At La Chaya Bistro, chef Juan Juarez Garcia splits his cooking interests between Mexico and the Mediterranean, easily switching between marlin empanadas and house-made cannelloni stuffed with spinach and ricotta. Sunday brunch is particularly pleasant.
4537 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., 612-827-2254, www.lachaya.com
Inside the knotty pine warmth that is the 128 Cafe, diners can dig into simple, smartly prepared fare along the lines of a textbook pasta carbonara, pork or beef tenderloin, mellow roasted garlic spread across baguette slices and a peerless slab of baby back ribs. Dessert? The brownie, naturally, served with vanilla ice cream made a few blocks away by Izzy's.
128 N. Cleveland Av., St. Paul, 651-645-4128, www.128cafe.net
Use the new year as a reason to check out the colorful and eclectic fare at Ingredients Cafe, where the ever-changing menu could mean an open-face pulled pork sandwich, pierogies paired with bacon-braised cabbage, lamb sliders finished with a lemon-garlic dressing, slow-braised beef short ribs or a salad of port wine-poached pears, arugula and candied walnuts.
4725 Hwy. 61 N., White Bear Lake, 651-426-3738, www.ingredientscafe.com