Best of Food + Dining 2013

Best New Kid Food: Parka
Best New Kid Food: Parka

New Finds

Best New Restaurant: Burch Steak & Pizza Bar

They made it look easy. When word first broke that a steak house was in the works from James Beard award–winning chef Isaac Becker and his front-of-the-house guru (and beautiful wife) Nancy St. Pierre, it seemed like a no-brainer. A steak house from the folks behind the undeniably tasty food and easy, friendly service at nationally lauded 112 Eatery and Bar La Grassa, in the former Burch Pharmacy space? Of course!

This being Becker, he wasn’t content to merely grill steaks; he had thought it through and taken it to its logical conclusion of connoisseurship, offering guests their choice of corn-finished, grass-fed, domestic Wagyu, or genuine Japanese Kobe. He had conquered the world of eastern European dumplings, from pierogi to schupfnudel. And in the basement, he debuted an adventurous, grown-up pizzeria— with a stellar wine list. Of course!

But in fact, there was nothing obvious or easy about it. Burch Steak reinvented that utterly midwestern institution, the steak house, transforming it into something thoroughly now—and that’s why it has been the hottest reservation in town since it opened and why it’s the best new restaurant of the year. 1933 Colfax Ave. S., Mpls., 612-843-1515, burchrestaurant.com

Best New Coffee Haunt: Spyhouse Northeast

It seems like an afterthought, stuck on the end of an old warehouse, but that only contributes to its cool factor. The Northeast creative set has claimed the third Spyhouse location for its high-quality coffee drinks and rustic-modern environs. That Spyhouse roasts its own beans onsite just makes it more compelling—and great smelling. 945 NE Broadway St., Mpls., 612-345-4348, spyhousecoffee.com

Best New Foodie Trend: Cocktail Dinners

As Minnesota transitions from land of the overwhelming beer boom to land of the craft distillery, what better way to celebrate than by giving cocktails the place they deserve at the table beside our finest foods? Some of the leaders in this good trend include Sanctuary, where you can pair a tasting flight of small cocktails with chef Patrick Atanalian’s tasting menu any night of the week; Eat Street Social, which has periodic full-throttle Bittercube Bitters–led all-cocktail dinners; and The Bachelor Farmer, where chef Paul Berglund and bartender Pip Hanson work together to create cocktails made with food-friendly ingredients like sherry and housemade pistachio syrup or local apple cordial. Who says you can’t enjoy your food because you’re enjoying some higher-octane alcohol? In Minnesota we have our drinks and eat, too. Sanctuary, 903 Washington Ave. S., Mpls., 612-339-5058, sanctuaryminneapolis.com; Eat Street Social, 18 W. 26th St., Mpls., 612-767-6850, eatstreetsocial.com; The Bachelor Farmer, 50 2nd Ave. N., Mpls., 612-206-3920, thebachelorfarmer.com

Best New Pizza Joint: Pig Ate My Pizza

The big worry that arises when chefs adopt junk food as their canvas is that they’ll take all the fun out of it and create a $100 version that’s pretty snooty and inaccessible. Not the Travailians who debuted this pizza joint this year. Sure, pizza, under their brush, is racked with the highest-quality ingredients, whether it be the BLT pizza or the green eggs and ham pizza. And it’s created with incredibly modern chef-driven techniques. But c’mon, it’s served to you by a chef in a chicken costume who engages you in a drinking game. Yeah, no fun. 4154 Broadway Ave. W., Robbinsdale, 763-535-1131, facebook.com/pigatemypizza

Best New Kid Food: Parka

Just because your kid dreams of buttered noodles every day doesn’t mean you can’t eat something with wasabi fish eggs—and Parka is here to prove it. For the littles: $6 kids’ meals like silky noodles with butter-sauteed veggies and a glass of milk and a cookie. For you: deviled eggs crowned with a dollop of wasabi tobiko, an Indeed Brewing beef stew with farro, a buzz from the electric-pink espresso machine, and the best banana cream pie in the world. 4021 E. Lake St., Mpls., 612-886-1585, parkampls.com

Best New Neighborhood Joint: The Lynn on Bryant

In the current dining-scape where shiny new restaurants open with lots of hard surfaces and thumping music lifted by loud revelers, there’s a new harangue that eateries are too loud for dining and conversing well. Like the cool girl in the corner with her hand up, The Lynn on Bryant is there as a respite, a sociable dining spot with beautiful French-influenced food in a modern space where the main topic of your conversations doesn’t have to be “What?” 5003 Bryant Ave. S., Mpls., 612-767-7797, thelynnonbryant.com

