Tag Archives: St Paul

Khyber Pass Cafe (St Paul, MN)

A recent trip for a conference in Minneapolis gave me plenty of opportunities to both check up on some of the new happenings in the Twin Cities dining scene, and revisit more than a few of my old favorites. In this case, I was heading out to dinner with Prof. Simon, my PhD adviser, and his wife Nancy, who were kind enough to take me to an old favorite that I hadn’t visited for many years: Khyber Pass Cafe. I rather liked Khyber Pass as a graduate student (scary how events when I was in Graduate School include things happening almost 25 years ago). At the time, Khyber Pass was an established small cafe on St Clair Ave a few blocks east of Macalester College, and was a notable exception to the generally “American” food offerings of most of the local places (Groveland Tap, the now-defunct St Clair Broiler, etc). But the owners, who had come to the Twin Cities and opened Khyber Pass in the early 80s after leaving Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion. The Afghani offerings on their menu were a welcome addition to St Paul’s up and coming food scene, and Khyber Pass got a lot of good coverage in the food media.

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The Nook (St Paul, Minnesota)

Last week’s schedule had me flying to the Twin Cities to give a guest lecture at the University of Minnesota (anyone want a lecture on radioisotope power supplies for space exploration?), and my flight arrived at lunchtime, so I decided to check out one of the area’s better-regarded Jucy Lucy joints; the Nook. First of all, some background for those not familiar, a “Jucy Lucy” is a hamburger with a layer of cheese crimped between two patties. Done right, it’s a nice combination of cheese, crispiness, and juice, albeit with more than a bit of a hazard of hot cheese burns on one’s lips. As you can read over on my review of another Twin Cities stalwart, Matt’s Bar, there’s always the perennial question of who makes the best Jucy Lucy in the Twin Cities. When I lived in the Twin Cities, there were always two places that claimed supremacy and had their followers, the abovementioned Matt’s Bar, and the 5-8 Club located a few miles south on Cedar Ave. But since I left the cities in 2001, the Jucy Lucy phenomenon has spread greatly, with over a dozen places selling them (and the trend is even national, I noticed a “Juicy Lucy” is on the menu at Richard Blais’ place now). The Nook is a relative newcomer to the Jucy Lucy scene in the Twin Cities, opening in 2000, but in the last few years, their Nookie Burger (their variant of the venerable Jucy Lucy) is now frequently mentioned in Jucy Lucy supremacy discussions, so I figured it was worth dropping by.

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