Make 2013 the Year of the Neighborhood Restaurant.
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