Best of the Twin Cities 2011

150 things to be proud of because they're ours

Eat + Drink

A year's worth of eating and drinking brought us to some tasty conclusions

Friend To The Drinker: North Star Bartender’s Guild

Who’s responsible for the big upswing in the quality and depth of the local mixology scene? The North Star Bartender’s Guild, for one. Local mixologists have banded together in the name of cocktail perfection and furthering the brotherhood of man (and woman) to form a club you can’t join, alas. You can at least feel like an apprentice by buying the Guild’s new drinks guidebook, Northstar Cocktails, available at mhspress.org. Pictured (L-R): Marvel Bar's Pip Hanson, La Belle Vie's Johnny Michaels, and Iron Bartender winner Nick Kosevich (now owns and operates bitters manufacturer Bittercube in Milwaukee)

Snacking Evolution: Potted Meats

Potted meat was once a way to throw a bunch of minced meat parts in a jar and preserve them (think Spam). Today, highly skilled meatiticians use tasty parts to produce these rich and savory spreads, such as Gather’s potted smoked-whitefish spread and Tilia’s daily changing potted meat, which slathers so nicely on a hunk of crusty bread. Gather, Walker Art Center, 612-253-3410, gatherbydamico.com; Tilia, 2726 W. 43rd St., Mpls., 612-354-2806, tiliampls.com

Food Fight: Carnivore VS. Vegivore

Meat: The gargantuan pig trotter you can special order from The Local is a fatty, crispy, unctuous hunk of animal. 931 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., 612-904-1000, the-local.com

Veggie: The Sunday night vegetarian tasting menu at HauteDish creates veg-centered dishes such as mushroom pate and roasted corn soup that make meat eaters jealous. 119 Washington Ave. N., Mpls., 612-338-8484, haute-dish.com

Mainstreaming Of Luxury Food: Oysters

There’s no doubt that the first person who shucked and sucked down a little beauty was brave. Oysters are no longer a dish of the classes. Meritage (410 St. Peter St., St. Paul, 651-222-5670, meritage-stpaul.com) has one of the best cultivated oyster bars around, and The Lowry (2112 Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-341-2112, thelowryuptown.com) opened in Uptown with a raw bar and oysters Rockefeller on the menu.

Best Food Stops For Light-Rail Riders

38th St. Station—Hiawatha Line: The Cardinal Tavern (612-724-5837, cardinaltavern.com) is a good dive bar with a nice burger; Ted Cook’s 19th Hole BBQ (612-721-2023, tedcooks19thholebbq.com) is among the tops in local ’cue; and Citizen Café (612-729-1122, thecitizencafe.com) cooks up cheffy but humble scratch cooking. The 28th Avenue corner will be the site of the community-owned Smokehouse Brewpub (smokehousebrewpub.com).

Lake St./Midtown Station—Hiawatha Line: To the west you have the wallet-friendly all-you-can-eat Teppanyaki Grill and Buffet (612-728-3838).To the east you have sushi at Midori’s Floating World Cafe (612-721-3011, floatingworldcafe.com), high-quality Indian at Gandhi Mahal (612-729-5222, gandhimahal.com), and even somewhere to grab a growler of craft beer at Harriet Brewing (612-225-2184, harrietbrewing.com).

Victoria Station—Central Corridor: OK, so it isn’t running yet, but what better time than now to support these restaurants while University Avenue gets its LRT on? Head east to Que Nha (651-290-8552) for some tasty pho, followed by Minnesota-Vietnamese eats at Ngon Bistro (651-222-3301, ngonbistro.com), killer wings at the Hickory Hut (651-224-9464), and barbecue just down the block at Big Daddy’s (651-222-2516, bigdaddysbbq-stpaul.com).

Girls' Night: Chicks. Flicks. Fun.

The perfect girly excursion starts at the West End with nails and shopping followed by snacks (sushi and flatbread!) at Crave. Head to the Showplace Icon cinema bar and grab a cocktail for the show. End up at Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar, but never admit to it and delete all Facebook pix. Crave, 952-933-6500, craveamerica.com; Showplace, 800-326-3264, showplaceicon.com; Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar, 763-450-9999, countrybarmn.com

Best Eats For Zombies

12 am: Smelt fries and cheese curds at Red Stag Supperclub. 509 1st Ave. NE, Mpls., 612-767-7766, redstagsupperclub.com

1 am: Gruyere and fried mortadella sandwich at 112 Eatery. 112 N. 3rd St., Mpls., 612-343-7696, 112eatery.com

2 am: Meatball hoagie at Pizza Lucé. Several metro locations, pizzaluce.com

3 am: Pozole at Los Ocampo. Five metro locations including Seeger Square (open late on weekends), 895 Arcade St., St. Paul, 651-774-7623, losocampo.com

4 am: The Twos (two eggs, two cakes, and two sausages) at Mickey’s Dining Car. 36 W. 7th St., St. Paul, 651-222-5633, mickeysdiningcar.com

5 am: Granny Donut opens at the crack of dawn, so shield your gaze. 1555 S. Robert St., West St. Paul, 651-451-6132, grannydonut.com

Ground Zero For Pizza Fanatics: Uptown

Whether you freak for thick crust, thin crust, New York style, or square cut, the Uptown/LynLake area has become a mecca for pizza hounds. One might consider a serious pilgrimage starting at Lucé on Lyndale, heading north to Leaning Tower, then shooting down Hennepin before finally easing out toward Punch for your eighth pie.

10 Eats We Love

1) Ribs: Big Daddy's

2) Pho: Pho 79

3) Pastrami Sandwich: Be'Wiched

4) Donuts: YoYo Donuts

5) Wings: Shamrocks

6) Roast Beef: Maverick's

7) Fried Chicken: Rooster's BBQ Deli

8) Fish & Chips: Anchor Fish & Chips

9) Ice Cream: Izzy's

10) Szechuan: Szechuan Spice

*For contact information, see our Restaurant Guide

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