A toast to the year that was
- December 28, 2005 - 5:12 PM
Several promising restaurants opened too recently for review. The D'Amicos admirably stepped out of their culinary comfort zone and turned their attention to upscale Mexican with Masa. The Parasole folks went French -- OK, French-American -- at Salut Bar Americain. Bakers Patrick and Azita Bernet launched Patrick's Bakery and Bistro. Trocaderos took aim at big-city dining and entertainment. Lakeville went anti-chain with Copper Bleu. And duplex brought a small-scale intimacy to busy Uptown Minneapolis.
TAKEOUT TAKES OFF
Lucia Watson's Lucia's Take Home & Bakery and Patti Soskin's Yum! Kitchen and Bakery put fast(er) food in a whole new light.
IN THE 'HOOD
My-T-Fine Bakery / Cafe, Moose & Sadie's and Blondies all delivered stellar baked goods and fresh, affordable fare to their respective neighborhoods.
OTHER NOTABLE DEBUTS
Emma's Restaurant & Lounge, Longfellow Grill, Native Bay Restaurant and Lounge, Que Nha Restaurant, Thistles and Pastrami Jack's all made a splash.
Ken Goff departed the Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant after a 20-year career to take up teaching, and Jack Riebel of La Belle Vie took his place. Carol and Paul Hinderlie and Tom Ahlstrom ended their 26-year ownership of their Pepin, Wis., landmark restaurant, the Harbor View Cafe, selling to employees Ruth Stoyke and Chuck Morrow. Michelle Gayer-Nicholson (pictured, below) parted company with the Franklin Street Bakery. Marianne Miller, formerly of Red, joined Bobino Cafe and Wine Bar, but called it quits after a few short months. Dennis Marron left Craftsman, and Mike Phillips, former chef-owner of Chet's Taverna, stepped in. Joan Ida said goodbye to Goodfellow's and hello to Tria. Patrick Atanalian, formerly of the Loring Cafe, lasted a month at A Rebours; co-owner Roger Johnsson, formerly of Aquavit, joined chef du cuisine Matt Kempf in the A.R. kitchen. Andrew Weber moved from his Ravello and Biella posts to Martini Blu.
SO LONG, FAREWELL
Several venerable restaurants closed in 2005, including Goodfellow's, 510 Restaurant, Cafe di Napoli and Schumacher's New Prague Hotel. Chez Foley, Bobino Cafe and Wine Bar, Mojito, Chang O'Hara's, Connor's Delicatessen and Bakery, Jazzmine's, Marketplace Cafe, 3 Muses, Molly Quinns, Mpls. Cafe and Two Branches of Zeno also went dark.
Chains that bit the dust included Bilimbi Bay, Nick & Tony's, Italianni's, Leeann Chin buffets in downtown St. Paul and downtown Minneapolis, and Jillian's Hi-Life Lanes and Albert's Family Restaurant at the Mall of America. Sidney's closed its Eagan and St. Paul outlets. TGI Friday's, Olive Garden and Copeland's, all within a block of one another on Hennepin Avenue in downtown Minneapolis, closed their doors.
THE YEAR OF THE WINE BAR
They popped up all over, most notably Lenny Russo's inviting setup at Heartland. Others include the Riverview Wine Bar, Vino 610, Taste Wine Bar and Marceal's Wine Bar.
AT THE NEWSSTAND
In its July edition, Food & Wine magazine hailed Seth Bixby Daugherty of Cosmos as one of "America's Best New Chefs."
One great emerging trend was fixed-price dinner packages designed to perk up slow-traffic nights, including Sunday at A Rebours ($35 for four courses) and Monday at the Birchwood Cafe ($25 for four courses).
W.A Frost and Co. chef Russell Klein offers the ultimate cheese plate: a dozen or more premium cheeses, sold by the piece or in a build-your-own combo.
RISE AND SHINE
Breakfast (and lunch and sometimes even dinner) newcomers Hot Plate, Colossal Cafe, Jay's Cafe, Jensen's Cafe and the Bad Waitress Coffee Shop & Breakfast Joint gave diners a reason to get out of bed.
FAST AND FRESH
While the Wolfgang Puck Express gave the Mall of America a much-needed boost in the fast-food arm, the year's top new quick-service gig is the Persian fare at the cool, affordable Kabobi.
NO BUTTER REQUIRED
Carb loading became an extreme sport thanks to the exceptional potato-whole-wheat loaf baked by Rustica for Five Restaurant & Street Lounge.
ON CONCOURSE C
Cancelled flights became a lot more palatable after the organic-minded French Meadow Bakery & Cafe opened an outlet at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
Former Minnesota Monthly food writer Ann Bauer's debut novel, "A Wild Ride up the Cupboards" (pictured), drew ecstatic reviews. "A sharply drawn wonder," gushed Entertainment Weekly.
In a pilot program, Metro Transit yanked buses off the sidewalk cafe-centric Nicollet Mall on summer nights, to the eternal gratitude of al fresco diners. Please bring it back.
SUCH A DEAL
The occasional online gift card sales conducted by Twin Cities Originals brings discounts of up to 40 percent to a number of Twin Cities indie-owned restaurants. (at www.tcoriginals.com; the next one is set for April).
The heaven-sent barbecue by Pastor Luches Hamilton not only tastes good, but proceeds support youth programs.
UP IN SMOKE
Restaurant and bar smoking bans took effect in Minneapolis, Bloomington, Golden Valley and Hennepin and Ramsey counties on Mar. 31. A few weeks ago, Hennepin County took a step back by recently relaxing its rules, but a January city council vote could lead to a tough St. Paul ordinance. Is 2006 the year that the Legislature embraces a Minnesota-wide ban?
BE ON THE LOOKOUT
There's plenty to look forward to in 2006. When the Guthrie opens its $125 million riverside home in June, it will feature two dramatic, open-to-the-public restaurants. Across the street, Brenda Langton of Cafe Brenda will be launching Spoon River. Globe-trotting superchef Jean-Georges Vongerichten arrives at the New Chambers Hotel this summer.
Starting in March, the Global Marketplace at the Midtown Exchange (formerly known as the Sears Lake Street store) will draw together a worldwide collection of local food entrepreneurs. David Fhima is aiming for a fall opening for his still-unnamed Latin restaurant-nightclub next door to the Historic Pantages Theatre.
Target Center will get a high-energy sports bar-restaurant (and chain-in-the-making) with NBA City. McCormick & Schmick's is bringing its M&S Grill concept to the former Nick & Tony's at 50 S. 6th St. in Minneapolis.
The Peninsula will bring Malaysian to Eat Street. Bella, the Bellanotte spinoff, will open in Blaine. The long-delayed Town Talk Diner ("I've been saying that we're two weeks from opening for the past three months," said co-owner Tim Niver) will eventually materialize on East Lake Street.
IN AND OUT
Hot: Champagne cocktails, online reservations, sea salt, prix fixe dinners, Cryovac machines.
Not: TVs in restaurant bars, deafening dining rooms, smoking areas, "Are you still working on that?"
... AND ONE FINAL NOTE
A shout-out to restaurants where I enjoyed memorable meals paid for out of my wallet and not my expense account, including Cafe Lurcat and Bar Lurcat, Corner Table, jP American Bistro, Krua of Thailand, Maverick's, Modern Cafe, 128 Cafe, Pineda Tacos, Restaurant Alma, Rice Paper and Vincent.
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