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Q: Can you remind me where the best patio seats are?
A: Where to begin? Old-school selections would include W.A. Frost & Co. (274 Selby Av., St. Paul, www.wafrost.com), Cafe Lurcat and Bar Lurcat (1624 Harmon Place, Mpls., www.cafelurcat.com) and the Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant (1010 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., dakotacooks.com). I also recommend Loring Kitchen & Bar (1359 Willow St., Mpls., www.loringkitchen.com), Meritage (410 St. Peter St., St. Paul, www.meritage-stpaul.com), Porter Creek Hardwood Grill (14201 Burngarten Dr., Burnsville, www.portercreek.com), Tavern on France (6740 France Av. S., Edina, www.tavernonfrance.com) and Lucia’s (1432 W. 31st St., Mpls., www.lucias.com). But that’s just for starters.
Q: We have found it tough to find some places with gluten-free options. Any suggestions?
A: A number of restaurants are making the effort to emphasize gluten-free menu items. You should start at Mill Valley Kitchen (3906 Excelsior Blvd., St. Louis Park, www.millvalleyktichen.com). I’m looking forward to the restaurant’s downtown Minneapolis sibling; it’s called Marin Restaurant & Bar (901 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., www.marinrestaurant.com), and it’s scheduled to open Sunday in the Chambers Hotel.
Q: We’re going to Chicago next weekend, any dining suggestions?
A: Lucky you. On the traditionalist side, I find it difficult to visit Chicago and not drop in on Rick Bayless’ restaurants, whether it’s Frontera Grill or Topolobampo (he also operates two quick-service spots, Xoco and Frontera Fresco, and they’re great; www.rickbayless.com). I’m a big fan of Sepia (www.sepiachicago.com) and Mindy’s HotChocolate (www.hotchocolatechicago.com), the sweet/savory spot in Bucktown. For an outdoor room with a view, why not drop a few bucks at Sixteen (www.sixteenchicago.com) in the Trump Hotel on the Chicago River; as venues go it’s outstanding. One of the most romantic restaurants in the city is North Pond (www.northpondrestaurant.com), chef Bruce Sherman’s local-local-local spot in a gorgeous arts-and-crafts warming house in the center of Lincoln Park. Newcomer Grace (www.grace-restaurant.com) is garnering tons of buzz. And be sure to have a cocktail at the Violet Hour (www.theviolethour.com) or the Aviary (www.theaviary.com). But really, you could visit Chicago for the next 20 weekends and barely put a dent into its dining-out riches.
Follow Rick Nelson on Twitter: @RickNelsonStrib