A plate of food at Il Gatto in Calhoun Square
The St. Paul Cheese Shop's Ben Roberts is one of the coolest cheesemongers in town. Not only can he put together a cheese selection that will wow any party guest, but he makes intriguing and intuitive cheese-focused sandwiches (e.g., fennel salami with cheddar and garlic confit). 1573 Grand Ave., St. Paul, 651-698-3391, france44cheseshop.com
The Nut Goodie
Available primarily in the Midwest, this maple-chocolate-peanut treat has the coasts clamoring for 'em, making a box at the holidays the best Minnesota export since Prince. pearsonscandy.com
The Cup. Finely tuned coffee shops are popping up all over the metro. Kopplin's started the craze, and now places such as Bull Run, Quixotic, and Angry Catfish are fighting the belief that coffee = commodity. Slowly, one cup at a time, they'll craft your perfect latte.
The Bean. Peace Coffee has long been the standard for fair trade coffee in town, and the Café Palmira guys selling at Mill City Farmers Market will talk you through their entire plantation in Guatemala. But there's also an influx of new beans on the market from roasters such as Intelligentsia and MadCap that are thoughtfully sourced and carefully roasted, bringing new flavors and depths to local drinkers.
The Acolytes. When Rustica Bakery reopened, its new coffee vendor, Bull Run, got equal billing. Cafes that want Bull Run must be initiated in the process, pushing coffee culture beyond the reach of the traditional coffee shop.
Il Gatto <3 Tim McKee
When James Beard Award-winning chef Tim McKee teamed up with Parasole, foodies were aflutter. But like other marquee chefs, McKee has commitments to his other restaurants and won't be the man on the Il Gatto line each night. Enter Jim Christiansen, one of McKee's top lieutenants. As a full-fledged Parasole employee, he brings a new level of food knowledge to the game, whether papa's in the house or not. Calhoun Square, Mpls., 612-822-1688, ilgattominneapolis.com
At the new Heartland, Lenny Russo has a sweeping space to serve his james Beard-nominated cuisine, a farm-direct market selling the local ingredients featured on the menu, and a butcher shop where guests can watch and learn.
How We Love Thee, Brasa. Let us count the ways:
- The moo sauce that comes with the slow-roasted pork should be used on everything: pulled chicken, yucca fries, shoe leather—everything.
- Brasa's sister St. Paul location has housemaid guava lime soda by the pint or pitcher.
- Every time you bite into the braised beef, you're nibbling on the cooking of a James Beard Award winner. Accessibly brilliant simplicity.
- St. Paulies can enjoy a fried catfish sandwich on their menu, luckies.
- On Sunday night in Minneapolis, the dinner is BBQ pork belly, and when it's out, it's out.
Anchor Fish & Chips
It's as if the chipper has been there for eons, cranking out baskets of perfectly crispy fish with cakey hot chips. The kids of Northeast might never know there was a time when Anchor Fish & Chips wasn't there—when generations had to go without curry sauce, meat pasties, and the helicopter burger. Ah, the innocence.
An Ode to Modern Cafe's Meatloaf
I think that I shall never see/A meatloaf lovely as thee.
A diner whose hungry mouth is wide/Knows the bite to place inside.
The pot roast may have glory gained/But loafish honor is sustained.
For warmth and comfort will be gleaned/By those whose meatloaf plates are cleaned.
Where Farm Foodies Graze
In this new world, where farmers and chefs have a natural alliance, it seems almost odd not to find farm names peppered throughout menus. Here are some of our current faves:
This Pizza Rocks!
Who but Black Sheep Coal Fired Pizza treats meatballs and ricotta with such elegance and regard, instead of just as fat, rosy-cheeked icons of I-talian? Just try it.
This 'Hood Eats Good
Minneapolis's North Loop, which extends along the river among warehouses and now lofts, has become the place to eat.
Bar La Grassa It's nationally recognized as a Best, and some eaters believe the cauliflower gnocchi should be canonized. Cool, low-key, but high quality.
Be'Wiched Deli The secret of the ridiculously meticulous sandwich kings: house-cured pastrami, homemade stocks, and no short cuts.
Club Jäger The undisputed epicenter of hip, it has pizzas and sammies way above your average bar food.
Toast Wine Bar and Cafe Sip unique wines from all over the world while noshing on simple but flavorful crostini, a well-curated cheese plate, or inviting baked polenta.
Sapor Café Ahead of the curve, it's been around since before the catchy neighborhood branding. Chef-driven with local ingredients, it brings a little global sass to the Ave.
Meals on Wheels
5th Street at Nicollet Mall, Mpls., eatwsk.com
The cross-cultural, cheffy street food of World Street Kitchen in three words:
Yum Yum Rice Bowl with Chicken and Eggs: MESSY AND MARVELOUS
Lamb-Bacon BLT: FAT TANGY LOVE
Arab Fried Rice: GINGERED LIMEY KICK
Salted Caramel Ice Cream Sandwich: HONORABLE CUBICLE VACATION
The char, the ooze, the Mad Men ambience. Need we say more about Matt's Jucy Lucy? To wit, some advice for your visit: Don't get picky! Forgoing the tiny minced onions would be a grave error; the sour pickle slices are essential to cut the gooey richness; and bring a book—at Matt's, good things come to those who wait.
