It’s that thing again, where it’s January in Minnesota and it has become searingly, painfully, horribly, un-warm. Why must this happen every year? Welp, whining about it is one way to cope, but another is leaving your house to eat a really good thing and then see a really good movie. But if that sounds like way too much moving-around-through-the-Mars-cold-streets action, here’s my handy, move-your-car-once guide to getting through this horrible annual affliction known as the dead of winter.
Libertine / Uptown Theater & Lagoon Theater
Libertine—the big Tim McKee casual meatery with the best pork chop in North America—was one of my top restaurants of 2014. I think about that beautiful roast marrow bone and a glass of red wine all the time. But it’s also so close to the Lagoon and Uptown theaters that you could almost get there without a hat.
Tea House Plymouth / Willow Creek 12
The original Tea House in Plymouth remains one of the best Chinese restaurants in the metro—it has the best firey ma po tofu, the best tangy and thick sweet and sour soup, and the cumin lamb is the stuff of local legend. I challenge you not to look at the sweet online menu without drooling! But also, they share a parking lot with the Willow Creek 12. Last time I was there I spotted chef Sameh Wadi (Saffron, World Street Kitchen, Iron Chef America) waiting for a table.
Mozza Mia / Edina Theater
I maintain Mozza Mia is the most underrated restaurant in town—and if you haven’t been there since chef Corinne Sherbert DeCamp took over, don’t even think about arguing that point. Fresh mozarella is made three times a day, the flavors are bright and clear while still being true to tradition, the $5 steamed mussel plate at happy hour is the greatest bargain in town (and the $21 fettucini carbonara for two is another), she makes one of the best deep dish pizzas this side of Chicago, the wine list is affordable (bottles from $19) and good—and of course the Edina Cinema is so close you could sprint without your coat, for the foodie/movie version of the Polar Bear Plunge.
Highland Park Theater / Original Punch Neapolitan Pizza
Want to annoy your friends? Do what I do, and stress to them again—and again, and again!—that the Highland Park Punch Pizza, the original, and the only one with table service and an exclusive menu is in fact the best Punch. Then, stop annoying them by telling them about it and meet them there to prove it. Then they will see: The Neapolitan pizzas are extra crisp, the prosciutto arugula salad is extra-elite, the whole thing is just extra-much better. But that’s not all! The classic St. Paul theater The Highland is right down the street.
FireLake Grill House / MOA
There was so much restaurant news last year that when founding locavore chef and local legend Paul Lynch decamped to Bloomington to open the FireLake at the Radisson Blu, it didn’t get as much media coverage as it would have a few years ago. But that doesn’t mean it’s not now the greatest restaurant in Bloomington—it is! It has the greatest charcuterie platter, greatest Wild Acres duck, greatest prime rib—you get the idea. Beautiful local sourcing, elegant preparations. And attached by covered indoor skyway to the Mall of America movie theater, naturally.