Charles Carter, owner of Taste of Rondo Bar & Grill, launched his St. Paul restaurant last month under the crushing challenges of a global pandemic. It’s been tough, he said. “But so far, the feedback has been fantastic.”
While the Twin Cities metro area has been painfully plagued by dozens of restaurant closings since March, a surprising number of newcomers have steadily materialized over the past five months.
Carter’s motivating sense of optimism and entrepreneurial spirit are clearly being replicated across the local dining universe, because our list includes 30 newcomers, stretching from Woodbury to Plymouth, Savage to Maplewood.
Newlyweds and ice cream fanatics Ben Spangler and Gabriella Grant have created a scoop shop with a Willy Wonka-esque adventure streak. Think lemon-buttermilk-poppyseed ice cream with wild blueberries and toasted cinnamon, or graham cracker ice cream blended with toasted marshmallows and chocolate ganache, or a rhubarb-coconut water sorbet. Takeout.
704 W. 22nd St., Mpls., bebezitomn.com
Pastry chef Diane Moua and her crew — with an assist from chef/owner Gavin Kaysen — have gathered all the reasons why their recently closed Wayzata bakery was such a destination (pitch-perfect croissants, dreamy macarons, grab-and-go sandwiches and salads, a deliriously delicious crêpe cake), and are serving them at this North Loop pop-up, a collaboration with Cooks of Crocus Hill. Patio, takeout.
208 N. 1st St., Mpls., 612-223-8167, cooksofcrocushill.com
After founding and then selling Sushi Fix, chef/owner Billy Tserenbat (the talent behind Wayzata’s Baja Haus) is back behind the sushi bar at this North Loop newcomer, hurrah. The lengthy selection of rolls emphasizes both the traditional and the playful. The sake-centric bar is also a platform for Tserenbat’s obsession with Japanese whiskey. Dine-in, takeout.
116 N. 1st Av., Mpls., 612-886-1783, billysushi.net
The Birdhouse Eat & Drink
Downtown Robbinsdale’s latest is an approachable neighborhood cafe with a something-for-everyone vibe, featuring sandwiches, salads, fish and chips, thick-cut pork chops, chicken and waffles, ratatouille paired with wild rice pilaf, cheese curds, poutine, beignets and gluten-free brownies. Dine-in, patio, takeout.
4153 W. Broadway, Robbinsdale, 763-205-9668, thebirdhousemn.com
Bridgeman’s Ice Cream Parlor
An affectionate revival of a revered Minnesota ice cream name. Along with a scoop case (hello, Peppermint Bon Bon!) the shop’s menu is a long list of classic confections, including the Tin Roof, banana split, root beer float and gargantuan La La Palooza, an eight-scoop behemoth of a sundae. Dine-in, takeout.
2110 Eagle Creek Lane, Woodbury, 651-315-8985, bridgemans.com
The former Al Vento didn’t stay dark for long. It’s now a platform for lively Mexican cooking: red chile-marinated shrimp with an avocado relish, whole fried tilapia, cornmeal-crusted cauliflower tacos, beef barbacoa burritos, fresh oysters, chipotle-honey glazed rib eye and more. Dine-in, patio, takeout.
5001 34th Av. S., Mpls., 612-200-8368, casamariampls.com
What was the northeast Minneapolis outpost of the Bad Waitress is now a bastion of eclectic, dinner-only fare, from small plates to flatbreads to burgers to steak frites and scallops with sweet corn. The bar showcases Minnesota-made spirits. Dine-in, patio, takeout.
700 Central Av. NE., Mpls., 612-354-7947, central-ne.com
Clays Galaxy Drive In
This long-dormant Hwy. 7 landmark is back in business (by the folks behind Clays Restaurant in Rockford), and its playfully gaudy showiness remains intact. The menu features burgers, gussied-up hot dogs, a very busy deep fryer and a long list of soft serve ice cream treats. Patio, takeout.
