The pile-on of new restaurants continues, unabated. Here’s a rundown on 10 that belong on everyone’s to-do lists.
What a treat to see chef Asher Miller (he of the Walker Art Center’s long-ago 20.21) back at the helm of a restaurant. This time he’s teamed up with restaurateur Kim Bartmann (Bryant-Lake Bowl, Barbette, Pat’s Tap) and they’ve created what might be considered a role model of a next-generation neighborhood restaurant. The cooking (ditto the bar’s offerings) is sharp and isn’t content to stay within the genre’s same-old, same-old boundaries. My only quibble: Why couldn’t it have landed in my neighborhood? Lunch weekdays, dinner daily, brunch weekends.
5411 Penn Av. S., Mpls., 612-822-5411, bookclubrestaurant.com
Brothers Cristian, Carlos and Alberto Pinos opened this modest gem late last year in what was most recently Biryani. “We’ve been wanting to work for ourselves for a long time,” said Cristian. Natives of Ecuador, the three siblings are offering their contemporary and often elegant take on American-Latin fusion: empanadas stuffed with tomatoes and slow-braised beef, a lively guacamole, pretty shrimp ceviche, chicken-tomatillo soup and rack of lamb with a chimichurri sauce, plus traditional favorites along the lines of penne tossed with lobster and wilted spinach, a juiced-up filet mignon with creamy mashed potatoes and expertly grilled salmon brushed with lemon-dill butter. At dinner, most entrees hover in the low $20s. There’s a small, value-priced wine list, and service is warm and welcoming. Lunch weekdays, dinner daily, brunch weekends.
7078 Amundson Av., Edina, 952-426-4196, cahillbistroedina.com
Fig + Farro
This is not a vegetarian restaurant cut from the earnest, Moosewood Collective cloth. Instead, first-time restaurateur Michelle Courtright is focusing on the globally inspired comfort food she loves, minus the animal proteins. “It’s not exactly health food,” she said. “There are a lot of decadent dishes here.” Options include carrot osso buco, mashed potatoes with a three-gravy “flight,” a Moroccan-style chickpea stew, a peppery shakshuka and a naan-pita mash-up that’s baked in a wood-burning oven, a kitchen holdover from the address’ Figlio days. Prices rarely venture above the midteens. On Tuesday evening, the kitchen drops its regular menu and goes full-on hygge with an all-you-can-eat soup ($15) shindig. The bar focuses on barrel wines — four reds, five whites and a cider — along with locally produced spirits and three Minneapolis brewers, including newcomer Broken Clock Brewing Cooperative. Lunch weekdays, dinner daily, brunch weekends.
3001 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-206-0609, figandfarro.com
After nearly a decade in New Hope at the former Mountain Mudd & Niko’s Bar, the Everharts (parents Mary Ellen and Les and offspring Nicole, Nick and Natalie) have reinvented their family business in Bloomington. Located next door to Hazelwood Food & Drink, this agreeable coffee shop/cafe is the place for simple salads, sandwiches and a handful of Mediterranean-influenced small plates (spanakopita, a gyros platter) that underscore the family’s Greek heritage. The scoop case is wisely stocked with Sebastian Joe’s ice creams, and Natalie Everhart is responsible for the baked goods, including a major reason to visit: airy, melts-in-your-mouth raised glazed doughnuts. The Elvis theme? That’s Mary Ellen’s doing. “I’m a big fan, and want to keep the King around,” she said. Open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
8170 26th Av. S., Bloomington, 952-405-8351
Hazelwood Food & Drink
The Nova Restaurant Group is a hospitality company on the rise, operating crowd-pleasing properties in Rochester (Pescara, Chester’s Kitchen & Bar, Terza Ristorante) and the Twin Cities (Tavern 4 & 5, Hazellewood Grill and Tap Room). Their latest, located near the Mall of America, is acting as the de facto dining room for the adjacent AC Hotel by Marriott. But this great-looking destination is far more than that, with a menu that’s full of on-trend fare (tuna poke, vegetable-rice bowls, pizzas from a gas- and wood-burning oven, a play on elote-style sweet corn) and a long list of modern-day comfort-food classics: smoke-infused rotisserie chicken, prime rib, Parmesan-crusted walleye with a wild rice pilaf, beer-battered fish and chips and, yes, a hot dish starring house-made Tater Tots. A memorable chocolate layer cake, too. Spot-on service and reasonable prices, including a two-tier system for daytime/nighttime renditions of some larger plates. Lunch and dinner daily, brunch weekends.
