Twin Cities Insider Eats: 2012 Critics’ Picks

The best food nobody knows about: Our dining team reveals its black book of foodie secrets.

Twin Cities Insider Eats: 2012 Critics' Picks

Breakfast Joints


Earthy Vegetarian

The oldest collectively run eatery in town has been dishing up solid vegetarian-friendly breakfasts since 1974. Tofu scrambles, eggs, and fried potatoes are served all day. 2129 Franklin Ave. S., Mpls., 612-332-1011, sewardcafempls.net



In India, people don’t start the day with cornflakes. They eat spicy dosas, thin crepes enclosing a chili filling, served with fresh cilantro chutney for dipping. One bite—Whoa, that’s hot!—and now you’re awake. 601 Marquette Ave., Ste. 200, Mpls., 612-605-8242, ipotli.com


Old-School Eats

Nostalgia hovers over clusters of blue-hairs sipping coffee and construction workers wolfing eggs. The waitresses call you “hon.” Cinnamon buns cover a plate. 1720 Glenwood Ave., Mpls., 612-377-9460


It’s in the Crust

If you had a magical, flaky crust recipe that was a jewel of a family secret, you too might use it on beautifully custardy quiches and sturdy meat pasties, just to extend your reach beyond pie. 63 W. Winifred St., St. Paul, 651-228-1245, jerabeks.com


Good Morning Pickled Herring

Swedes sick of lingonberries can hop the border and choose the kielbasa with roasted potatoes, spinach, and eggs, or the lox and pickled herring platter. Have it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if you like. 2264 Como Ave., St. Paul, 651-645-9181, finnishbistro.com


The Morning Hash Bar

On Sunday morning, it’s hard to return to the scene of Saturday’s crime, but the Lebanese red hash with saffron tomatoes, roasted potatoes, veg, and red hollandaise might be reason enough. 6 W. 6th St., St. Paul, 612-285-3112, amsterdambarandhall.com


Breakfast in Cuba

Victor’s is the size of a postage stamp, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in flavor and offerings. It’s easily the most diverse breakfast menu in town with a focus on Cuban/Caribbean flavors. Great dishes include flavorsome Cuban hash, a breakfast version of picadillo with eggs, mango waffles, fried yuca and eggs, and the create-your-own-omelet section with chorizo and creole sauce options. Plus, you’ve gotta love a place that automatically prepares eggs over easy. Don’t miss the guava jam on your warm bread of choice. Assume there will be a wait, as the place fills up quickly. 3756 Grand Ave. S., Mpls., 612-827-8948, victors1959cafe.com —P.D.


International Day Breakers

I know you normally keep your kebabbing to the evening hours, but Shish gives lots of reasons to switch it up. Breakfast here can be waffles and omelets, but if you play it safe-American, you’ll miss combos like the Breakfast From My Village, which includes brightly spiced fava beans with Greek yogurt, falafel, tomatoes, cucumbers, and hot tea. Chaksuka is another game-changing day-starter with grilled peppers, roasted tomatoes, kalamata olives, feta, one scrambled egg, and one poached egg. So is the Shish Breakfast: chicken shawarma with tzatziki and poached eggs on toasted pitas. Or have the oatmeal. Your choice. 1668 Grand Ave., St. Paul, 651-690-2212, shishongrand.com —S. M.


Nice Warm Biscuits

Butter Café’s spirit straddles the Mason-Dixon Line with its menu of biscuits and charm. The café’s fat, golden biscuits are quixotically dense yet airy, with a buttermilk tang. Order them drenched with the house sausage gravy or fried eggs and griddled ham. Get here early when they’re hot from the oven so the fluffy interior steams butter right off the knife. Everything here is fresh and made from scratch: the migas with potatoes, the huevos burrito, the French toast with cinnamon-raisin bread, the hearty oatmeal pancakes, and the housemade granola. But it’s those biscuits, Southern and sunny, that make this joint so warm and fresh. 3544 Grand Ave. S., Mpls., 612-521-7401, butterbakerycafe.com —B. D.


Kitsch Kitchen & Killer Waffles

The exterior says “residential dentist office circa 1974.” The interior screams “Mrs. Butterworth’s disco party on acid” with walls decked in paint-by-number art and hundreds of (spooky) Precious Moments figurines staring at you with their giant droopy eyes. What more can you ask for in a breakfast diner? How about plentiful hot, fresh coffee and a pumpkin buckwheat waffle that’s all crisp on the edges and soft in the middle? Or a short stack of buttermilk cakes slathered with lingonberry butter? This place is so chill and so cool, don’t be surprised to find yourself plotting for a coveted seat at the counter. 5204 Bloomington Ave. S., Mpls., 612-824-4794 mrmosaico.com/hotplatediner