3712 Quebec Av. S., St. Louis Park, 952-277-7778, claysgalaxy.com
The restaurant was relocated east from its Nicollet-and-38th digs into a newer, larger home in March. Along with the move came an expanded roster of freshly prepared Asian fusion dishes, at prices that rarely venture above $13. Takeout.
805 E. 38th St., Mpls., 612-886-1185, dragonwokdelivery.com
East Side Bar
The former Ward 6 is up and running once again, with a new name, the same historic setting and the same focus on craft beer and thoughtful pub fare. Dine-in, patio, takeout.
858 Payne Av., St. Paul, 651-348-8450, esbstp.com
ElMar’s New York Pizza
With their 18-inch pies, owners Nicole and Michael ElMaraghy are doing their darnedest to replicate every aspect of New York-style-pizza, from a 48-hour fermentation period to a water filtration system that mimics the qualities of Big Apple tap water. Other options include eggplant Parmesan hero sandwiches, chicken Parmesan dinners and pastas with red or cream sauce. Takeout.
15725 37th Av. N., Plymouth, elmarsnypizza.com
Foodsmith Bistro Pub
Robert and Ann Ulrich, co-owners of Mendoberri Cafe & Wine Bar in Mendota Heights, have brightened the intersection of Smith and Dodd with a great-looking room and a menu of updated tavern fare, including shrimp nachos, wings glazed with a sour cherry barbecue sauce, pulled pork sandwiches, roasted salmon with a summer vegetable couscous and a cauliflower-enriched mac and cheese. A daily happy hour (4 to 6 p.m.) includes deals on appetizers and tap drinks. Dine-in, patio, takeout.
973 S. Smith Av., West St. Paul, 651-330-0896, foodsmithpub.com
Brian and Sarah Ingram, the couple behind St. Paul’s Hope Breakfast Bar and the soon-to-open Elotes, have lovingly restored the 138-year-old Cathedral Hill firehouse that was the longtime home of the Happy Gnome. Look for 100 libations on tap, a supper club-inspired menu (beer can chicken, beef-bone-marrow pot pie) by chef Justin Sutherland and a dramatically expanded patio. Patio, takeout.
498 Selby Av., St. Paul, 651-219-4233, thegnomepub.com
The Grocer’s Table
At this great-looking cafe/market/wine bar, owner Lindsay Pohlad and chef Craig Johnson offer wide-ranging breakfast, lunch and dinner options. A wood-burning pizza oven stays busy, cases are stocked with well chosen provisions (including divine Clementine’s Creamery ice cream) and the in-house bakery turns out all kinds of breads (including English muffins for a.m. sandwiches) and sweets. Dine-in, patio, takeout.
326 S. Broadway, Wayzata, 952-466-6100, thegrocerstablemn.com
The Handsome Hog
Not technically new, but definitely improved. Chef Justin Sutherland’s restaurant has moved from Lowertown to Cathedral Hill, taking over the former Fitz (and keeping its pizza on the menu) and adding a roomy, well-appointed patio. Pork plays a starring role, but the menu also makes space for blackened catfish, fried chicken, barbecue shrimp étouffée and other Southern classics. Dine-in, patio, takeout.
173 N. Western Av., St. Paul, 651-219-4012, handsomehog.com
After spending nearly a decade as general manager at the former Lucia’s Restaurant, Heather Asbury has struck out on her own. Her first-rate neighborhood restaurant has a canny, something-for-everyone vibe and a handy walk-up window. Patio, takeout.
5201 Chicago Av. S., Mpls., 612-445-8822, heathersmpls.com
It’s Greek to Me Taverna E Parea
After this Lyn-Lake classic closed in September 2019, several former employees teamed up to revive it. The focus is on crowd-pleasing Greek fare, and the patio is as appealing as ever. Dine-in, patio, takeout.
626 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-825-4151, itsgreektomempls.com
La Delicious Bread
Paris-born and Eagan-raised Brandon Vang has converted a former Tim Hortons outlet into a destination for freshly baked croissants, pain au chocolat, éclairs, fruit tarts, macarons, Paris-Brest, cream puffs and other French delights, along with a small assortment of breads and bánh mì (pork pâté, merguez, turkey) and coffee drinks. Takeout, drive-up window.
