Al Vento chef/owner Jonathan Hunt keeps his nine-year-old restaurant fresh with an ever-changing menu that focuses on a handful of bruschettas, several pizzas, a half-dozen pastas (Hunt prepares a classic spaghetti and meatballs) and a few grilled meats. Drop in on Tuesday's date night, when $20 buys four courses, an exceptional bargain.
5001 34th Av. S., Mpls., 612-724-3009, www.alventorestaurant.com
At Grand Cafe, chef Jim MacIntosh's thoughtful, gotta-eat-this summer menu means agnolotti filled with mushrooms and house-made ricotta, lamb shanks with saffron risotto and collard greens and jerk-style chicken with a succotash of farmers market-fresh vegetables, and that's just at dinner. There's lunch and weekend brunch, too.
3804 Grand Av. S., Mpls., 612-822-8260, www.grandcafempls.com
Now that the Lex is on ice — let's hope that's a temporary situation — St. Paul's dining grand-dame torch has been passed to W.A. Frost & Co., which has been beguiling the heck out of Cathedral Hill diners since 1975. The restaurant's dining rooms are charm personified; the leafy patio is a Twin Cities outdoor dining benchmark; the bar is as cozy as all get out, and chef Wyatt Evans' inventive, seasonally focused cooking pleases a wide range of appetites.
374 Selby Av., St. Paul, 651-224-5715, www.wafrost.com