★ BEST FOOD-FOCUSED HAPPY HOUR ★
333 S. 7th St., Ste. 190,
Those seeking a happier hour of snacky small plates can dig on the great deals, but the regular menu is stacked with even more small plates worth passing. Why limit yourself?
★ BEST BUZZ OF THE YEAR ★
Butcher and the Boar
1121 Hennepin Ave.,
Minnesota has long been the land of the power steak house—which is odd given that our combination of great corn-growing lands and harsh winters makes us prime hog-raising territory, first and foremost. Into this gap of culinary logic rushed a man unafraid—chef Jack Riebel, a cheerful and often brilliant cook who has been knocking around top restaurants for years. The Butcher and the Boar debuted with all guns blazing—blazing with porkety pork hammy goodness. Think wild boar housemade ham, double-cut Berkshire pork chops with blueberry pecan relish, stuffed pig’s foot, bourbon Fresno pepper sausage, and a dozen more porky moments of bacon-tinged inspiration, including the best footlong hot dog in the history of the Twin Cities, ornately festooned with pickled veggie perky doodads of wonder. Beside the pork, there’s the other great attainment of corn: bourbon. Single barrel, top shelf, well mixed, or any way you like it. In addition to pork, B&B offers excellent steaks, oceanic inspirations, and delightful Southern-inspired veggies, but it’s really the boldness of the whole darn thing that makes Butcher and the Boar the restaurant of the year—who said the good life leads to the steak house? In Minnesota now, the fullest flower is at the pork house.
★ PARENT'S PET ★
5557 Xerxes Ave.,
Just get the little angel a pepperoni pie whilst you chew down on your Korean BBQ beauty, because here all children are above average and well behaved.
★ TOP COOKING PLAYGROUND ★
2203 44th Ave N.,
It’s a good thing for all of us when cooks get bored (would we know what Sriracha was otherwise?) and an even better thing when they have an arena like this to play in and a counter at which we can watch.
★ BEST NON-HOSTILE TAKEOVER ★
4257 Nicollet Ave.,
What happens when a smallish neighborhood restaurant evolves into an iconic city star for local farm foods, launching its chef onto the national scene, which eventually steals him away from said restaurant? Well, some people mourn and never come back because it could never be the same. But if the neighborhood is lucky, and this year has proven that Kingfield is indeed lucky, then some plucky new owners emerge and love it like it was originally loved, and work it like they live there, and cook from the bottom of their souls with skill and technique because it’s that important to them. And if they happen to carry out a bit of the original mission of locally sourced food, that’s great.
★ HOT TREND ★
In the old school days when chefs were tyrants, emperors of their stainless domain, uttering the word “collaboration” might have seemed insane. Not today in this connected community of sharing we’ve got going on. Travail (facebook.com/travailkitchen) is one big clubhouse of collaboration that seems to be clicking. And former alums Nick O’Leary and Tyler Shipton are taking that vibe to their own staff at Borough (boroughmpls.com). Recently we saw the old guard at the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant (dakotacooks.com) hire Derik Moran and Kristin Tyborski as co-head chefs, and even the D’Amicos are in on it, featuring other local chefs at Gather (gatherbydamico.com) in the Walker Art Center. When Grand Café (grandcafempls.com) lost Ben Pichler earlier this year, owners Dan and Mary Hunter decided two heads were better than one and brought in Jim McIntosh and Wayne Schroeder. With all the creative juices flowing, we hope this trend keeps kicking.
★ BLOW YOUR TASTE MEMORY ★
The Bachelor Farmer
50 2nd Ave. N.,
Nostalgia is great and all that, but isn’t it nice to be able to erase some of your grandma’s dishes? Paul Berglund’s version of ham ’n’ pea soup replaces, and rightly so.
★ MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED ★
The World Street Kitchen
2743 Lyndale Ave. S., Ste. 5,
Food trucks have been the big news in the Twin Cities the past few years, but can mighty oaks grow from these little experimental food acorns? One is sprouting: World Street Kitchen, the south Minneapolis brick-and-mortar offshoot to the food truck of the same name helmed by Sameh Wadi, chef-owner of Saffron. Everything great about food trucks is here—the footloose improvisation (Moroccan fried chicken biscuit?!), the everyday price point (most everything less than $10), the casual jangle of big ideas, tossed off well (blinged-out guacamole!). More significantly, though, everything good about actual restaurants is here, too: Tables! Beer! Bathrooms! Open in the rain! The knee-jerk reaction of anyone walking in the door at WSK is, Oh, the new Chipotle. But WSK is much more interesting and significant than that. It’s chef-exuberant but real-world practical, making it the post-Crave restaurant we vote most likely to expand to Tulsa and Los Angeles—which will show them a Minnesota nice they never expected.
★ BEST HOME COOKING (NOT YOUR OWN) ★
Lucia's To-Go Roast Chicken Dinner
1432 W. 31st St.,
Just smile and nod thanks as your guests exclaim, “This is amazing! The best roast chicken ever!” while they lick their fingers and gnaw each bone. Don’t tell them you didn’t drive to the market, stuff fresh herbs under the bird’s skin, and baste the afternoon away. Don’t say you didn’t peel and mash all those potatoes to creamy, fluffy perfection. Don’t confess that you didn’t toss the verdant greens with rough maple mustard vinaigrette or that the tender, flaky piecrust loaded with plump, tangy apples isn’t yours. OK? The best homemade food isn’t always made at home.
★ BEST HOMETOWN HERO ★
289 E. 5th St.,
St. Paul, 651-699-3536,
Well cripes, how did it happen that a curmudgeonly guy from New York ended up as the culinary heir
★ BEER & FOOD NIRVANA EAST VS. WEST ★
to Garrison Keillor? Who cares. Nobody loves the local land and all it has to offer more than Lenny Russo.
EAST: Zenbox Izakaya
602 Washington Ave. S.,
If you want to enjoy small plates and unique beers while escaping the boring sameness of the popping crop of gastropubs, hit Zenbox Izakaya. The beer pairings have included the first Midwest on-tap availability of Asahi beer—the top-selling lager in Japan—plus a seasonal selection of Hitachino beer. As for the snacking part of the equation, there is an extensive list of salaryman favorites such as grilled pork belly, tender beef tataki, and even shu mai tempura. From Sapporo to Kirin, Asian beers are brewed to go with tasty food, as are their chosen local brews, such as Surly and Indeed—and that’s the principle put forward at Zenbox.