Yum! The name says it all, Maggie's very favorite!!Yum restaurant

By Rick Nelson, Star Tribune
February 15, 2006

The chicken soup's healing powers began to work their magic the moment the wide white bowl was placed before me. For a split second I seriously considered tenting my napkin over my head and allowing the potent chicken-garlic-pepper-perfumed steam to sooth my flu-addled nose and throat.

After making quick work of what appeared to be several pounds of egg noodles and the tender meat of half a chicken, I was facing some small carrot dices, a few pieces of onion and a shallow pool of broth, its surface coated with little floating chicken fat globules, each a tiny flavor firecracker waiting to burst in my mouth. I inhaled every drop, and for the first time in several sneeze-filled days, I was beginning to feel like myself.

I was so caught up in my Jewish penicillin ritual that I failed to notice the hubbub that had engulfed me. It was high noon at Yum! Kitchen and Bakery and I counted my blessings: not only was I feeling better, but I was lucky enough to have secured a coveted seat; my car's spot in the parking lot bordered on the miraculous.

Yeah, Patti Soskin's dine-in/take-out venture has been shoehorning 'em in since Day 1, with good reason. The three-month-old enterprise hasn't Changed Dining As We Know It, but through smart packaging and an obvious attention to detail, Soskin has forged a concept that feels perfectly calibrated to our casual, time-pressed times and comfort-seeking tastes.

It's a straightforward setup: Order at one counter, pay at another and wait for a red-capped staffer to deliver the food. The menu, which changes twice a month, has a similar ease: nothing fancy, just fresh ingredients, clean flavors and uncomplicated preparations. Nearly everything, down to the potato chips, is made on site, and the effort shows.

The full-bodied soups are especially good, the quality of the carefully made stocks shining through in every spoonful. Sandwiches (roasted vegetable-pesto, beef brisket-caramelized onion, Philly cheese steak) are also first-rate. If there's a better tuna salad or egg salad in town, I'm hard-pressed to name it. Whole roast chickens, plump and meaty, have a lovely herb touch.

Side dishes might include a decadent square of russet-asiago au gratins or a maximum-comfort mac-and-cheese. And don't miss whatever Soskin and executive chef Mike Grossmann are wrapping in parchment paper. Both a fiery kung pao beef over rice and a delicious tamari-soy-marinated salmon paired with asparagus and jasmine rice definitely elevated heat-and-serve out of Lean Cuisineland.

When it comes to the finger-food-esque appetizers, some work brilliantly, others flop.

Diminutive tuna "burgers," tiny two-bite buns filled with a small piece of seared tuna and a sour cream-wasabi-sesame oil garnish, were a blast. Ditto the beef empanadas, with their naughty slow-burn bite, and the savory duck potstickers. But a fresh take on the corn dog must have sounded better on paper, and thin-sliced ribs were glazed in a winning sweet-hot sauce, but the meat was grisly and tough.

Sweets are lovingly retro: fudgy brownies, tart lemon bars, cute cupcakes, gooey cinnamon pull-aparts and a bar that comes perilously close to replicating the Nut Goodie, dire news for dieters everywhere. I'm wild about the layer cakes, including coconut drenched in seven-minute icing and chocolate slathered in vanilla buttercream icing. They have an endearing, grandmotherly goodness -- no distracting decorations, no unwelcome fillings -- which truly cannot be improved upon; let's just say I know the instruments with which I am celebrating my next birthday. A dozen bag-your-own breads are featured daily, and the refrigerator and freezer cases are stocked with well-prepared grab-and-go items ranging from Roquefort dressing to chocolate sauce.

What's really refreshing -- apart from the inviting setting and all-smiles service -- is the affordability of nearly everything (OK, $12.59 for 32 ounces of frozen chicken chili is a stretch). Not that a towering slice of coconut cake wouldn't be a steal at any price.

That's feed a cold, right?


4000 Minnetonka Blvd., St. Louis Park, 952-922-4000

Hours: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

Atmosphere: Crisply contemporary, with sparkling white subway tiles and gleaming stainless steel set against dark woods and big windows.

Sound level: Pleasant.

Recommended dishes: Chicken soup, parchment-wrapped dinners, roasted vegetable panini (shown at left), tuna burgers, iced tea, layer cake.

Price range: Nothing over $13.

Wine list: Short (just a dozen choices) and value-priced, with glasses in the $5 to $8 range and bottles going from $20 to $33.

Rick Nelson

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