. The sausage is Aidells, commonly found in any grocery store, and while better than Hilshire Farms, I found it a bit uninspiring and salty. The eggs are watered down to keep them fluffy when scrambled (instead of using milk or cream), while the thick toast is barely crisper than bread, and served without butter or jams.

apple chicken sausage and eggs

Pearl, a sucker for corn, went with the blueberry cornmeal pancakes. While beautiful in presentation, the cornmeal was completely uncooked and added an unpleasant gritty crunch, and there were far too few blueberries. We expected more cornbread-like fluff and texture, but clearly they add the cornmeal to regular pancake batter at the last moment, and it doesn’t get time to soak and soften, leaving unpleasant grit.

Really, the only thing here we would order again is the potatoes, but they certainly weren’t worth the wait.

cornmeal blueberry pancakes