East Lake Checklist: El Sabor Chuchi to The Rabbit Hole

East Lake Checklist: El Sabor Chuchi to The Rabbit Hole

WACSO / Heavy Table

This time around the Checklist took us down the rabbit hole, both figuratively and literally. We experienced everything from home-cooked Mexican seafood to traditional Somali cuisine to Korean-inspired street food. We went from a scruffy convenience store deli with dented shelves and wobbly tables to a decked-out restaurant space dripping with designer touches. We were among immigrant families and metal-heads. There’s no telling where the checklist will take us on any given night, but one thing is certain: The ride is worth the price of admission. — M.C. Cronin

This week’s checklist crew: WACSO, M.C. Cronin, Becca Dilley, James Norton, Jon Campbell

OTHER EAST LAKE STREET CHECKLIST INSTALLMENTS: Lake Plaza, Gorditas el Gordo to Pineda Tacos, Taqueria Victor Hugo to Safari Restaurant

WACSO / Heavy Table

ABOUT THIS PROJECT

The East Lake Checklist is the third Heavy Table illustrated travelogue to explore a major gastronomic thoroughfare in Minneapolis and/or St. Paul. The East Lake Checklist is the Heavy Table’s follow-up to our 55-restaurant survey of independent eateries on Central Avenue and our 72-restaurant series about restaurants on the Green Line. We’ll publish five-restaurant installments biweekly until we’ve documented every nonchain spot on East Lake Street between 35W and the Mississippi River. (We’re estimating 75 spots, but we’ll see how it shakes out.)

This series is made possible by underwriting from Visit Lake Street. Heavy Table retains editorial control of the series — as with Central Avenue and the Green Line, this tour will be warts-and-all.

“From the river to the lakes, visitors and residents can shop local and be social on Lake Street. More information at VisitLakeStreet.com.”

WACSO / Heavy Table

El Sabor Chuchi

717 E Lake St

Depending on how you look at it El Sabor Chuchi is either a small market with a sizable deli attached or a sizable deli with a small market attached.

WACSO / Heavy Table

A couple of shelves flanking you on the left as you walk in offer a random selection of convenience items like tomato paste, Takis chips, sardines, Cup Noodles, batteries, and dark chocolate for making mole. On the right, there are coolers stocked with drinks, produce, and dairy items along with a bakery case displaying a selection of pastries and breads.

WACSO / Heavy Table

The deli counter at the back of the store features the kind of order-by-number picture-board menu we’ve grown accustomed to around these parts of East Lake. Just be warned. The pictures are deceptively out of scale (more on this below).

WACSO / Heavy Table

We ordered, and sat at a table beneath a rather detailed instructional flyer on performing the Heimlich maneuver. Reading about choking safety did feel the tiniest bit ominous while we waited for our bone-in chicken to arrive, but it also led to an interesting debate on restaurant safety regulations. Fortunately, no one needed to have read it, and — bonus — we are all now thoroughly prepared in case of emergency. — M.C.

*** FOOD NOTES ***

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The first thing you need to know about the Churrasco Plate ($12) at El Sabor Chuchi is that it isn’t as big as you expect it’ll be. It’s about 50 percent bigger than that. I ran out of room in my notebook trying to record everything that arrived on it, but the short list includes a steak (pounded flat), a couple of eggs, rice, beans, thick cut fries, avocado slices, plantain fritters, and salad. If this stuff were mediocre, this would still be a pretty good deal, but the avocado was ripe, the beans surprisingly delicate and beautifully seasoned, the thick-cut fries clearly house-made and top-notch. The steak and eggs and the rest? Not bad. The value prospect of this humble plate of food is towering.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The Quarter Chicken ($7) is a little more standard issue, at least for this part of East Lake Street, which is to say it’s cooked properly, robustly seasoned, tender on the inside, and nourishingly hearty. Ordering a roast chicken (by the whole, half, or quarter) on East Lake Street is pretty much a bulletproof move, like ordering a slice of pizza in Brooklyn. It’s a cost-effective, no-risk way to get a filling, tasty meal. — James Norton

WACSO / Heavy Table

Ingredients

  • 717 E Lake St
  • 730 E Lake St
  • 818 E Lake St
  • 920 E Lake St, #101 (Midtown Global Market)
Read the whole recipe on The Heavy Table