Rick Nelson is here to answer any and all dining-out questions.
Q: Where should we be dining this summer?
A: One suggestion is to invest your dining-out dollars in places that are being plagued by that leading killer of restaurants, road construction. I’m thinking about the awesome LaLa Homemade Ice Cream (3146 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-824-5252, lalahomemadeicecream.com), currently stranded on a closed-to-traffic street. The ice cream alone is worth the hassle of getting to Jennifer Lisburg’s cute scoop shop, but she’s also a gifted pie maker (let’s all say “a la mode,” shall we?), and her brownie sundae is All-American decadence in a bowl. Still, Lisburg’s crowning achievement is a summer-in-a-cone blend of garden-fresh basil sorbet folded into luscious vanilla ice cream. The hassle of getting there is nothing when the payoff is this refreshing.
I’ve got a new bike that I’m eager to take out, explore and eat. My late July-early August plans include hitting the Dakota Rail Regional Trail and stopping at Dakota Junction (2281 Commerce Blvd., Mound, 952-479-1519) for a lamb burger or a Maid Rite-style sloppy Joe, and pedaling the Brown’s Creek State Trail and refueling at Pearl & the Thief (112 Main St. N., Stillwater, 651-342-0972, pearlandthief.com) with chef Justin Sutherland’s soft-shell crab po’ boy and fried Spam bánh mì.
Q: I’m always on the lookout for bargains. Can you suggest any?
A: Cardigan Donuts (40 S. 7th St., Mpls., 612-259-7804, cardigandonuts.com) is giving people a reason to hit the downtown Minneapolis skyway on Saturdays. From 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., the City Center shop offers its own version of the all-you-can-eat brunch. For $10.95, diners can enjoy unlimited doughnuts (a la carte prices range from $1.95 to $4, and I highly recommend beginning with the expertly produced crullers and old fashioneds), as long as they are consumed on the premises. Oh, and they’ll toss in a bottomless cup of drip coffee. So far, no Joey Chestnut wannabees (he’s the world-record-holding hot dog eater) have emerged; the most-consumed-doughnuts figure falls in the six to eight range.
Here’s an early-riser deal: Monday through Thursday, from 7 to 9 a.m., the Birchwood Cafe (3311 E. 25th St., Mpls., 612-722-4474, birchwoodcafe.com) knocks four bucks off the price of its spectacular savory waffle, dropping it from $14 to $10. Right now, chef Marshall Paulsen is enriching those tender, golden waffles with quinoa, zucchini and feta, then dressing them with a rhubarb-jalapeño marmalade, lemon-dill butter, pieces of smoky, thick-cut bacon and a sunny side-up egg. Maple syrup, of course, and there’s a gluten-free option. Marshall’s hearty take on beans and rice, served with an arepa and an egg, drops from $12 to $8.
Q: Any suggestions for business breakfasts in downtown Minneapolis? I’ve been to all the usual places.
A: Then how about an unusual venue? Jolliet House (710 Marquette Av., Mpls., 612-333-4545, themarquettehotel.com) is such a knockout that Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson recently chose it as the venue to announce her candidacy for governor. The restaurant’s “outdoor” terrace is that third-floor balcony that presides over the IDS Crystal Court, an architectural punch unlike anywhere else in the city. The food isn’t nearly as inspired — it’s your basic boilerplate hotel fare, a missed opportunity — but it covers the bases. There’s a breakfast buffet, too. Ask for the Mary Tyler Moore table. It’s the spot, marked with a plaque, where the sitcom star and her husband appear during the opening credits of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” There’s one hitch, and that’s finding the entrance; the breakfast-and-lunch restaurant is accessible via elevators in the Marquette Hotel.
Q: We’re headed to Duluth for the weekend. Where should we eat?
A: After visiting the Zenith City in early June, I filed a report with several dozen recommendations (find it at http://strib.mn/2yR0ZgH), but the shorthand list would include the Duluth Grill (118 S. 27th Av. W., 1-218-726-1150, duluthgrill.com) and At Sara’s Table Chester Creek Cafe (1902 E. 8th St., 1-218-724-6811, astccc.net) for breakfast, Northern Waters Smokehaus (394 S. Lake Av., 1-218-724-7307, northernwaterssmokehaus.com) and OMC Smokehouse (1909 W. Superior St., 1-218-606-1611, omcsmokehouse.com) for lunch. Dinner? Martha’s Daughter (107 E. Superior St., 1-218-481-7887, marthasdaughterrestaurant.net) and the New Scenic Cafe (5461 North Shore Dr., 1-218-525-6274, newsceniccafe.com); the former is an energetic newcomer, the latter is approaching 20 years as the North Shore’s gotta-visit dining destination. For weekend brunch, consider Zeitgeist Cafe (222 E. Superior St., 1-218-722-9100, zeitgeistarts.com), Lake Avenue Restaurant & Bar (394 S. Lake Av., 1-218-722-2355, laveaveduluth.com) and the casual counter setup that Duluth’s Best Bread is offering all summer at Endion Station (200 Lake Place Dr., duluthsbestbread.com). For drinks, I’d head to Vikre Distillery (525 S. Lake Av., 1-218-481-7401, vikredistillery.com), or the taprooms at Hoops Brewing Co. (325 S. Lake Av., 1-218-606-1666, hoopsbrewing.com) and Bent Paddle Brewing Co. (1832 W. Michigan St., 1-218-279-2722, bentpaddlebrewing.com). If you’re in the mood to cross the bridge into Superior, check out Earth Rider Brewery and its Cedar Lounge taproom (1715 N. 3rd St., Superior, Wis., 1-715-395-7391, cedarlounge.beer), and while you’re in the neighborhood, head over to the Anchor Bar & Grill (413 Tower Av., Superior, Wis., 1-715-394-9747, anchorbarandgrill.com) for the ultimate in dive-bar burgers.
Q: Where can I take the kids?
A: You’ve got a 651 area code — and I’m going to assume that you and your offspring are carnivores — so I’ll send you to Roseville, and the remade Maverick’s (1746 N. Lexington Av., Roseville, 651-488-1788), which I wish had been around when I was growing up. Imagine Arby’s, only way better. The star of the show is a spectacular roast beef sandwich that’s a study in the beauty of simplicity, just rare, slow-roasted, super-tender roast beef, sliced thin and piled high on a grade-A bun that’s buttered and toasted. You add the (thoughtful, often housemade) condiments, or keep it at its most basic and refined. The adult-sized sandwich is $7, a major steal, given the quality, and the 12-and-under version, served with fries and a soda, is $5.
Q: Are you looking forward to any openings?
A: Definitely Hyacinth (790 Grand Av., St. Paul, hyacinthstpaul.com), a small-scaled (38-seat) spot with big ambitions and a southern Italian-Mediterranean focus. It’s being led by chef/owner Rikki Giambruno and chef de cuisine Paul Baker, both Minnesotans who have returned after cooking in New York City, including at the beloved former Franny’s in Brooklyn, where they met and became friends. It’s opening Aug. 14.
I’m also really interested in seeing what chef/owner Ashii Vrohidis will be doing with her Moderna Kouzina (3910 W. 50th St., Edina, 952-657-5974, modernakouzina.com), where she’s promising “modern fine dining” in the former Mozza Mia/Tejas space. It’s also close to opening.
And anyone familiar with the name Andrew Zimmern — which is pretty much everyone, right? — has got to be counting the weeks to autumn, when his Lucky Cricket (1607 West End Blvd., St. Louis Park, luckycricket.net), a contemporary Chinese restaurant and Tiki bar, opens in the Shops at West End.
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