What makes Kyatchi stand apart from its countless sushi brethren? For starters, the prowess and imagination of sushi chef Hide Tozawa and his commitment to sustainable sourcing. Then there’s a dozen or so straightforward skewers, each a delightful snack (don’t miss the exceptional chicken meatballs). And the elegant grilled cod, its moist, flaky, snowy-white flesh glazed with tongue-tickling miso. Oh, and the gorgeous seaweed salad, with its myriad textures and flavors. Or the wide bowl filled with skinny, slurpy wheat noodles swimming in a steaming, pristine broth.

Skipping the hot dogs is a grave error. They’re among the city’s best, with snappy skins, punchy seasonings and snazzy garnishes. Fun room, watchful service, 16 well-chosen tap beers and nearly as many sakes, and a late-night schedule that more restaurants should emulate. I can’t wait to go back.

3758 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., 612-236-4429, www.kyatchi.com. Open 4 p.m.-midnight Mon.-Thu., 4 p.m.-1 a.m. Fri., noon-1 a.m. Sat., noon-midnight Sun.

Third one’s a charm

Chef Hector Ruiz must be a master at time management. The owner of Rincón 38 and Cafe Ena has managed to channel his energy into a third Kingfield neighborhood restaurant, a modest storefront he’s christened La Fresca. The original plan was to target nearby high school students with burgers and ice cream, but somewhere along the way Ruiz had a change of heart. Phew. Now one of the Twin Cities’ woefully underserved culinary segments — modern Mexican cooking — is getting some much-needed play. His colorful compositions include seared tuna with a bright jicama-cucumber slaw, braised peppers with sweet crab and roasted corn, grilled prawns with a zesty cilantro pesto and flank steak infused with biting serrano peppers and paired with a cool onion jam. Top price is $18.

4750 Grand Av. S., Mpls., 612-825-4142, www.lafrescampls.com. Open 4-9 p.m. Sun.-Thu., 4-10 p.m. Fri.-Sat.

Proof’s in the pastry

Such is the power of doughnuts on the winter-battered Minnesota psyche: There were 67 people ahead of me in line last Saturday morning at Hans’ Bakery. Sixty-seven! When a dozen more had quickly queued up behind me, I stopped counting and turned my attention where it belonged: on doughnuts. By reviving this beloved community gathering spot — named for its founder, the late Hans Birkner, and which sat forlorn for the past several years — owner Kelly Olsen has clearly struck a chord. She and her crew are cranking out first-rate (and competitively priced) doughnuts that embrace a time-honored simplicity; no fried-dough-as-pop-art-statements here. Moist, sturdy cake doughnuts, the definition of coffee- or milk-dunkers. Raised doughnuts that manage to be tender and airy without reverting to cotton candy vacuousness. Bismarcks heavy with pastry cream and slicked with rich chocolate icing. A marvelous array of Long Johns, some glazed with maple frosting, others with a generous swipe of vanilla icing topped with a veritable snowstorm of sweet coconut. The doozy of a house specialty has also returned. It’s the Beehive, a flaky, dome-shaped pastry that’s split, filled with luscious pastry cream, dusted with powdered sugar and topped with a sprinkle of sliced almonds. It’s large enough to cater to a large-ish family reunion, so Olsen is wisely offering a single-serving version that she’s dubbed the Bee Sting. To say that it is divine is underselling it. Oh, and the line? It sped along, fueled by friendly conversation among total strangers about — what else? — doughnuts.

1423 5th Av., Anoka, 763-421-4200, www.hans-bakery.com. Open 6 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 5:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Fri., 6 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat.-Sun.

Old face, new territory

Two established bakery/cafes entered new markets. Maple Grove’s chain-laden Arbor Lakes just went up a notch in my esteem, thanks to the exit of a California Pizza Kitchen outlet and the appearance of Patrick’s Restaurant & Bar. A bakery counter hawks Patrick and Azita Bernet’s glistening Danish (a special shout-out to the lemon custard pretzel Danish), buttery croissants and intricately rendered pastries. A long bar pours beers (meh) and wines (better), and the casual dining room caters to breakfast and brunch (omelets, Benedicts, quiche), lunch (flatbreads, salads and burgers) and dinner (beef bourguignon, coq au vin, duck l’orange) at middle-ground prices. Nicely done.

12489 Elm Creek Blvd., Maple Grove, 763-420-7797, www.patricksbakerycafe.com. Open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

French Meadow heads east

Meanwhile, a block from the Macalester College campus in St. Paul, the French Meadow Bakery & Cafe has handsomely settled into a pair of Grand Avenue storefronts with a counter-service setup. Quick-service salads, sandwiches, small plates and breakfast-all-day options segue into a more ambitious dinner setup (roast duck with fingerling potatoes, grass-fed steak frites). Like its Minneapolis counterpart, the kitchen seeks out organic and locally raised ingredients and makes a genuine effort at pleasing vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free diners. The comfortable bar uncorks an impressive list of organic and sustainably produced wines, and beers are a well-chosen mix of locals and nationals.

1662 Grand Av., St. Paul, 651-789-8870, www.frenchmeadowcafe.com. Open 6:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Sun.-Thu., 6:30 a.m.-midnight Fri.-Sat.