Best New Dessert: Chocolate Finale

It starts as a giant balloon of chocolate, big as a fishbowl, hollow in the middle, and filled with treats—cakes and small crisp chocolate puffs, sauces and berries, marshmallows and meringues—whatever the chefs are inspired to make, and lots of it. Then they add a sizzling drizzle of liquid nitrogen, and the whole thing arrives at the table burbling like a witch’s cauldron. Then boom! They take a spoon and crack it like a magic egg, revealing the chaos of tasty delights inside. Guaranteed to make a lifelong molecular gastronomy fan of the youngest child or most cynical adult. A lollapalooza sundae too cool for school. Feeds two to four. 2203 44th Ave. N., Mpls., 612-588-2228, victory-44.com

Best New Truck: Hot Indian Foods

From the first day Amol Dixit rolled out his sassy truck serving Indian-Latin smash-ups, the Indurrito (a curry-filled burrito) has been on everyone’s lips. Indi Frites (yes, Indian French fries) are also a hit. Now that he’s pioneered the Indian-something-else mix, we’re dying to see what 2014 will bring—Indichangas? In-bim-bop? If anyone can pull it off, Hot Indian Foods can. hotindianfoods.com

Best New Sushi: Sushi Fix

Let’s start with the first two reasons to trek it out to a Wayzata strip mall for sushi: the ebullient owner everyone calls Billy (real name Enkhbileg Tserenbat) and the fresh fish he has delivered six times a week. But there’s a third reason: a sake collection that rivals any in the city. Good news: Billy’s looking to open a prolific sake bar in 2014. 862 E. Lake St., Wayzata, 952-473-1364, sushifix.net

Best New Veg: Red Hot Brussels Sprouts

The yoga kids are always trying to get us to believe that plants can be as tasty as bacon, but it took Jack Riebel’s Red Hot Brussels Sprouts to make us believe. Seared till black in spots, then united with spicy Buffalo garlic butter, they emerge tangy, earthy, and deep. When they’re out of season, he’ll make Buffalo cauliflower. 1121 Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-238-8888, butcherandtheboar.com

Old Favorites

Best Cocktails: Parlour

There’s no disputing that the cocktail game is being played at a whole new level in town. Mixologists work magic with liquids, outdoing each other by reimagining what can coexist in a glass; everything is new, new, new. At Parlour, the bar in the basement of Borough, that new magic is wrought with something additional that is essentially old, old, old: truly convivial service. Thanks to lead barman Jesse Held, the crew is on the top of its game in creativity and hospitality, which can go a long way for the uninitiated in the ways of bitters, heritage liqueurs, and all things old that are new again. 730 Washington Ave. N., Mpls., 612-354-3135, boroughmpls.com

Best Kept Secret Tacos

Remember Speedy Gonzales racing through those Looney Tunes cartoons urging everyone to “¡Ándale! ¡Ándale!”? That’s how we feel about the cheap, fast, great tacos, burritos, and carnitas adobo at gas-station resto Andale Taqueria & Mercado. 7700 Nicollet Ave. S., Richfield, 612-259-8868, andaletaqueriaymercado.com

Best Kept Secret Pizza

When Sun Street Breads bakery-cafe in Kingfield stopped serving dinner, many were sad. But owner Solveig Tofte brought back some sunshine by launching Monday pizza nights that feel like neighborhood dinner parties. From 6 to 8 pm, pop in for a hand-tossed pie, plus beer and wine. 4600 Nicollet Ave. S., Mpls., 612-354-3414, sunstreetbreads.com

Best Places to Be Inspired

When you’re having writer’s block, or overwhelmed-mom’s block, or I’m-tired-of-winter block, or any-other-thing-that-gets-you-down block, a change of scenery will do you good, and these places have cool scenery all day long:

  1. Parka (parkampls.com)
  2. Cheeky Monkey (cheekymonkeydeli.com)
  3. Aster Cafe (astercafe.com)

Best Sammie: Thanksgiving Sandwich @ The Buttered Tin

This scratch bakery and everyday breakfast and lunch joint opened with a mind-bending Easter ham sandwich, then one-upped itself with the Thanksgiving version: slow-roasted turkey piled with stuffing and topped with mashed potatoes and gravy. It’s the midwestern good life in one unforgettable sandwich. 237 E. 7th St., St. Paul, 651-224-2300, thebutteredtin.com

