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Minnesota's First Vermouth
By: Andrew Zimmern | Posted: 11/13/2013
I met Bob MacDonald last week for lunch at Marla’s. It’s a restaurant that Bob has wanted to take me to for years, a place I have had on my list for a long time and just hadn’t gotten around to visiting. I soon realized I’ve been missing out. If you haven’t been to Marla’s, you’re depriving yourself of some of the best cooking in the Twin Cities—I was floored.
Located at the corner of 38th and Bloomington just south of Powderhorn Park, Marla’s Caribbean Cuisine is justifiably famous for its incredibly fresh, spicy, flavorful, from scratch, honest and delicious Pan-Caribe style food. A native of Trinidad and Tobago, Marla (yes, the Marla is always cooking in the kitchen) is a doyenne of jerk, bringing scotch bonnet spice to the Northern Prairie extremes where freshly ground black pepper is often the spiciest item in the cupboard. She’s perfected that Caribbean mashup of Indian, Creole, and Latin flavors that are hard to come by in Minneapolis. All her food is available in a wide range of spice levels, from mild to “Indian hot” and the extreme “Marla’s hot.” If you go for that one, be prepared for serious heat. There are more mix-and-match and menu combos than I can keep track of, be sure to flip the menu over.
Here are some of the dishes I love:
Stewed brown down oxtails: sweet beefy braise of Caribe grandmother food. Don’t miss this winner.
Doubles with curried garbanzo beans: My favorite island-style street food. Marla’s version of these little bread/crepe fold-overs are the best ‘cheap-eat’ I can think of. Amazing value for great food.
Jamaican Jerk wings: Fried and then glossed with a sauce so superbly piquant that when the wings are cleared from the plate I eat the sauce with a spoon. Seriously.
Channa and potato Caribbean curry: I scoop this golden curry up with as much roti as I can and sprinkle it with lime and house-made hot sauce . . . and you can make it a meal if you are so inclined.
Andrew Zimmern is a columnist for Mpls.St.Paul Magazine and the host of Travel Channel's Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern.See bio
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