Boga Ice Cream & Burger has opened at the former Dari-ette Drive-In in East Side St. Paul, swapping the restaurant’s iconic Italian flag trim for a bold red stripe. Instead of meatballs subs and spaghetti, the new restaurant is serving a classic drive-in menu of burgers, fried foods, and ice cream.
Father-son duo Loay and Layth Abukhdair run Boga — their family also owns Afandina Cafe, a Columbia Heights favorite for Mediterranean food. The cheeseburgers patties, Layth says, are made from fresh ground beef that’s weighed and shaped in-house. Ever so pink in the middle, they’re layered with the requisite gooey American cheese, lettuce, onion, and tomato. There’s also a specialty gyro burger, made with tender, buttery beef, smeared with cool tzatziki, and finished with the same classic burger toppings. Laythe says they plan to eventually add mushroom swiss burgers and pizza burgers to the menu.
As for the ice cream — it’s gelato, technically speaking, more dense and rich thanks to its slow churn and higher milk to cream ratio. Boga serves a few classic Italian flavors like pistachio and hazelnut. “We have the flavor stracciatella, which a lot of people don’t know about,” says Laythe. “Then yesterday someone came in jumping with joy when they saw the flavors. The only time they’d ever seen it before was in Italy.” (Stracciatella has a vanilla base with slivers of chocolate throughout, a bit like a chocolate chunk ice cream.) Burgers aside, there’s a case to be made for pairing a scoop with an order of cheese curds or the seasoned crinkle-cut fries. There are also three tart fruit sorbets on the menu, plus strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla milkshakes, and coffee drinks like lattes and espresso.
Laythe says the restaurant will have a grand opening sometime in the coming weeks once the roads open up — Minnehaha Avenue East is currently under construction. But even with car traffic diminished, he says, the response from the community has been tremendous. “Everyone in the community has been extremely nice and extremely patient. I couldn’t have asked for a better kind of neighborhood or community to be placed in,” he says.