There’s a reason certain restaurants become classics— it’s because they are great. But what do we mean by “great,” and how did they get to be so? Ahhh. The answer’s a hard-to-pinpoint, know-it-when-you-see-it yet enchanting mix of atmosphere, food and service. These places strike a chord in the community, and the community responds with loyal patronage. Plymouth is peppered with such eateries, and we do love them so; for our 10-year anniversary issue, we celebrate those that have been steadfastly feeding our bodies and souls. Here are 10 beloved dishes from some of the most venerated establishments to grace our dining scene.
We love sushi! And we can count on Kobe Restaurant to give us our fix in ever-surprising and delightful ways, not to mention fresh, fresh, fresh: The kitchen is flooded with regular fish shipments from Chicago. It’s a popular place for hibachi (great for families and celebrants) and also easy for takeout.
Taste a whole bunch of piscatorial delights with the Chirashi dinner, a kaleidoscope of sliced fish draped over sweet, lightly vinegary rice. Nice side bites include yellow daikon radish pickles, skinny strips of tamago (omelet) and a bright orange center of ikura (salmon roe). It’s an edible work of art that happens to be delicious, too. $18.95.
The Pink Lady Roll
Sushi houses nationwide compete with this kooky-named, creative roll that is big enough for a meal. Kobe keeps up with the best of ’em with the likes of the Kill Bill, Scorpion and BMW rolls. We always return to the Pink Lady—translucent pink soybean paper filled with spicy kani (krab stick) avocado, crunchy panko crumbs and diced cucumber. It looks kind of dainty, sliced and arranged like a flower on the plate, but the pink mayo packs a wallop of heat. $10, lunch. $12, dinner. 15555 34th Ave. N.; 763.559.9999.
Peg’s has served the Plymouth area for 39 years and counting. “We have a different clientele now—it’s interesting how things have changed,” owner Peggy Rasmussen says. “Now we have things like huevos rancheros ($8.45) on the menu.” We appreciate the sensitivity to food trends, though we especially adore the old-timey things on the menu, eternal favorites that others have left by the wayside in the rush for the latest craze. Everything here is handmade, and fresh and locally sourced when possible—and everyone is really, really nice.
Chicken Dumpling Soup
When Rasmussen learned to make soups, she consulted old cookbooks. “One of the lines was: ‘First go out in the yard and get a chicken. Pick a lively one with clear eyes,’” she recalls with a chuckle. The restaurant doesn’t stock backyard chickens, but everyone recognizes the cheery chickens that decorate the building. If you’re lucky to happen by on a Wednesday, you get to enjoy some deeply satisfying chicken and dumpling soup. “We have baked chicken on Tuesdays, so there is chicken soup on Wednesdays,” Rasmussen says. The soup is as simple as can be: lots of chicken and a few veggies, “but it’s not fancy, and it doesn’t have anything exotic in it.” One of Rasmussen’s early employees taught her how to make dumplings in the Polish style; they’re tender and profoundly comforting. $3.65/bowl. 842 Hwy. 55, Hamel; 763.478.6869.
Every community needs a reliably yummy Mexican joint; some nights, nothing else will do but something cheesy, spicy, filling and festive. We love El Azteca for faithfully scratching that itch; the food is highly seasoned and the portions abundant, plus it’s a lively place to hang out. The salsas are fresh, the staff is peppy, and there is a substantial tequila list to boot.
El Grande Burro
The El Grande Burro is off-the-hook tasty and ridiculously huge—in other words, the perfect burrito. It’s stuffed with grilled chicken (or beef if you want) that’s been simmered until soft in a smoky chipotle sauce. Creamy refried beans, yellow Mexican rice, onions and bell peppers squeeze in there, too. Slather it with guacamole and sour cream; pico de gallo and salad brighten and lighten. $10.95. 3500 Vicksburg Lane N.; 763.550.1570.
Tea House Chinese
This 16-year-old oasis is well-frequented and always copacetic, a rare combination of authentic Szechuan cooking that appeals to a broad range of tastes and ages. It’s not just “good for the suburbs,” but celebrity-foodie-Andrew-Zimmern-good. Google the reviews, and take pride.
It’s a standard dish in any Chinese restaurant, and Tea House prepares it with flair—more Szechuan than Chinese American, but not overwhelmed with spice or odd ingredients. Crunchy, buttery cashews—tons—mingle with toothsome hunks of chicken. The food is saucy, but not drowned like it is at some places. $12. 88 Nathan Lane; 763.544.3422.
Owner Mike Latuff got on the pizza kick more than 40 years ago, and to this day he is putting out pies that win annual awards. “I won’t eat anybody’s pizza but my own,” Latuff says. We don’t blame him.
The Latuff Special Pizza
The Latuff Special has made for many a mighty meal through the years; it’s an extravaganza of all the good stuff a pizza might offer: pepperoni, Italian sausage, green and black olives, onion and green pepper, mushrooms and lots of cheese. Latuff’s does not skimp on toppings. 14-inch, $23.95
Latuff is also quick to recommend the lasagna. He developed his own tomato sauce over time, which is simmered for five hours each day. Latuff knows that the best products make the best product. Lasagna is one of those things that everyone digs but can be a pain in the butt to make at home. Latuff’s got our cravings covered with luscious layers of noodles, sauce and cheese. $10.65. 10820 Hwy. 55; 763.545.2914.
This dream-come-true dessert place opened a wholesale outlet in 2000 and keeps on bestowing bliss. They make approximately 20 different cakes, available in three different sizes. We’ve rhapsodized about the gorgeous fruit tart on these pages many a time. The chocolate confections here are just as beautiful and, of course, heartbreakingly delicious.
This one is famous among T&T connoisseurs. The center is made of crème brulée, which sits on a little platform of devil’s food cake topped with hazelnut praline. This bit of heaven is surrounded by dark chocolate mousse and covered in smooth chocolate ganache (chocolate and cream, melted together). The final touch: crunchy toasted almonds on the outside and a fanciful garnish on top, like a whimsical chocolate feather. $5.25
And then there is the concerto. It’s a dome-shaped, dark chocolate ganache-draped wonder of milk chocolate caramel mousse, a touch of fleur de sel, a disc of devil’s food and a center of caramel and dark chocolate. The elegant gold flecks on top are edible. $5.25. 72 Nathan Lane; 763.512.0944.
It’s a chain without that chained feeling; first opened in 1953 in Portland, Oregon, it has infiltrated the country with dependably awesome hotcakes. Ken and Karen Savik fired up an outpost in Wayzata in 1995 and moved down the road to Plymouth in 2012. We love a late breakfast here, provided we have a few hours to digest.
We are steeped in Swedish heritage in these parts, though there are surprisingly few places where we can enjoy Scandinavia’s culinary gifts. The lingonberry is one of these; a bright red, vitamin C-rich cross between a red currant and a cranberry. It’s a sweet and tart love match for eggy pancakes. The Original Pancake House honors Swedish tradition with lacy thin, crepe-like pancakes. The lingonberries make a sassy topping. Served with whipped butter and a dusting of powdered sugar. $8.75. 1415 County Road 101; 952.475.9151.