Bites Out: Rustica and Khyber Pass Cafe

Since moving to Saint Paul, I’ve become quite taken with cooking at home. I eat out much less frequently than I did in NYC, partly because the Midwest culture caters less to convenience and more to occasion, but mostly because it’s a very suiting challenge for me. At last I have a kitchen with more than one pot! I have a roommate who ventures to eat my sometimes whimsical delicacies! I have an awesome discount on groceries through my job! It’s a sure recipe for home-cooking, complete with the expected challenges of budgeting and time-management…but that’s another story.

BUT, like all hungry citizens, I do on occasion choose to eat out. Here’s a roundup of a couple recent finds:

Rustica Bakery

Nestled in a shopping mall behind Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis, Rustica is an unexpectedly high-end bakery and cafe. When I stopped in last week for a breakfast pastry, it was the only open storefront in the mall, and it was hopping. The glowing bakery case was stocked with artisan loaves of bread, expected French pastries, and some lesser-know treats like the fruity, eggy bostock pastry. I cozied up with my chocolate croissant and small latte in the front window and dove into my book. My choices were underwhelming. I felt my croissant lacked the buttery bite of some of the best I’ve had, and my latte (made with Dogwood coffee) was more earthy and sour than I prefer. Rustica proved a perfect place near Lake Calhoun to stop and slow down, however, and I’d surely come back to try their breads, food menu, and the illusive bostock.

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Khyber Pass Cafe

Who in this world is lucky enough to live around the corner from an Afghani Restaurant? I am! I spotted this cafe the day I moved into my apartment and finally paid it a visit with my Mom and brother a couple weeks ago. We were immediately greeted and seated in the front window. Perfect. Service was slow but friendly, and the exotic carpet and instrument-decorated interior was relaxing and perfect for conversing. The entrees themselves weren’t as flavorful as I’d hoped, but were indeed satisfying. My mung beans with sticky rice and cilantro chutney (vegetarian shola) was very comforting and perfectly filling. It seemed the type of meal one might request after a trek through the actual Khyber Pass. Prices were a bit high for the portions served, in my opinion, but I guarantee I’ll be back for journey through the $10 all-you-can-eat lunch buffet.

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