Marla's Caribbean Cuisine

Twin Cities, Minnesota


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If you grew up in a small town, like me, you may love living in the city but find the personalized aspects of such a life often absent. Marla's not only offers wonderful food but is a family run business that cares about every single customer who walks through their door and it shows. I was there on a recent CAA dine-out and ordered a curry dish with tofu and veggies, make that Minnesota mild on the spice please :-) It was delish! And served by the daughter of the owner, who was friendly and very attentive. After our meal, Marla, the owner stopped by our table to ask how we liked everything. I found this gesture to be most kind and made me want to go back all the more. Not only that, but she also prepared a special vegan dessert for all of us that was yummy! Not many other food establishments would work that hard to make sure you're well taken care of. I will most definitely be going back to try some of the other items on the menu and enjoy more warm hospitality such as that. A few caveats... Marla's is definitely a neighborhood restaurant and although the ambiance is "warm" it's far from fancy and feels much like being in a big dining room of someone's house. Also, you may have to wait a little while for your food -- I get the feeling the kitchen gets easily overwhelmed and may need to upgrade at some point to accommodate the popularity/demand for their restaurant. Lastly, no alcohol is available :-( Marla's is still well worth a trip and you can always go to some fun bar before/after your meal (or both!) Thanks for a wonderful experience, Marla! Cheers!

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I enjoy the food, it's affordable with large portion sizes, and the flavors are interesting and subtle. There are a lot of vegan options, and the staff know what's what.

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UPDATE: The service at Marla's is still extremely slow; I was there with a friend, and we were one of only two occupied tables in the restaurant, and yet it took nearly an hour for our food to arrive, and our waitress barely bothered to stop by our table, except for the initial order-taking, and finally the bill payment. The decor has improved slightly, though it's still a dive.

The food is still decent, but missing something to put it into higher-grade territory. Maybe it needs more spice or fresher vegetables? We had a chowmein with tofu ($8), which was good, but needed more spice for my likes. Also, the sauce was too watery. We also shared a stew/brown-down ($8) which was a bland stew served with herbed rice and red beans. The rice was good, but the stew was only passable. Make sure to request your meals be made vegan; I'm not sure what they use that's not vegan, but our waitress made it seem like there might be some hidden dairy in the mix.

However, the highlight of the meal for me was the "doubles" ($2). These are fried pastries filled with chickpeas and two types of sauces. I found the mixture of the tangy and spicy sauces, along with the semi-sweet, fluffy pastry, to be a wonderful combination. If anything, I'd recommend going for the doubles alone.

ORIGINAL REVIEW: This new Marla's restaurant is a nice addition to the Indo-Caribbean fare already around. My Jerk Tofu with dalpourie was super-spicy (maybe too spicy, even for this Indian-American) and extremely filling. It was basically a Caribbean burrito---lightly fried tortilla stuffed with onions, cabbage, green peppers and a spongy, fluffy type of tofu, spiced with black pepper and who knows what else. It was cheap at $8, especially considering the quantity of food.

My problem with the food, however tasty it was, is that a dish like this quickly gets boring after seven or eight bites. There's no surprise left to the flavors you'll encounter. And the portion size is so large that it becomes hard to justify eating the whole thing. Sadly, I don't think a dish like this would re-heat well, mostly because the tortilla would get soggy (I have the same boredom problem with the other major Indo-Caribbean joint, Harry Singh's). Smaller portion sizes, and maybe offering a side dish or salad along with the main plate, would make the food here more interesting.

The service was friendly but very slow and inattentive. I finally had to get up and force the attention of an employee so I could pay my bill.

This place has no ambience. Though it's only a few months old, it looks completely decayed and drab. The furniture is all old (and not in a retro, funky way) and the restaurant itself is littered with debris and odds and ends. The place looks like a cluttered, dingy 1970s wood-paneled rec-room, temporarily converted into a space for a birthday party. It was depressing to be in there.

Also, while I appreciate that Marla's opened up in an economically-depressed area, this also means that I'm not sure how safe the neighborhood is. There are a lot of shady-looking characters at that corner and I felt extremely worried about my bike, which I locked to a bus stop pole in front of the restaurant. I was constantly checking up on it. If you're coming in a group, make sure to take a car, as that pole is the only place to "safely" lock up your bike, and even then you should keep a close eye on it.

This place has lots of room to improve but, on a whole, it's a good addition to Minneapolis.

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I enjoyed my first meal at Marla's. I had the jerk tofu with the roti wrap, along with some lentils on the side. The tofu was very spicy, and, as other reviewers have written, it gets stronger the more you eat it. The side of lentils, on the other hand, had a mild, sweet flavor with accents of tamarind. The roti was freshly made and an excellent complement to either dish, and I ordered the roti on the side instead of as a wrap, so that I could scoop up both.

Along with the meal, I had samosas as appetizers, and they had a subtle taste to them. The hummus was better than average, I thought. Someone else was nice enough to share their fried plantains with me, and it helped take the edge off of the spice.

If you go with someone else, I'd recommend getting one spicy dish (such as the jerk) and one non-spicy dish (such as the veggie stew / brown down) and splitting them to cut down on the spice. Otherwise, you can also request the jerk to be made milder, but I liked the spicy version so much that I couldn't imagine having it any other way.

Overall, I had a great time at Marla's. It's a fun, small place worth going to.

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I am an absolute fan of Marla's. Her Indian restaurant was absolutely excellent and she will be missed in the Uptown area. But I was so happy to have found her not too far from her original restaurant. Her new restaurant features many different taste for everyone. Her Vegetarian is outstanding. Try her veg roti, veg pelau, samosas, you know everything is a winner.
Her place is quaint and warm. Marla is also an excellent cook and has a personality like fireworks. She makes everyone feel very welcome at the restaurant. Many days you would find her entire family working the restaurant. Keep in mind that Marla cooks every meal to order and everything is not only freshly made, but very healthy. So my friends if you are looking for fast food this may not be the place for you. God bless and happy eating. Remember Karma!

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Marla's has two locations - one is Indian and Caribbean, and the other is only Caribbean food. This is the Caribbean only location. The roti is wonderful, and the jerk is very spicy. The service was a bit slow, but I will definitely be going back.

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Good. Was better the first few times we went, after that no matter how spicy we asked (Even going for "Indian Hot") it kept getting sweeter and more like ketchup for every sauce. No plans to go back, there are better Indian restaurants in the TC but def worth a look, especially if you don't care how spicy the dish is.

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