Bad economy? What bad economy? Restaurants keep opening and opening.
Here are the places where I've been eating recently:
Sometimes, the best food is at the places you least expect. That was the case at Sosa Foods, a tiny Puerto Rican dive inside a divey convenience store. People sit at the communal table or the four tall seats at the counter eating great potato-crusted pork chops, hot buffalo wings, crisp chicken tenders and mofongo, a wonderful fragrant bowl of mashed plantains, shrimp and so much garlic that just thinking about it makes me want to reach for an Altoid.
Service is friendly, the food comes out in a timely manner and get this: Nothing is more than $8.
Sosa Foods, 3909 Minnehaha Ave., Minneapolis; 612-728-9642. Open for lunch and dinner daily.
WhichWich in Highland Village is a youthful version of Potbelly - lighter, louder, perkier and not as focused. In addition to 50 types of customizable sandwiches, the fast-casual sub-sandwich chain also offers salads, chips, cookies, malts and shakes.
Fill out your order on a brown paper bag, hand it to the cashier and pay. That bag later returns with your order inside. Options include just about any sandwich filling you could think of - hummus, avocado, olives, pork, tuna, bacon. A BLT came with chopped pieces of bacon instead of slices, but the bread was toasted and the tomatoes had flavor. A custom chocolate-and-banana malt was so thick the straw stood on its own. Next time, I'll pass on the mediocre brownie, the Rice Krispies bar and the skimpy portion of pepper-flavored house chips. But the sandwiches are just the thing if you're in a hurry and don't want to spend a lot of money.
Which Wich, 2073 Ford Parkway, St. Paul; 651-328-8044; whichwich.com. Open for lunch and dinner daily.
You're barking up the wrong tree if you think you can't get a decent hot dog in the downtown St. Paul skyway. The former Shanley's Corner in the Alliance Bank Center food court is now the Dog House, specializing in a dozen kinds of dogs, including Hawaiian, Chicago, mac 'n' cheese, chili and dog in heat (cheese with jalapenos). The hot dogs themselves are quite tasty (they're Nathan's), the buns are squishy and the toppings are fresh. They also have soft-serve ice cream, which they use to make root beer floats so good you'll sit up and beg for more.
The Dog House, Alliance Bank Center skyway food court, 56 E. Sixth St., St. Paul; 651-423-6666. Open for lunch Monday through Friday.
Saigon on University Avenue is open again, only it's now called IPho by Saigon. Owner Lisa Bui is out of the picture, and her brothers are running the place. And professionally, I might add. They not only have regular hours now but they also answer the phone and take credit cards.
The menu is large, but the thing to get here is pho. I went with a small bowl of the noodle soup with shrimp, a new item, and it was plenty to eat and satisfying as always. I also got the spring rolls, but they were nothing special. I was going to get a couple of banh mi because the sub sandwiches are another thing Saigon is known for. But after I finished my soup, I couldn't eat another bite. It's a good excuse to go back. And this time, when I get there, I know the restaurant will be open.
IPho by Saigon, 704 W. University Ave., St. Paul; 651-225-8751. Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday.
Eli's East is a brand-new spinoff of the longstanding Eli's on 12th and Hennepin in downtown Minneapolis. Judging from a Saturday brunch crowd, this Northeast Minneapolis branch is just what the neighborhood needs. The room is comfortable, the food is good and there's a full bar along with a patio just waiting for the weather to warm.
The cooking is trendy eclectic ("quinoa scrambled eggs," "honey soy wings with Sriracha aioli"). At brunch, the menu also covers the basics - omelets, hash, French toast, oatmeal. Eggs Benedict is offered three ways - with steak, Canadian bacon or a turkey patty - and a delicious fried-egg sandwich is served on toasted sourdough.
But considering the fried-egg sandwich includes plenty of applewood smoked bacon, it seemed weird for the server to ask if I would like to order a little protein to go with it. Never mind. Who cares if a server is a little ditzy when the coffee is good and there's so much good food to eat?
Eli's East, 815 Hennepin Ave. E., Minneapolis; 612-331-0031; elisfoodandcocktails.com. Open for lunch and dinner daily and brunch on weekends.
Frozen yogurt is making a comeback. Menchie's on Cleveland Avenue, just north of Ford Parkway in St. Paul, is the chain's first Minnesota location. If you've been to Freeziac at Mall of America, you know the drill: Mix and match yogurt flavors and toppings, and then weigh and pay. At Menchie's, about 75 yogurt flavors are on rotation, including snickerdoodle (tasted like cotton candy), French silk (supersweet) and red velvet cake (more like the batter and not the finished cake). But you can make up your own mind. Menchie's is generous with samples - you're free to try each and every flavor.
Menchie's Frozen Yogurt, 750 S. Cleveland Ave., St. Paul; 651-797-6428; menchies.com. Open daily.
Small Bites are first glances - not intended as definitive reviews - of new or changed restaurants. Find more small bites and restaurant tips on our FourSquare page. Pioneer Press restaurant critic Kathie Jenkins can be reached at 651-228-5585 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at twitter.com/JenkinsCritic.