5 Reasons to Love Desserts at HauteDish
- There's no fear of meat in this place, even on the dessert menu.
- Cheesecake, made with brie. You'd never have thought of that.
- There's a lovely absence of flowerless chocolate torte, but you might find a praiseworthy chocolate mousse cake that evokes a night of s'mores.
- Pastry chef Christian Aldrich cooks in the HauteDish paradigm: deconstruction, but not for deconstruction's sake.
- The food world thought it was a coup that the restaurant landed Aldrich
The success of St. Paul's Little Szechuan proved that not only could we take the heat, but we were clamoring for it. Hence the Szechuan invasion began. Bring. The. Heat.
Tea House: Recently opened its fourth location near the U of M. TRY: dan dan noodles
Grand SzechuanOpened in Bloomington with a loyal following (AKA migration) from Little Szechuan. TRY: ma po tofu
Szechuan Spice: Giving Uptown a little kick in the seat. TRY: fiery garlic pea tips
A Haute-r Hoagie
The banh mi is the Vietnamese sandwich that conquered our Nordic palates. You can sub chicken or scrambled eggs, but pork is the way to go. Plus piquant spicy sriracha brings it to the next level. Not hot on the pate? Don't think of it as liver, but as creamy meat butter. Locally, Saigon does it best.
MSP's Getaway Gourmet
Who else allows you to eat, drink, buy, and fly? The new Surdyk's Flights Wine Market & Bar at MSP airport is perfect for travelers with a finer palate. And it's past security so you can BYOB on board.
Cocktail with a Punch
Ever since the Nankin Café at Hennepin and 7th closed 10 years ago, patrons have been looking to stir up memories of subsume chow mien and a strong drink. When Thom Pham opened Wondrous Azian Kitchen in August, he brought a slice of that nostalgia downtown with a version of the Nankin's classic Wanderer's Punch, a liquor-heavy fruit juice beverage that leaves imbibers "wandering." The updated version is the 51-ounce Wondrous Punch in the Face. Trust us—this is a cocktail that should be shared.
So what's in it? Cruzan rum + Bacardi 151 + Apricot liqueur + Orange Curacao + Lime juice + Mango puree + Pineapple juice + White cranberry juice + Jamaican bitters
Hump Day at Nick & Eddie
Doug Anderson's Loring Park restaurant found itself in 2010. First, young chef Derik Moran made its menu relevant, and then Wednesday night became a bona fide scene. By handing entertainment over to local DJs and musicians and giving them latitude, Anderson cultivated the most weirdly hip late-night crowd in town. 1612 Harmon Place, Mpls., 612-486-5800, nickandeddie.com
The Can't-Miss Margarita
Barrio's Macho Camacho margarita offers a beautiful blend of blood-orange syrup and twice-distilled 100-proof 1800 Black Label Select Silver tequila, a splash of cave, and an ancho-chile kick. Edina, Mpls., St. Paul, barriotequila.com
The mixologists at Bradstreet Craftshouse aren't interested in creating a new cocktail culture, they're focused on bringing back the glory days of drink with artisanal techniques and historical recipes. The Bradstreet bartenders might be the most geeked-out liquor profs you'll ever meet.
- The Dark and Stormy is made with Matusalem Rum, which originated in Cuba in 1872 and is still made from the same secret family recipe.
- The fragile wild elderflower blossoms used in St. Germain Elderflower liqueur are in perfect bloom for only a few days, when they are gathered by men who bicycle them to the distillery.
- In the Sitting Limbo cocktail, the Rothman & Winter Orchard apricot liqueur is made from rare Klosterneuberger apricots from Austria.
- The traditional Whisky Old Fashioned is amped up with Nux Alpina black walnut liqueur. Each summer the Purkhart family picks fresh green walnuts in the Alps, then steeps the nuts for months in grape brandy, as they have done for three generations.
It seems like it's named Esquire's "Best Bar in America" every year, and as long as Lou is helping patrons crawl from their vats of vodka and into their warbled versions of "Mack the Knife," it should be.
Lord of the Lakes
Dock at Lord Fletcher's and knock back a few while you people watch. Lordy, indeed! 2746 Sunset Dr., Spring Park, 952-471-8513, lordfletchers.com
30: Number of breweries operating in Minnesota when it was admitted to the union in 1858.
4: Number of breweries operating as of 1983.
17: Number of breweries operating today (including brewpubs).
26th: Rank of Schell's among today's top 50 largest producing breweries.
9: Years between the date when Minneapolis Brewing Co. officially changed its name to Grain Belt Brewery (as the old name did not "suggest the widening area of our marketing opportunity") to the date that it was sold and dismantled by Irwin Jacobs.
34: Years after the sale that Schell's debuted Grain Belt Nordeast.
2,060 Barrels: Additional volume of new tanks needed to meet Nordeast demand.
1994: Year that Omar Ansari first received a home-brewing kit as a gift.
2005: Year that Ansari officially launched Surly Brewery.
Pints and curry, lawn bowling, World Cup central, high tea, Freddie at the door—Brit's Pub has been bringing the world to us for 20 brilliant years.