Looking back on the past 11 months, one key word that could describe the local restaurant landscape is closings.
Bookended by the demise of Brasserie Zentral in January and last weekend’s last meal at Saffron Restaurant & Lounge, a number of significant restaurants have called it quits in 2016, perhaps the biggest single-year tally of goodbyes in recent memory.
But doom and gloom have hardly been the only story. Openings continue to outpace closings. Grab a scorecard and try to keep pace with the booming number of debuts from just the past few weeks.
After what feels like forever, Pizzeria Lola owners and spouses Ann Kim and Conrad Leifer have opened their Young Joni, and diners have descended in droves.
And why not? The (excellent) pizza adheres to the same Lola formula, and the kitchen also concentrates on wood-roasted vegetables (skip the cauliflower at your peril, and don’t overlook the divine purple-skinned sweet potatoes, served with flakes of dried tuna).
Dessert? Order the plate of church basement-inspired bars. Prices match the neighborhood, topping out at $17.50.
The inviting, woodsy/hipster setting (it’s the work of Studio Mai of Los Angeles, in close collaboration with Kim) has an engaging, North Shore-meets-Northeast vibe, and its counters, bars and community tables surely constitute the Twin Cities’ greatest gathering of shared seating venues. Such an ideal way to connect with your neighbors, right?
Also different from Lola: cocktails, by former La Belle Vie-er Adam Gorski. Oh, and for anyone who has waited — and waited — for a table at Lola, here’s the best news of all: Young Joni accepts reservations. Hurrah.
165 13th Av. NE., Mpls., 612-345-5719, youngjoni.com. Open 4-11 p.m. Tue.-Thu., 4 p.m.-midnight Fri., noon-midnight Sat., noon to 11 p.m. Sun.
Covering the bases
No, McKinney Roe is not an Irish pub. True, owner Dermot Cowley is the proprietor of O’Donovan’s Pub in downtown Minneapolis, and Jake O’Connor’s in Excelsior.
But as the guy behind Lola’s Lakehouse in Waconia, Cowley also knows how to deliver quality iterations of crowd-pleasing, All-American fare.
That’s exactly the ticket at this handsome, spacious newcomer, which had the misfortune of opening at a time when its impressive patio was going into hibernation. File away that important detail for next spring.
In the meantime, dig into a wide range of well-prepared favorites, whether it’s tender, slow-braised pork piled high on a sturdy pretzel bun ($13), a cold-weather toss of butternut squash and wild rice on greens with a tangy vinaigrette ($13), seared scallops with bright citrus accents ($14), balsamic-scented lamb shanks ($22), a modern meat-and-potatoes take with a center-cut ribeye ($39) and a warm-from-the-oven chocolate cake ($9).
It’s just what this emerging neighborhood needs: a venue that caters to the needs of a wide audience, without pandering to a lowest common culinary denominator.
530 S. 4th St., Mpls., 612-545-5863, mckinneyroe.com. Open 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 11 a.m.-midnight Fri., 9 a.m.-midnight Sat.-Sun.
Beyond game day
McKinney Roe isn’t the only newbie in the downtown district that has been awkwardly christened East Town (doesn’t that sound like a 1970s shopping mall?). What was once the neighborhood’s sole sports bar — Hubert’s — is now Erik the Red.
The improvement is, in a word, vast. Chef Tim Iverson’s focus is on smoked animal proteins, served in heaping-helping platters and paired with a plethora of well-rendered side dishes (including lefse).
The beer list is a keeper, but that’s not exactly a shocker, given that owner Erik Forsberg is also the guy behind beer-centric Devil’s Advocate, also in downtown Minneapolis, and happy hour (3 to 7 p.m. weekdays) has deals to draw downtowners to this out-of-the-way address. On Vikings game days, however, 6th and Chicago is bound to become the city’s 100 percent restaurant address.
601 Chicago Av. S., Mpls., 612-249-5999, eriktheredbar.com. Open 10-2 a.m. daily.
The Radisson’s latest
Also in East Town: Oui Bar + Ktchn. Sure, the grab-and-go case, stocked with Deli Express sandwiches and baked goods, isn’t exactly promising.
