Bite of the Week is a weekly feature showcasing an exceptional meal or dish, curated by The Growler.
In these modern times, we have to get increasingly used to decoupling food quality (and value) from venue. There are white tablecloth restaurants in beautiful settings that provide supremely overpriced and objectively lousy food, and there are gas stations where you can eat like a king if you just do as the locals do. (Everything from terrific cheese and sausages in Wisconsin to ravishingly good poke in Hawaii with a universe of flavor in between.)
With that understood, it’s worth getting past whatever reasonable objections you might have and trying the sushi at the Market Grille restaurant at the Eagan Hy-Vee. (Other Hy-Vees have Market Grilles, too, but we’re not vouching for those, as we haven’t tried them.) Eagan’s Market Grille isn’t a co-op-style buffet, or a hot food counter, or even a food court: it’s a classic sit-down restaurant complete with comfortable booths, servers, and a “Please Wait to be Seated” sign.
Minnesota Twitter has been chatting up Hy-Vee for months (years?) and the fact that a West Des Moines-based grocery chain has aspirations to serve sushi seemed provocative enough to warrant a visit. We tried something simple enough: a cooked option, the Tempura Shrimp Roll, which features batter-fried pieces of shrimp and sliced cucumber pieces rolled in seaweed and then covered in rice. It’s normally priced at $9 for 10 rolls, which is very reasonable. But we happened to stumble in on a Wednesday and happily discovered that Wednesdays feature half-priced sushi, meaning the whole plate was a mere $4.50.
The roll itself was surprisingly polished. The ratio of rice to cucumber to shrimp was excellent. The tempura coating was remarkably crispy and ample. The rice was cooked correctly, neither gummy nor unpleasantly chewy. And the accompanying unagi sauce was not merely a blast of sugar—it had a salty tartness to it that gave the dish some real depth. We’ve had plenty of shrimp tempura rolls in restaurants that don’t rise to this level, and few locally that we’ve liked better.
Whether quality sushi in a Midwestern grocery store is a sign of progress or a sign of civilizational collapse is open to personal interpretation; that Eagan’s Hy-Vee offers a hell of a bargain on Wednesdays is not.
The Dish: Tempura Shrimp Roll, $9 ($4.50 on Wednesdays)
The Place: Market Grille at Hy-Vee, 1500 Central Park Commons, Eagan
The Reason: The value of 10 pieces of well-made shrimp tempura sushi for $9 is undeniable; at $4.50, it’s outrageously good