Not your average chain

At Lunds and Byerly’s Kitchen, the supermarket chain is capitalizing on Americans’ increasing reluctance to cook with an appealing drop-in lunch and dinner destination that’s a far cry from the coffee-shop-style Byerly’s restaurants of yore. Instead, there’s a wide-open room of welcoming browns and coppers that’s wrapped around a busy open kitchen and anchored by an enormous horseshoe-shaped bar. Order (at the counter or via a tableside iPad) from a $14-and-under menu that includes pizzas, burgers, salads and a handful of entrees such as pan-seared scallops on sweet corn succotash. A portion of the real estate is devoted to a kind of upper-tax-bracket bodega, and there’s a deep selection of prepared foods that will be familiar to the stores’ shoppers. Local beers on tap, serviceable wine selection, coffee beans roasted on-site. When is one coming to my neighborhood?

250 Superior Blvd., Wayzata, 952-476-1122, www.lundsandbyerlys.com. Open 6 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.-Thu., 6 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.

A sunny side of strip malls

If only more suburban strip malls would sprout restaurants along the lines of the Glen Lake Cafe. Owner Tom Peterson (he of the 318 Cafe and Aster Cafe) has slapped Ikea-like looks into a skinny slip of square footage and enlisted chef Patrick Scot Moore to create approachable, easygoing fare at lunch, dinner and weekend brunch: well-garnished tacos stuffed with slow-roasted pork, pappardelle tossed with chicken and pesto, burrito-style huevos rancheros and a pretty salad of kale, roasted beets and dried figs. There’s a sweet little dessert case, the bar taps the requisite list of Minnesota-brewed beers, and service is friendliness personified.

14725 Excelsior Blvd., Minnetonka, 952-229-4989, www.glenlake-cafe.com. Open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Sat., 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Sun.

Back at the ranch

Chef Shack Ranch co-owners Lisa Carlson and Carrie Summer take the cream of their top-rated food truck — truly outstanding burgers, flour tortillas filled with black beans and mashed sweet potatoes, the city’s best mini-doughnuts — and then take advantage of their roomy new bricks-and-mortar kitchen to veer off in delicious directions. The couple’s peripatetic travels are reflected in a doozy of a rice-roasted vegetable stew finished with a carefully calibrated coconut-almond curry, while meat-eaters will swoon over Carlson’s well-embellished platter piled with mouth-melting pulled pork and ruddy smoked brisket. As an added attraction, Summer is always tinkering with a handful of tempting, bargain-priced desserts. Other attractions? An easy counter-service setup, funky flea-market surroundings and decent prices.

3025 E. Franklin Av., Mpls., 612-354-2575, www.chefshackranch.com. Open 5-10 p.m. Thu.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. Sun.

Something for the kids

A major retooling of the food and beverage program at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts has yielded an excellent new lobby coffee bar, as well as Grain Stack, a remake of the museum’s mezzanine-level restaurant. The true novelty, however, is Half Pint, a cute counter cafe aimed at the art-loving elementary-school set. A handful of nutritionally prudent sandwiches and salads keep parents happy, and kids will flip for the cookies-and-milk selection, the mix-and-match cookie jar, the flavorful and fizzy house-made sodas and the ice cream treats (cups, pops and shakes) from Izzy’s Ice Cream.

2400 3rd Av. S., Mpls., 612-870-3000, www.artsmia.com, Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue-Wed. and Fri.-Sun., 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Thu.

Southern-style cooking

Finally, the fast-growing company behind Crave has entered the Uptown market by converting a former Old Chicago outlet into a greatest-hits survey of Southern cooking called BoneYard Kitchen & Bar. Look for sweet tea-brined fried chicken, cornmeal-breaded fried green tomatoes, shrimp and grits, gumbo, ham and cheddar biscuits with pepper jelly, peach cobbler and more. The bar delves into plenty of bourbons, whiskeys and ryes.

2841 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-455-6688, www.boneyarduptown.com. Open 11 a.m.-midnight Mon.-Wed., 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Thu.-Fri., 9 a.m.-2 a.m. Sat., 9 a.m.-midnight Sun.

Keep in mind

The exciting Korean-fusion fare at Rabbit Hole (920 E. Lake St., Mpls., 612-236-4526, www.eatdrinkrabbit.com), brought to you by the team behind the former (and equally forward-thinking) Left Handed Cook. The all-tasting-menu format at the limitlessly imaginative Travail Kitchen and Amusements (4124 W. Broadway, Robbinsdale, 763-535-1131, www.facebook.com/travailkitchen) and its more casual companion, the Rookery. The North Loop’s Freehouse (701 Washington Av. N., Mpls., 612-339-7011, www.freehousempls.com), a breakfast-to-late-nighter brewing its own beer. The beer-obsessed (140 taps!) Yard House (1667 Park Place Blvd., St. Louis Park, www.yardhouse.com) and the sprawling, crowd-pleasing Vivo Kitchen (15435 Founders Lane, Apple Valley, 952-891-8808, www.vivomn.com).

 

Follow Rick Nelson on Twitter: @RickNelsonStrib