Delicatessens have been serving up fine meats and prepared foods since their origins in 18th-century Germany. These shops began as a place to find out-of-the-ordinary items and edibles, so it’s only natural that each deli has its own individual menu and personality. Should you find yourself hungry when you’re out and about in the Park, Minnetonka Boulevard boasts three very different delis: Euro Gourmet, Nelson’s Meats and Prime Deli & Restaurant. Take a flavor tour as you move from east to west along the boulevard.
Opened in 1997, Euro Gourmet features Eastern European delicacies made from scratch by owner Irina Buchina, originally from Ukraine. Buchina was an employee at the deli when the owners decided to sell in 1999.
Part deli, part Russian and European variety store, Euro Gourmet sells imports such as cooking pots, Russian children’s books, tea sets, vodka shot glasses and birch leaves. You’ll also find packaged food from all over Europe, including rosehip butter from Hungary, egg pasta from Germany, pickled garlic sprouts and cloves from Israel, and millet from Russia. They have boxed chocolates, hard candies, kefir, butter, juice and jewelry from the Baltic region.
Family members help out at the store, including Buchina’s daughter, Andriana, who says most of their customers are Russian, or are familiar with the specialty foods they offer, such as cabbage rolls and crêpes. “We have a lot of Polish customers. The food is very similar in Eastern European countries,” she adds.
If you’re not familiar with this type of food, here’s where to start.
Buchina says if you go anywhere in Russia you’ll find some version of this pastry. It’s traditionally filled with lamb or pork but at Euro Gourmet, they make most of their food with chicken or beef because their customers prefer those meats. They fill the half-moon fried pastry with ground chicken, onions, salt and pepper. $2.29 each.
This crêpe or blini is similar to a thin pancake. The savory blintze is filled with chicken, onion, garlic and spices, and the sweet version oozes with farmer’s cheese and sugar. $7.99/lb.
A traditional soup made with chicken, beets, carrots, potatoes, paprika, pepper and salt—this stew is sure to warm your tummy on a cool fall evening. $5.99/2 lb. container.
Rectangular pieces of phyllo dough are stuffed and baked into delicate pillows of deliciousness. The varieties are potato with beef, cabbage, cheese (khachapuri), and cabbage and mushrooms (kylebyaka). $1.79-$1.89 each.
Come January, Andriana Buchina says these are the “must-haves” to celebrate the New Year: Olivet, a potato salad made with peas, mayonnaise, ham and carrots ($5.99/lb.); vinegret, a vegetable salad made with sauerkraut, carrots, sour pickles, potatoes and beets ($4.99/lb.); shuba, a layered salad with herring, potatoes, mayonnaise, eggs and beets, known colloquially as “herring under a fur coat” ($5.99/lb.); and caviar, the international delicacy of salt-cured fish eggs. ($8.99-$32.99/lb.).
“Sometimes I look at our deli and think it’s like Russian New Year every day,” Buchina laughs.
Next, travel east on Minnetonka to Dakota Avenue, and swing into our next deli.
Nelson’s moved to this St. Louis Park location in 2014 with new owner Keith Page, but the company has been in business since 1965. Nelson’s caters for 10 to 1,200, serves breakfast, and has hot lunch specials that change daily. On Thursday, International Day at Nelson’s, you might find Page cooking Chinese or Italian, all from his own recipes, “Nothing here is from a box,” he says. But Nelson’s is especially known for its meats. Here are a few to try.
“Our barbecue is by far our top seller in the deli,” says Page. “Everything we do, we do our own. My recipes, my rubs. We don’t ever sauce anything; we feel the barbecue speaks for itself.” Pulled pork $11.95/lb., shredded chicken $13.95/lb., ribs $9.99/lb.
Nelson’s makes 20 to 25 different flavors of jerky including Ghost Pepper, the third hottest pepper in the world behind Carolina Reaper and Scorpion Pepper. Page says they make the Carolina Reaper jerky by request only. “It’s like licking the sun,” he says. “But we’re not here to burn your tongue; you will experience the nuances and flavors.” Beef, chicken, turkey, pork $9.99/half-lb.
“I’d tell you they’re like a Slim Jim, but ours are better,” says Page. Nelson’s makes them in multiple flavors including Asian Sriracha, ham and swiss, bloody Mary, jalapeño and “jalapeño with cheese for wimps,” he says. $8.29-$8.59/lb.
PRIME DELI & RESTAURANT
Continue east on Minnetonka, cross Highway 100, then take a left at Joppa Avenue and you’ll find Prime Deli, which opened last December and features a 100 percent kosher menu. They serve lunch and dinner in their restaurant and offer deli items to go. Here are some items to try.
Prime Burger Deluxe
A grilled burger with crisp fried pastrami, fried egg, onion marmalade, horseradish Russian dressing, lettuce and tomato. You will not miss the traditional bacon and cheese on this namesake burger, and will enjoy the non-traditional condiments. $14.
New Deli Style Pastrami
This is a pastrami sandwich stacked high on your choice of bread. Customer Brian Fondurulia says, “I love pastrami and that’s why I came here. This place makes their own pastrami. This is a long and time-consuming task to do right, and this place nails it.” $16.
Matzo Ball Soup
A dumpling soup made from a mixture of matzo meal, eggs, water, and fat. Known as “Jewish grandmother’s penicillin,” the version here is cooked to perfection. $5/cup.