Today in Minneapolis Restaurants from 1972

[According to Ervin J. and Ervin J. (1972) The Twin Cities Explored. Saint Paul, MN: Adams Press.]

Al's Breakfast; 413 14th Avenue Southeast. The interior of Al's Breakfast shows signs of being busy, but is perfectly clean. And there are even some handsome pieces of pottery among the things with which one is served. Service itself is efficient and amiable. The menu includes juices at 20¢ and 40¢, breakfast meats at 45¢ to 60¢, potatoes (30¢), toast (15¢), and English muffins with preserves (25¢). Eggs are variously offered: scrambled, they are 45¢ to 60¢, two-egg omelets are 80¢ to $1.00, and both types includes toast and coffee. The special Israeli breakfast consists of two scrambled eggs, kosher salami, onions, coffee, and toast -- all for $1.20! [...] If you are particularly fortunate you may be treated to a lively panel discussion, with the staff and customers all participating.

Becky's Cafeteria; 1934 Hennepin Avenue. No pretense here. Becky's is honestly conservative, four-square "square." Interesting, the meals we had at lunch one day were not at all bad, and we can recommend the cucumber-and-sour-cream salad, the home-baked goods, which includes rolls and apple pie, and such beverages as an orange concoction made with an egg. [...] Other edibles available in the cafeteria line at lunch includes juices at 20¢, salads from 18¢ to $1.15, beef loaf at 72¢, hash at 99¢, sirloin of beef pattie at 72¢, and other meat and fish dishes [....] As for the atmosphere, it is, well, incredible. You enter to the deep, soft tones of an organ, and find that the Bible is open for you on a table near the entrance; the passage for today is Jeremiah, XXXI. The serving room to the rear, where you take up position in the cafeteria queue, also contains Becky's Book Boutique, where suitable religious works are for sale, and a collection of very small pink furniture grouped about a small fountain. On the wall is a motto: "Love One Another."

Mama Rosa's; 1827 Riverside Avenue. An Italianate menu, the availability of light or dark beer on tap or bottled, and its cheek-by-jowl accessibility for the West Bank campus of the University have together made Mama Rosa's one solution for lunch or dinner in this part of town. A pleasant surprise on entering is the changing exhibition of photographs or prints that hang in the lobby. The décor of the dining rooms is less successful; they are dark and rather improbably bowered by pendant leaves and grapes [...] Pizzas, pastas, steaks, and chicken are also available, as are other salads and sandwiches. The mugs of dark tap beer can be quaffed with some satisfaction because of the paucity of any beverage stronger than a nice cup of tea in most of the University precincts.

Nye's Polonaise Restaurant; 112 East Hennepin Avenue. Do not run away when you drive up to Nye's and see, on the ugliest facade in the Upper Midwest, Chopin in bas relief batting out a few bars of a nocturne. Although the Polonaise Room is indistinguishable from the Chopin Room -- both are noncommital mid-twentieth-century salons, swathed in cavelike darkness -- and most of the menu is indistinguishable from the pike, trout, steak all-around-town déja vu, one can order genuine polish speciaties of some merit at Nye's. Highly recommended are the pierogi (Polish ravioli) with sour cream, Polish sausage, sauerkraut, and golabki (stuffed cabbage rolls), all of which are served with hot bread. [...] The result is well worth it, judging from our experiment with the Polish specialites and the pleasant, efficient service at lunch. (You should be warned, however, that there are "live" music and dancing at night.) Any sort of alcohol seems to be available, and Polish wines are on the menu.

Ricksha Café; 5412 Penn Avenue South. For the dedicated epicure willing to anticipate the condition of his gastric juices at least twenty-four hours in advance, the management of the Ricksha Café will prepare a Formosan dinner (preferable for from six to twelve people.) Since our one visit to the Ricksha was on a spur-of-the-moment basis we can only report that it seems worth planning ahead for the Formosan spread, the exact number of courses for which depends on the number of persons in a  party. Roasted shrimp, rice noodles, with seasonings somewhat different from mainland varieties, Bee Hoon -- a mix of chicken, plum sauce and fresh ginger -- form part of this promising meal. We can report from our own dinner there that the Ricksha is another small, carefully hovered-over restaurant in which you know that the owners are there and care about the quality of the food. [...] Appetizers such as egg roll are from $1.25 to $1.55, soups 40¢ to 95¢. The inevitable chow meins and chop sueys range from $1.05 to $1.95, and American sandwiches and a few other meals are there. There is a lively take-out service or for a table as it is a small restaurant. Overlook the décor, which is an uninteresting Sino-American blend.

Taj Mahal; 1034 Nicollet Avenue. While the Twin Cities have some distance to travel before they enter a gastronome's list of cities to be visited, the growing number of Asian restaurants gives one hope. In July of '72 the Taj Mahal's spicy menu put some much-needed bite into downtown Minneapolis cuisine, with such dishes as Taj Tanduri (chicken with spices), chicken, beef, lamb or shrimp curries, keema alo (ground beef with potato) [....] In order to sample a fairly wide variety we tried a kaleidoscopic luncheon of side dishes and found all of them interesting, with channas too hot a curry for our Western palates, but undoubtedly true to its origins. [...] Undoubtedly, the lamb curry had been somewhat lowered in pungency to accommodate Nicollet Ave tastes, and very good it was. [..] Some realistic concessions to totally American taste buds are made, with American sandwiches and meals of no particular interest being offered. There is also a vegetarian meal which sounds Indian in its bent. In its early weeks, the Taj management had not done much to eradicate its noncommital coffee-shop look, but perhaps the owners in time will dream up ways to waft us a bit closer to Delhi.

Fuji-Ya Restaurant; 420 South First Street. Food is not only food, it is much else: people, the configuration of light and shade, memory. And of course it is ambiance. The menu at the Fuji-ya tells us that the restaurant's name means "second to none" in Japanese, so perhaps the best way to describe the ambiance in which one lunches or dines at the Fuji-ya is to say that in the Twin Cities is is, well, fuji-ya. The building overlooks the Mississippi River, though not its most pleasing bankside, for industry came early to this area and has scarcely been dislodged by time. But the water is there, and more important, the interior of the Fuji-ya is satisfaction enough. The first dining room one encounters has high ceilings from which giant paper covered lamps depend. [...] The next room, low-ceilinged and with windows which give on the river, is even more in the Japanese fashion: the tables are low and one sits crosslegged before them. Waitresses in kimonos serve you, and prepare some of the dishes on hot plates on the table. One can preface or accompany the meal with sake, warm or on the rocks, with Japanese plum wine, or with Asahi lager beer. (Whiskey and other Western potables are discernible at the bar at the end of the first room.)


Adam said...

The building to the right there is actually Fuji-ya, which has some interesting and old looking foundations that you can see from the West River Parkway. I read something not too long ago saying the city wanted to do a Sea Salt type eatery there, but there are historic preservation issues around the building, I think.

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Unknown said...

If I’m not mistaken, before Mama Rosa, there was a funeral home in that building...in the 50’s into early 60’s