There are plenty of city dwellers who pooh-pooh restaurants out of sight of a skyline. And while it’s true that most dynamic dining is happening in the cities while the suburbs tend to be flooded with mediocre chains, there’s a new trend of local independent eateries with an urban edge opening in the suburbs in hopes of snaring a share of eaters before they drive downtown.
Prairie Ale House was maybe a bit ahead of its time when it opened, and then closed, in a former Eden Prairie Timber Lodge Steakhouse, but it had the right idea. Luckily, the space was then claimed by Scott Foster and Pat Woodring, who softened the edge but kept it cool. The bar area was expanded, the kitchen opened up, and a wood-burning/rotisserie oven was installed front and center. It’s now a buzzing beer and bourbon hang with dishes such as Zac’s burger with taleggio and bacon jam, thin and chewy pizzas, pot roast sliders, and housemade chip-crusted Tater Tots with bacon ketchup. There’s a decent run of craft beers, plus a nicely rounded list of whiskies, one of which is a house-aged apple bourbon. This has turned into a place that is a nice cross between family friendly and adult clubhouse. 16396 Wagner Way, Eden Prairie, 952-934-4545, tavern4and5.com
Streetz American Grill
“Street food” is definitely a hot topic right now, and this fast-casual restaurant is trying to give you a reason to skip the food trucks. Debuting in Bloomington earlier this year in a former Denny’s, the second spot opened just last month in Hopkins. Both spaces are sleek and concrete, with that light industrial feel and a cool graphic design theme carried throughout the décor and food packaging. It feels very put together and ready for launch. The food is surprising, I’ll say that right now. The burger is legit: a rightly sized patty that is a bit thicker than thin and ordered by temp, which came correctly cooked every time. The bun is toasty and almost brioche-like, the toppings are fresh and for real, and there isn’t one priced higher than $7. There’s also a short list of dogs and sausages, Philly cheese steaks, and gyros, plus a roundup of hand-cut smothered fries. It’s the attention to detail here that does it. You can see that the basil is freshly chopped on the truffle fries, the chili on the New York Coney dog isn’t from a can, and the avocado on your Cali burger is an actual fresh hunk instead of the old, mashy, fridge-burned yuck you get at other quick-serves. Streetz is still new and figuring stuff out, but this might be one to watch for your own neighborhood. 1200 W. 98th St., Bloomington, 952-888-1411; 415 17th Ave. N., Hopkins, 952-217-4406, streetzgrill.com
Up Blaine way, where you have to pass every big-box store you can imagine, there’s a new joint with corrugated metal siding, exposed lighting, craft beer, a huge patio, and bocce. This one is definitely more of a tavern in the sense that the bar and high-tops overtake the main room, and there are plenty of flat-screens blaring around. But amid its Little Caesars and Ultra Tan neighbors, it stands out. Sure, it carries some Miller products, but it also pours Clown Shoes Galactica, a couple of Surly beers, and brews like a dry-hopped saison from Brash called Cold Ass Honkey, among others. Burgers come wrapped in parchment paper in a paper boat and are generous for the less than $9 price. A chili burger, though not as spicy as promised, came with a perfectly runny egg for a surprising mash-up, and the French onion burger with gruyere on sourdough was a messy flavor bomb (ask for pink, otherwise they’re cooked mid-well). Tacos are fresh, especially the smoky carnitas and the fun fried avocado, and the market sausage piled with whatever you want is a big fat snappy bite. 12530 NE Ulysses St., Blaine, 763-710-4804, bluzysroadside.com