Critic Rick Nelson reminisces about his favorite dishes of 2013.
Minneapolis isn’t exactly prime blintz territory. Fortunately, at the Belmore/New Skyway Lounge, chef Doug Anderson is reviving the dishes that nourished him during his New York City days. The top of this neo-diner’s roster is occupied by the divine blintzes from his go-to kosher dairy. Sprawled across a dinner plate, these rich, eggy pancakes are such paragons of goodness that Anderson’s embellishments — a hefty dollop of ricotta teased with lemon, bananas simmered in brandy — are happy afterthoughts. Oh, and the pizzas? Terrific.
25 N. 4th St., Mpls., 612-339-5990, www.facebook.com/Belmore.mpls
Parka, that ultra-charming team effort from the talent pool behind Victory 44, Rustica and Dogwood Coffee, re-formats retro dishes in enchanting ways. Most memorable was the kitchen’s rethinking of that Debbie Downer of the Minnesota church-basement potluck, the broccoli salad. Bouquets of blanched broccolini and ropy, gently bitter roasted rapini brought the color and texture, a toasted black sesame dressing proved a perfect 21st-century stand-in for Miracle Whip, and crunchy pops of not-too-sweet sunflower brittle was a brilliant let’s-make-vegetables-fun finishing touch.
4021 E. Lake St., Mpls., 612-886-1585, www.parkampls.com
Burger shines anew
I consumed an alarming number of burgers in 2013 — all in service to Burger Friday, my once-a-week dissection of highly recommended Twin Cities burgers (that’s published, yes, on Fridays, at startribune.com/burger). Of the dozens that I sampled, my memory keeps circling back to HauteDish. With good reason. Chef Landon Schoenefeld seasons his chuck-brisket blend with both the old-fashioned (slow-cooked onions, garlic, thyme) and the newfangled (a powdered house-smoked Gorgonzola), fries each beefy patty in butter and then lays on a flurry of condiments — including roasted garlic aioli, thick-cut bacon and a mushroom salad — then bookends with a golden, butter-toasted house-baked bun, all adding up to a glorious culinary arithmetic. As for the fries, they are equally superb.
119 Washington Av. N., Mpls., 612-338-8484, www.haute-dish.com
While I did devote far too much of 2013 yammering on and on to anyone who would listen about the fabulous apple cider doughnuts that chef/owner Peter Ireland prepares at the Lynn on Bryant, I’ll focus my attention and appreciation on another classic fried goody that this first-rate newcomer approaches with similar skill and finesse. It’s the fritter, and in this instance it’s all about cod, cured in salt for 10 days before being poached in milk, blended with potatoes and formed into orb-shaped cakes. Each one hits the fryer long enough to form a delicately crisp outer shell that enrobes a comforting, gently flavored creaminess. It’s one example among many in the Everyday Goodness Department that make Ireland’s restaurant such a must-visit.
5003 Bryant Av. S., Mpls., 612-767-7797,www.thelynnonbryant.com
A Southerner, Up North
Yes, the Smack Shack is swimming in lobster — playing a leading role in rolls, guacamole, stew, shore dinners and even corn dogs, to the tune of 3,000 pounds per week — but owner Josh Thoma’s North Loop translation of his equally popular food truck of the same name is also the place for a highly memorable chicken-and-waffles combo ($12.95). For the former, Thoma — who does fried chicken so well it’s amazing he doesn’t speak with a Southern drawl — brines his birds to unlock their juiciest potential, then coats them in a buttermilk-based batter that crisps up, almost ridiculously so, on the stove. As for the latter, each tender waffle is leavened with a pair of spent malts, leftovers from the neighboring Fulton Brewing Co., and they are superb. The kitchen’s shrimp and grits plate isn’t too shabby, either.