By some miracle of engineering, Rincón 38 owners (and spouses) Hector Ruiz and Erin Ungerman have wedged 40 or so elbow-to-elbow seats (a tight fit for personal space-conscious Minnesotans) into a lively storefront, serving two dozen affordably priced small-plate choices that offer a little something for every taste. Wine and beer, too.
3801 Grand Av. S., Mpls., 612-824-4052, www.rincon38.com
There are so many reasons to appreciate Ward 6, where chef Liz Olson pours her energies into modern short-order cooking, including a Reuben to end all Reubens, a pair of first-rate burgers, an eye-catching platter of pâtés, rillettes and terrines and lovely, well-made pies. A simple weekday breakfast blossoms into a well-executed weekend brunch, and the bar pulls together a yesteryear selection of classic cocktails at East Side prices.
858 Payne Av., St. Paul, 651-348-8181, www.ward6stpaul.com
FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar is a world apart from the rest of the Mall of America, and not just literally, although the second-floor location does require a skyway-like stroll into the Radisson Blu hotel. Once inside, the soothing neo-Scandinavian setting feels miles away from the megamall's hullabaloo, and the well-appointed setting is a fine platform for chef Paul Lynch's something-for-everyone fare, starting with what is clearly the megamall's most satisfying breakfast.
2100 Killebrew Dr., Bloomington, 952-881-5258