8150 26th Av. S., Mpls., 952-222-4000, hazelwoodfoodanddrink.com
Sure, it helps to be located in a 1939 Moderne landmark overlooking the tarmac of St. Paul Downtown Airport (no boarding pass required), but restaurateur Troy Reding (of Plymouth’s Rock Elm Tavern) makes sure there’s more than a unique if out-of-the-way address (with free parking) to appeal to diners. The menu emphasizes fresh ingredients, bright flavors and eye-catching colors. Witness a salad of nutty farro, tossed with a mellow white balsamic vinaigrette and packed with reds (cherry tomatoes, roasted peppers), greens (avocado, spinach) and plenty of tender cold-smoked salmon. Or wintry toasts buried under woody mushrooms and a Wisconsin-made Parmesan. Or lumpy, slightly sweet crabcakes with a crunchy jicama slaw. Yeah, I’m looking forward to returning. Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
644 Bayfield St., St. Paul, 612-800-5298, holmanstable.com
When I last encountered chef Nate Docken’s cooking, the Coup d’Etat vet was doing his darndest to flip the fortunes of Mattie’s on Main. Unfortunately, the restaurant closed before he could gain the following he deserved, but now he’s back in an entirely different venue, collaborating with a handful of friends on a fast-paced tasting-menu format that will be familiar to fans of Tenant in south Minneapolis. For a flat rate (it varies; I paid $45, plus an 18 percent service fee), Docken & Co. deliver a six-course dinner that’s full of surprises and offbeat flavors, including a beef heart rillettes showily showcased in a smoke-filled jar, or mushrooms refashioned to simulate raw oysters, or a ruby gazpacho fashioned from beets. The small-scale setting, noteworthy for its plentiful windows, is a work in progress, and service is informal. Dinner Wednesday through Saturday, and reservations are recommended.
465 Wabasha St., St. Paul, 651-424-1080, justusmn.com
Lucky Oven Bakery
Would that every neighborhood were blessed with a bakery/cafe, especially one with as much promise as this one. Baker/owner Kristy Dirk makes mornings happy with savory brioche rolls (if there’s a ham-Gruyere combo, nab it), crumbly scones, berry-packed muffins and first-rate English muffins. The crisp, flat cookies are right on the money, as is the chocolate overkill (in a good way) otherwise known as the brownies. The kitchen stays busy with breakfast and lunch plates that go the extra mile, including thin and golden sourdough pancakes, house-cured corned beef stacked high on a feisty rye and ciabatta swiped with harissa and stuffed with slow-roasted leg of lamb. The cute setting has, “Hey, Boo,” written all over it. Breakfast and lunch daily.
5401 Penn Av. S., Mpls., 612-353-6232, luckyovenbakery.com
Red Bench Bakery
Chaska, you’ve got a treasure on your hands. Baker/owner Andy Mooney has returned the scent of freshly baked bread to a downtown Chaska storefront that spent 125 years as a bakery. Embracing tradition is all well and good, but it also helps that Mooney is a skilled baker. Along with turning out rustic rye sourdough loaves and crusty baguettes, Mooney has a well-practiced touch with buttery, flaky croissants (the pain au chocolat and almond versions are similarly fine), and lovely fruit-filled Danish. His scone game is on point, and then some. There’s a short, changes-frequently sandwich roster (don’t say no to the hearty chicken salad on one of those beautiful croissants) and a daily soup, plus a full coffee roster supplemented by a standard-setting hot chocolate. The comfortable seating area is anchored by an inviting fireplace. Perfect. Open 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.
500 N. Chestnut St., Chaska, 612-361-5509, redbenchbakery.com
Red Sauce Rebellion
Having found success down the street with Coalition, Eli Wollenzien and Deacon Eells have expanded their Excelsior holdings by taking over the former (and still great-looking) Victor’s on Water and diving deep into their affection for basic red-sauce Italian fare. The menu is anchored by no-nonsense pastas and skillet-baked deep-dish pizzas fashioned from a biscuit-like crust. Lunch’s half-dozen sandwiches (short rib with peppers, a gremolata-smothered meatball hoagie) disappear at dinner, replaced by a few more pastas and a handful of entrees (balsamic-braised short ribs, chicken piccata). There’s a highly appealing cocktail list (served in similarly appealing surroundings) and a price-conscious wine list. Lunch and dinner daily.
205 Water St., Excelsior, 952-234-4646, redsaucerebellion.com