Travail Kitchen & Amusements

Co-owners Mike Brown and James Winberg snared the foodiscenti's attention during their talked-about tenure at Victory 44, but they secured their adoration -- rightly so -- when they became their own bosses. An unlikely address (sleepy downtown Robbinsdale) and an even more unlikely premise (chef-driven flights of fancy at fast-casual prices) makes this fun-loving, trend-setting gem all the more remarkable and unabashedly enjoyable.

HauteDish

After years of working for others, how great is it to see chef Landon Schoenefeld running his own show? For once, the phrase "rethinking comfort food" isn't boring diners to tears. On the contrary. Schoenefeld's vivid imagination, strong technical know-how and clear vision are forging a long list of ingenious and admirable all-American classics. Steak-and-eggs, tuna casserole, Tater Tot hot dish and other pop-culture favorites are reshaped into exciting and delicious new ways.

Heartland Restaurant & Farm Direct Market

A ridiculously roomy new Lowertown setting -- it's across the street from the St. Paul Farmers Market, the world's most appropriate address -- has given chef/co-owner Lenny Russo his dream platform. Now locavores -- or anyone who cares about good food -- can enjoy multi-course splendors in the serene dining room, refuel in the comfy and casual lounge, celebrate in several private-event rooms, and shop and snack in the butcher shop/bakery/greengrocery. Bravo.

Parma 8200

In many ways, 2010 was the Year of the Suburban Diner, and no better example of the burbs' newfound dining riches is this latest from the D'Amico culinary empire. This Italian-inspired pro deftly caters to the demands of its buttoned-up office park environs, but also injects some much-needed energy, style and cooking skill into a corner of the metro where those qualities are sorely lacking.

Forum

Walking past the banal City Center complex, knowing that the former Forum Cafeteria, that Art Deco prize, was sitting vacant, was perhaps the most depressing activity in downtown Minneapolis. No longer. Like most mortals, restaurateur Jim Ringo fell in love with the historic space at first sight. In a noble act of civic generosity, Ringo reopened the glitzy Depression-era glamourpuss, enabling another generation of Minneapolitans to revel in its Fred-and-Ginger fabulousness.

RICK NELSON