But there are reasons to visit this colorful corner of the new Radisson Red hotel. Breakfast, lunch and dinner all emphasize speed, simplicity and fresh flavors, an around-the-globe whirlwind that takes diners from decent renditions of spring rolls to roasted vegetable couscous to tacos, all at truly reasonable prices.
If a food truck ran a hotel restaurant, it might look like this.
609 S. 3rd St., Mpls., 612-252-5400, radissonred.com. Open 6 a.m.-10 p.m. daily.
Ridgedale lands a winner
Parasole Restaurant Holdings (Chino Latino, Manny’s Steakhouse, Burger Jones, Salut Bar Americain) has entered the quick-service realm with a savvy twist on its popular Good Earth brand.
For Field Day by Good Earth, Parasole culinary director Tim McKee has fashioned a menu with three primary areas: salads, sandwiches and grain bowls, each fashioned from the same stockpile (well-seasoned turkey meatballs, tender slow-braised beef, plush salmon, roast chicken, pickled vegetables) of fresh, flavorful ingredients.
My favorites? The inventive excursions into quinoa, farro, rice, kamut and other grains. Oh, and the nods to Good Earth classics, including its famous cashew chicken salad, zesty tea (served hot and cold) and teasingly spicy iced ginger cookies.
Service is fast and friendly, and there’s a decent kids’ menu and a brief beer/wine roster. The cheery setting is all 1970s sunbursts. Vegans and those following gluten-free diets are not ignored, and nothing on the menu tops $9.50. Well done, Parasole.
12401 Wayzata Blvd. (1145 Ridgedale Center), Minnetonka, 952-224-0363, fielddaynaturally.com. Open 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sun.
Arugula Central in Wayzata
With Crisp & Green, restaurateur Ryan Burnet (Barrio, Bar La Grassa, Burch Steak and Pizza Bar, Eastside) has also gone the quick-service route. It should come as no surprise that this fitness buff isn’t serving burgers and fries.
The setup is familiar to anyone who has set foot in a Chipotle outlet. There’s a create-your-own format for big-portion, made-to-order salads culled from a long, well-composed list of ingredients and finished with a creative selection of 13 house-made dressings.
For those who prefer the kitchen to do the thinking, there are eight combinations that range from a vegetarian (and gluten-free) Caesar to an autumnal tribute featuring apples, kale, roast chicken, dried cranberries and an apple cider/pumpkin seed vinaigrette.
There’s also a short list of requisite grain bowls, a few hearty soups, a handful of kids’ choices ($4.50 to $7) and a half-dozen smoothies. One particularly thoughtful touch is the beverage program, anchored by kombucha and a selection of refreshing agua frescas. Top price is $12.75.
Look for a second outlet to materialize in March in Minneapolis’ North Loop neighborhood.
755 Lake St. E., Wayzata, 952-476-2591, crispandgreen.com. Open 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. daily.
Books, magazines, burgers
The Galleria’s latest comes from an unlikely source: Barnes & Noble. In downsizing to new lower level digs, the bookseller has also dropped its dreary coffee counter, replacing it with stylish Barnes & Noble Kitchen, a prototype that the chain has rolled out to just a handful of its 600-plus stores.
The bar taps local beers, and the kitchen isn’t some prepackaged, heat-and-serve operation. I was impressed by my recent lunch (read all about it in this week’s edition of Burger Friday — my weekly burger blog — at startribune.com) and definitely plan to return.
3225 W. 69th St. (3230 Galleria), Edina, 952-929-4366, barnesandnoble.com. Open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sun.
Great bread in the ’burbs
After developing a loyal following among Mill City Farmers Market shoppers, Heritage Breads baker/owner Jonathan Kaye has launched a year-round venue for his gorgeous, naturally leavened breads (the crusty, whole-wheat miche is darned near perfection). The heartily seasoned foccacias are first-rate, and if Kaye walked away from the bread business, he’d still have a going concern based solely on his cookie expertise.
Kaye has taken up shop in the former home of the much missed It Takes the Cake, a convenience that western suburbanites should consider as an early Christmas present. The one drawback is the limited hours, but an expanded schedule is promised for the new year. Now we all have something to look forward to in 2017.
10902 Greenbrier Road, Minnetonka, 612-405-8910, heritagebreads.com. Open 2-5 p.m. Thu. and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Fri.