19 April 2015

KwikPick: Sonora Grill, Mpls., great Southwestern cooking

My wife and I have become fans of Record Store Day. It started because our son’s best friend bought a record store in the Longfellow neighborhood of South Minneapolis. At the time, I thought that it sounded like a risky decision for a young father. But Dave Hoenack and his wife, Laura, have made Hymie’s Vintage Records a focal point for the revival of vinyl recordings in Minneapolis. And we look forward to attending the block party that they throw as part of Record Store Day. We’ve gotten in the habit of finding a local restaurant for dinner after the festivities at Hymie’s. This year, another couple of friends joined us for dinner at the Sonora Grill, located only 6 blocks from Hymie’s.

  • Food: 4
  • Service: 3
  • Ambiance: 3
  • Value: 5

The back story on the Sonora Grill is that it started out in the food court at Midtown Global Market in 2011. A couple years later, they opened the Grill in an old Embers Restaurant several blocks east in the Longfellow neighborhood. I’d been there once before for lunch, shortly after it opened. I really enjoyed the food at lunch, and that’s why I suggested it for our Record Store Day dinner.

The food was great. For a table of 4, we got one order of their whole baked chicken, one order of paella, one order of beef short ribs, one order of eggplant fries, and one of their daily salads. The salad turned out to be more of a dinner salad with slices of chicken on it. It was very good, but not really what we were expecting. Besides that, everything except the paella came with vegetables on the plate. The chicken asado was fantastic. We expected that it would be enough for two people; it actually was enough for three. Besides the chicken, the plate included flour tortillas, beans, and a potato salad. My plate of short ribs included a slaw of shredded cabbage and a tasty salsa. The short ribs were cut ‘flanken’ style. I thought they were a little dried out and tough, but others at the table really liked them. The paella was very good, with large tender shrimp, mussels, chorizo, and chicken on top of delicious saffron rice. And we all loved the eggplant fries which came with a spicy aoli.

Service for our table anyway was a bit of a disappointment. Our server was friendly and helpful with advice about the menu. But he also was very slow and inattentive. However, we noticed that the server for the next table was very prompt and attentive, so it may be just the luck of the draw as to how good your server is. As far as ambiance, no complaints really, but as I mentioned above, this is a repurposed Embers restaurant. So the ambiance is comfortable but plain. We actually ate on the patio outside, and that was very nice.

I rated Sonora Grill high in terms of value. We got a lot of really good food for a very reasonable price. We only had one round of drinks – three glasses of wine and one beer. I was the beer drinker. When I inquired about the beer on tap, the server mentioned a dark Mexican beer that wasn’t even listed in the menu. It was great with the food, and was only $5 for a pint glass.

After dinner, we all agreed that Sonora Grill deserves a return visit. After this experience, I think I’d skip the short ribs, and maybe order a selection of Sonoran tacos (called ‘caramelos’). They’re priced at only $4 and the menu lists an intriguing variety of fillings, such as shrimp, beef tongue, roasted mushroom, and fish.

Anytime you’re looking for a place to eat in the Longfellow neighborhood, I’d heartily recommend Sonora Grill.

Click here for an explanation of my KwikPick rating scale.

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