Monday, March 26, 2012

Lai Inn – Bloomington, MN

I do a lot of searching for local food places on the Internet, in case you were wondering. I kept coming across this place in Eden Prairie called the Grand Steak and Fry Co. It looked like it was in a weird place in Eden Prairie I hadn’t been before, but was a reasonable drive for me. When FireRetarded called me and invited me to lunch, Grand Steak was the first place I thought of. I told him about it and we both got the address on our own. When we turned up, the place doesn’t exist and the address is actually in the middle of a VERY nice neighborhood. While bummed, we still had Plan B (not the morning-after pill that you see commercials for on the television). Right up the road was a Chinese place called Lai Inn. Within five minutes we had drive and were seated at the small Chinese food lunch buffet place. It’s in a strip mall, so I already had my hopes up.

On our way to our seat, we checked out the buffet. It looked small. Seriously, it’s a 6-footer. Didn’t matter, we were both hungry. When we got up to the buffet we noticed the buffet wasn’t filled with big pans of food. It was filled with small pans of food and a LOT of them. In fact, there were more things on this buffet than a lot of buffets we’ve been to. We were quite impressed with this little set up. The smaller sized pans allowed the place to have a lot of items, more quickly made and replaced with fresh items, and nothing tasted like it had been there too long. Really a great idea. They had hot and sour soup, crab rangoons, egg rolls, fried dumplings, fried and plain rice, and maybe 12 entrees.

I loaded up plate one and headed back to gorge myself and get back to work on time. The appetizer items were all cooked really well. Perfect fry on each of the things. The egg roll wasn’t very greasy nor was it packed with cinnamon. The dumpling had a great flavor with a good fried outside to meaty inside ratio. The lo mein was really good, as was the kung pao beef. They had a BBQ pork that was fantastic and the beef and green beans were also delicious. We were both pretty impressed with this buffet. No complaints at all.

There seemed to be a lot of regulars eating here and the owners/servers appeared to know a lot of them. Good customer service and good food means people are going to keep coming back. Couple that with really reasonable pricing on the buffet and you’ll understand why they’ve been there like 16 years (I overheard a conversation, so I may have gotten the number of years wrong, but it’s a LOT).

The second plate was a little more of the first pass and then a couple of other items that I can’t recall what they were. Unfortunately, I had buried them under the other things in the photo. But there were a couple more chicken dishes (sesame chicken was awesome) and another pork dish that was wonderful. I wish the entrees were labeled. So as it is you kind of have to guess… or just get it all like we did. hahahaha

The place is really a pretty good place for lunch. And now that I know how close it is, I’ll be heading there a lot more. Lai Inn is right off of highway 169, just south of I-494, so it’s really easy to get to from a lot of places. It’s worth a stop in, I assure you.

Top 5 things about Lai Inn
1. BBQ Pork
2. Sesame chicken
3. Beef and green beans
4. Dumplings
5. Egg rolls

Bottom 5 things
1. None of the food items on the buffet are labeled
2. They only take cash (which we found out the hard way)
3. With the smaller pan sizes, some of the dishes in the back of the buffet were a little difficult to get to
4. The restaurant is set behind a gas station, so you won’t see it when you get off the highway right away
5. Nothing else was bad!

Lai Inn
9350 Ensign Ave S.
Bloomington, MN 55438


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