The trend that won’t die seems to be small plates, the more-than-a-bite dishes that used to be called appetizers. They crowd menus all over town (heck, TGI Fridays just released a small plates menu), are the grazing platform for cocktailers who don’t want to commit to one giant entrée, and seem to garner the chef’s most creative attentions. Recently, two small-plate-focused restaurants opened in south Minneapolis.
Spill the Wine moved from its downtown location to a rustic-urban refinished space in Uptown. While it was once touted as a wine bar, this version pays more attention to the kitchen. There are bigger plates and a tasting menu as other options, but the small plates offer creative, winning bites that play well with the healthy list of international by-the-glass wines.
Braised Lamb Neck: Neck just doesn’t get enough play, but this tender and earthy braise is balanced by a bright nettle pesto.
Gnocchi: Little puffs of potato pasta are not heavy and come decked with king crab and just a bit of Parm and oregano.
Octopus: Given the treatment of the wood-fired grill, these little beauties come out smoky and tender with just a bit of crunchy char on the ends.
Sopes: Sweet potato sopes are not always found in these parts, especially with smoky pulled chicken and a vibrant salsa verde.
Prawns: These are little flavor bombs with a brown butter sauce, crunchy-tart pickled piparras peppers, and a “secret spice.”
901 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-339-3388, spillthewinempls.com
Rincón 38 is the new tapas place from Hector Ruiz, the man behind the now-shuttered El Meson. Tapas are the original small plates, and while Ruiz does a great job of bringing authentic and traditional Spanish tapas to the table, he also plays with French and Italian influences to give tradition a sweet little boost. This small place is sunny, warm, and inviting, and it’s the very definition of a place where you want to meet for a glass of wine and a few bites with friends.
Albondigas: These small, spicy, peppery meatballs are in a little pot of rich tomato broth that is perfect for dipping the accompanying bread.
Coliflor: Pub-battered and fried, the saffron-poached cauliflower becomes a bar snack with a drizzle of citrus aioli.
Pulpo: Slowly braised octopus is cut into bites along with Spanish chorizo and hunks of potatoes.
Piquillo de Atun: A traditional and beautifully composed bite of a roasted piquillo pepper is stuffed with Spanish tuna and set atop a crisp toast.
3801 Grand Ave. S., Mpls., 612-824-4052, rincon38.com