Marla’s and Me
June 4, 2010
I must admit. Something happened that feels as completely incongruous as stumbling on a snowball on a summer’s day. I’m seeing someone. Regularly. Who I met online. A fellow I mentioned a few times, who I’ve called B, has showed me the value of online dating. That’s right. Meeting him online has not only been enjoyable — it’s been rewarding. All of those questions, answers, boxes, pictures, headlines, and quizzes that are usually so tortuous have proven, in this case, to be illuminating, flirtatious, and fun.
Somewhere, a little mud-soaked pig who thought he was forever stuck on terra firma is sprouting a set of wings.
B’s pictures were full of character. We each gave each other 5 stars. He got me to answer more than a couple hundred of those dreadful questions that force you to answer a totally complex question in only one of three possible ways.
His profile charmed me, as well.
“I love substantive and offbeat conversations.”
“I spend a lot of time thinking about… making and keeping a home.”
Sign me up!
“I would like to explore some new culinary horizons.”
Alright, boy, then come with me.
Because explore new culinary horizons we do. One restaurant we ate at recently has proven to be a strong favorite to us both — Marla’s Caribbean Cuisine. This place is only a couple blocks away from me, but still, I always dubiously drove past it on my way to and from the gym. I didn’t think it looked special, so I somewhat smugly never went to Marla’s.
Score: 0 for delicious Caribbean food. 0 for the hungry critic who lives inside my head.
With perfect timing, however, Citypages came out with their “best of” list and declared this: Best Take Out 2010: Marla’s Caribbean Cuisine
And this: Marla’s Doubles: 100 Favorite Dishes
After that, one thing was clear: I might be wrong about Marla’s.
B and I have eaten there a few times since then. While the experience is consistently quirky, the food is always flat-out delicious. As we were happily eating in the spartan dining room, I flashed back to B’s profile.
“You are delighted when you judge a book by its cover — and are proven entirely wrong.”
Oh, sigh. Few things could be more true. I was so wrong that I’m delighted by how wrong I was! From the unique beverages to the killer plantains, Marla’s truly delivers a great meal.
There’s ginger beer.
Or a curious and refreshing sorrel soft drink.
Here’s those doubles Citypages raved about. Curry chana between two fried bara. Get your hopes up — they really are that good — just leave a little room for your hopes to be dashed. The first time I went, they had no doubles. The second time, the server said they still didn’t have any, but the chef shouted out that they did (after I had a minor, although eloquent, thing that could be likened to a tantrum).
The plantains are among the best I’ve ever had.
The roti are almost impossible not to order. Here’s dhalpourie roti with curry chicken. Dhalpourie is a soft flatbread filled with finely ground yellow split peas.
While we nearly inhaled it, it still wasn’t as good as the paratha roti with beef we had another day. Paratha is a soft flaky flatbread made with butter. Next time, I’m getting the flaky paratha with this lovely and fragrant chicken curry.
Here’s a rich, comforting plate of dumplings with beef stew. The menu, which is sparse on details, might lead you to think you’re getting a plate of filled dumplings similar to a dumpling appetizer. Not at all. The dumplings are plain and mounded high, ready to be eaten with bites of the filling stew, grandmother style.
While I don’t have a picture of the Jamaican jerk chicken, B and I agreed that the charred and spicy jerk was the best thing we had. At the same time, we’re also both aware that we haven’t yet eaten at Harry Singh’s, which Citypages declared the best Caribbean in the Twin Cities. Given our love of Marla’s, B and I are both skeptical, yet true to form, ready to be proven entirely wrong.