Photograph courtesy of Bonde Bistro
The wood-burning grill at Bonde Bistro
The wood-burning grill at Bonde Bistro.
When we chat about the state of the dining scene, we invariably talk about restaurants in the cities and the first-tier suburbs. It’s mostly a function of concentration—that’s where the action is. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only action. There’s a surge of quality dining on the fringes of the metro.
Opened nearly two years ago by chef Charlie Williams, this Delano eatery is driven by a wood-fired Grillworks grill and the notion that Williams could bring something new to town, including bone marrow and a smoked pork sandwich with apple kraut and locally brewed Lupine beer mustard. Williams cut his teeth in Minneapolis dining, and has had to adapt to the labor challenges and high food costs that come with running a small-town restaurant. But his place has earned a loyal following. 203 Bridge Ave. E., Delano, 763-972-2688, bondebistro.com
Hog n the Road
Attention day-trippers: There’s competition-level barbecue just east of Willmar in Grove City. Hog n the Road is small and simple, with a nice-sized bar and a stage for live music. Best of all, the place is wicked picky about its meats. Only the best local cuts go into the smoker and come out as slow-smoked, dry-rubbed spare ribs, hand-sliced brisket, and smoked prime rib. Don’t sleep on the burnt ends or the brined and smoked chicken, and plan to take a jar of the spicy sauce home. 218 Atlantic Ave. W., Grove City, 320-857-2333, hogntheroad.com
Bait & Hook Seafood Bar and Grill
A seafood place out in the middle of the plains of Cokato? Believe it. Bait & Hook’s fish is flown in just like everybody else’s. The bright, friendly, casual spot plays the nautical décor game lightly, with mod touches like aqua walls capped by corrugated metal and octopus art. More importantly, it puts up legit lobster rolls, fish ’n’ chips, oysters, pan-seared black cod, and burgers and steaks from neighboring French Lake Farm. 525 W. Cokato St., Cokato, 320-286-4628, baitandhookmn.com
Main Street Farmer Eatery
Just a skip down the road from the Albertville Outlet Mall, this outlier’s been getting some buzz. With its exposed brick and contemporary design, you could easily imagine this place in south Minneapolis. It offers great craft cocktails, local ingredients from nearby farms, and artful presentations of hearty dishes such as cabernet-braised beef with root vegetables on potato pancakes. 21 S. Main St., St. Michael, 763-777-9395, facebook.com/mainstreetfarmer
A.T. The Black & White
A great pit stop on the way to Brainerd, this Little Falls spot combines cheeky hipness (dig the building-sign décor) with a small-town café vibe. Besides a craft beer list and nice wine selection, you’ll find dishes like shrimp coconut curry, scallops with mango risotto, and potato-crusted walleye with tarragon butter. Of note: The Minnesota Restaurant Association named it the “Restaurant of the Year” in 2016. 114 SE 1st St., Little Falls, 320-632-5374, attheblacknwhite.com