Appetites: Where to find the best eats on East Lake Street

Sambusa served up at Ibrahim Restaurant.
Sambusa served up at Ibrahim Restaurant. editor James Norton called it "gorgeously crispy and full of flavor."
Courtesy of Becca Dilley

James Norton, editor of, the daily online journal of food and drink in the Upper Midwest, took a team and traveled from where Interstate 35W meets East Lake Street to the Mississippi River, dining at every independent restaurant they found along the way.

"We hit 91 spots in total," he told MPR News host Tom Crann. "Forty-two were Mexican restaurants, 10 were East African, and then we had everything from Japanese to Ecuadorian to British Isles to Scandinavian."

The whole food crawl cost exactly $2,500, with an average check total of $25.63. The total pounds gained is a mystery, Norton said, "and that's the way I like it."

Norton has done other tours in the past, including one down University Avenue in St. Paul and another down Central Avenue in Minneapolis.

"The presence of Latin food, particularly Mexican food, was really dominant," Norton said of the East Lake Street tour.

"I honestly thought there'd come a time on this trip when I couldn't eat another taco, or drink another horchata, or taste another tamale," he said. "But over and over and over again, we'd find something new — a new method of preparation, a new ingredient. It never got boring."

The top three tastes of the tour

1) The carne asada burrito at Taqueria Victor Hugo: "As close to a perfect burrito as I've ever had."

2) The sambusa at Ibrahim Restaurant: "Gorgeously crispy and full of flavor."

3) Strawberry pie at the newly opened Bungalow Club: "It was legitimately magical."

Heavy Table is going on hiatus as Norton takes up a new position as the food editor for The Growler magazine.

"Over the course of nine years with Heavy Table we published nearly 7,000 stories, worked with more than 110 contributors, and hosted some great events, so I'm really proud of what we were able to do," he said.

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