Best Wine List: Terzo

Italian wine is its own world, one we’d been missing since D’Amico Cucina closed up shop. Terzo, which means “third,” is the third of the Broders’ restaurants, a wine bar with a to-die-for list of Italian antipasti (ooh, that prosciutto board) and hundreds of Italian bottles. They range from the rustic, chewy peasant pleasers of the boot heel to the pricey, refined options from the boot top. 2221 W. 50th St., Mpls., 612-925-0330, broders.com

Best Ethnic Mash-Up: World Street Kitchen

With the Korean taco came the idea of blending street food to create new exciting fare. WSK is built on the idea of breaking culinary boundaries, exhibited by a couple of Middle Eastern guys excelling at Bangkok burritos, Moroccan fried chicken on biscuits, and Yum Yum rice bowls. 2743 Lyndale Ave. S., Mpls., 612-424-8855, eatwsk.com

Best 'Hood to Get Your Drink On

With the stately, historic Grain Belt building looming over the neighborhood, it makes sense that young brewers are inspired to set up shop in its shadow. With the opening of cutting-edge small-batch brewer Dangerous Man (dangerousmanbrewing.com), laid-back old-worldish Indeed (indeedbrewing.com), and party hall 612 Brew (612brew.com) all within a few miles of each other, the brew district is happily alive and kicking once more.

Best Beer Garden

Best Beer Garden Prove your Minnesnowtan cred by hanging outside at Butcher & The Boar year-round. 1121 Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-238-8888, butcherandtheboar.com

Best Trending Edible: Juicing

Truce Juice (drinktruce.com) in Uptown put juicing on the local map. Then came Zula (zulajuice.com), which delivers fresh-pressed juices right to your door. Bringing the flavor game to a new level, Juice Works (thejuiceworks.net) is wooing the food set with innovative tastes. Whether you juice to cleanse, to detox so you can retox, or just like to drink your veggies, the juice boom has only begun.

Best Breakout Food Star: Amy Thielen

When the news broke that actual real, nice, normal person and real-life Minnesota mom Amy Thielen was going to have a show on the Food Network, no one could believe it. Not even her family. “My aunt said, ‘What’s your schtick going to be?’” Thielen says. It wasn’t that anyone thought she didn’t have the talent—after all, she cooked in New York City, and her book The New Midwestern Table is a brilliant update on authentic local flavors made better with contemporary techniques. But can you succeed in modern food television without schtick? She doesn’t drive a Ferrari. She’s not a pinup with a sauté pan. She’s a normal good person and good cook! Let’s hope this marks a return to food television in the style of Julia Child and Jacques Pepin, when schtick was secondary to know-how and the genuine urge to share food—in this instance, midwestern food as we know it to really be: true, normal, and good.

Best Surprise: FIKA and American Swedish Institute

Seriously, with our Nordic stoicism, who would have thought that a Swedish museum and its atrium café would become a major contender in the dining and nightlife scene? FIKA puts up beautifully curated plates of simple New Nordic cuisine, and the institute has invited itself to the party by throwing weekly happy hours, giant crayfish dinners, midsummer bonfires, and an adults-only Halloween bash. The New Nordic is looking sexy. 2600 Park Ave. S., Mpls., 612-871-4907, asimn.org

Best Retro Love: The Bundt Pan

The Bundt pan is about as classic as hot dish and has long been a point of state pride. Created in 1946 by St. Louis Park’s Nordic Ware—a company that West Elm put on its “Shop the Midwest” map—it’s yet another Minnesota heritage item enjoying renewed national interest. nordicware.com

Best Way to Start Your Day

In the pancakes vs. eggs war, the savory waffle at Birchwood Cafe is the best tiebreaker around. 3311 E. 25th St., Mpls., 612-722-4474, birchwoodcafe.com

Best Friend to Goat: Ian Gray @ The Gray House

Goat is having its day, what with a goat burger debuting at the ballpark this year. But once you’ve dipped your toe into the kiddie pool (get it?), head to The Gray House to truly understand the beauty of goat meatballs, pasta with goat ragu, and other sophisticated renditions. 610 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-823-4338 thegrayhouseeats.com