At her warm and welcoming restaurant, chef Bea Karngar serves generous portions of the flavorful, hearty stews of her native Liberia, with an emphasis on greens, rice and catfish, and at prices that rarely venture north of $12.
4326 Lyndale Av. N., Mpls., 612-353-6084, cityafriquerestaurant.com
Despite recent weather to the contrary, it will warm up, eventually, and when it does, Angela Fida will be ready at her third-generation-owned East Side landmark. The menu covers all drive-in basics (burgers, fried chicken, soft-serve ice cream treats) but also features spaghetti, meatballs and other Italian-American standards.
1440 E. Minnehaha Av., St. Paul, 651-776-3470
Empire Coffee & Pastry
At their pair of stylish, comfortable counter-service outposts, siblings Krissy Kelsch (the baker) and Amy Kelsch (the coffee virtuoso) expertly cover all kinds of bases, from bacon-Cheddar muffins, picture-perfect quiche and flaky turnovers filled with spinach and feta in the a.m. to a soup-sandwich roster at lunch.
451 Stinson Blvd., Mpls., 612-331-3877 and 807 NE. Broadway, Mpls., 612-259-7053, empireminneapolis.com
Launching her cafe from a farmers market stand, chef Erica Strait emphasizes local, organic ingredients while crafting her (tasty) spins on falafel, serving it in salads, pita sandwiches, rice bowls and platters. Awesome chicken shawarma and turkey gyro, too, and yes, the pickle plate is worth the $2 charge.
791 Raymond Av., St. Paul, 651-888-2255, foxyfalafel.com
In 2014, Kelly Olsen revived this Anoka institution, the life’s work of Hans and Traudy Birkner, and doughnut-loving crowds returned, in droves. As well they should. Hans’ is the place for classic examples of the deep-fried dough arts, including a revival of the Birkners’ signature Beehive, a pastry cream-filled delicacy.
1423 5th Av., Anoka, and 10400 Baltimore St., Blaine, 763-421-4200, hans-bakery.com
Joan’s in the Park
After logging impressive tenures in the high-end steakhouse business, Susan Dunlop and Joan Schmitt teamed up to open their own charmer of a place, which has well-polished touches of steakhouse familiarity but also goes its own way, with impressive seasonal cooking and attentive service.
631 Snelling Av. S., St. Paul, 651-690-3297, joansinthepark.com
Barb Zapzalka prepares every batch of ice cream that she serves in her small south Minneapolis shop, using local ingredients, starting with cream from Crystal Ball Farms in Osceola, Wis. The (fantastic) house-made waffle cones are built with an heirloom flour from Sunrise Flour Mill in North Branch, Minn. Coming in a few weeks: rhubarb ice cream, a sweet-tart treat and Zapzalka’s top seller.
4754 Chicago Av. S., Mpls., 612-825-2021, pumphouse-creamery.com