2158 Rice St., Maplewood, 651-797-4620, ladeliciousbread.com
La Michoacana Purepécha
It’s the third metro-area outlet in two years for owner Richardo Hernández (the other two are at 701 E. Lake St. and the Midtown Global Market, both in Minneapolis), and another smile-inducing source of 30 ice creams and 50-plus varieties of colorful, fruit-packed Mexican frozen pops. Takeout.
809 E. 7th St., St. Paul, 651-348-6672, lamichoacanapurepecha.com
Lake & Irving pop-up
This south-of-the-river slice of Uptown Minneapolis is a fantastic way to light up an empty Perkins, and an opportunity for chef/owner Chris Ikeda to test-drive ideas for a remake of the space. Tip: The fried chicken sandwich is tops in its class. Takeout.
14435 Hwy. 13, Savage, 952-447-1322, lakeandirving.com
Mill Valley Market
Another Minneapolis park gains a restaurant — a wonderful trend — and in this case, an excellent one. Chef/owner Mike Rakun is channeling the healthy vibes from his Mill Valley Kitchen in St. Louis Park into a counter-service setup that’s full of welcome surprises from morning to night. Patio, takeout.
1221 Theodore Wirth Pkwy., Mpls., 763-316-4948, millvalley.market
Chef/owner Gustavo Romero, a self-described “maize-ologist,” is painstakingly transforming heirloom Mexican corn into handmade tortillas, and featuring them in a twice-weekly family-style dinner ($55) that feeds four. Takeout.
1222 NE. 2nd St., Mpls., nixtampls.com
West metro fans of St. Paul’s Pajarito will be delighted to learn that co-chefs/co-owners Stephan Hesse and Tyge Nelson have added their contemporary Mexican cooking to the former home of Mozza Mia, and yes, they’ll be making full use of that pizzeria’s wood-burning oven. Dine-in, patio, takeout.
3910 W. 50th St., Edina, 612-268-4770, edina.pajaritorestaurant.com
Dinkytown’s latest, the work of the team behind MT Noodles in Brooklyn Park, is focusing its menu on pho, bánh mì, rice noodle salads and a handful of other popular Vietnamese standards. Dine-in, takeout.
319 14th Av. SE., Mpls., 612-236-4538, phomaimn.com
Pie & Mighty
What was an occasional pop-up with a justifiably rabid following now has a permanent home, and its pre-order setup has been supplemented with walk-up sales on Thursday, Friday (3 to 7 p.m.) and Saturday (9 a.m. to 2 p.m.). Two friendly words of advice: Arrive early. Takeout.
3553 Chicago Av. S., Mpls., 612-822-2132, pieandmightymsp.com
Longtime friends Bill Ashton and Matt Bakke are taking their naming cues from Pillbox Stadium, the long-ago home of the St. Paul Saints, and chef Graham Messenger is following the sports bar template, including a handful of Juicy Lucy-style cheese-stuffed burgers. Dine-in, patio, takeout.
400 N. Wabasha St., St. Paul, 651-756-7566, pillboxtav.com
At this brand-new counter-service spot, Hide Tozawa, the culinary talent behind Kyatchi, is presenting his approach to rice-centric Japanese comfort food. Takeout.
4457 42nd Av. S., Mpls., 612-354-2423, okome.house
Rustica Bakery & Cafe
All the calorie-laden goodness of the Rustica mother ship on W. Lake Street in Minneapolis (oh, those currant scones), along with a long line of Dogwood Coffee beverages. Don’t miss the exceedingly refreshing hibiscus-ginger-mango tea from Jinx Tea, on tap. Dine-in, patio, takeout.
200 Southdale Center, Edina, 952-417-6199, rusticabakery.com
Taste of Rondo Bar & Grill
Will this signal a Rondo neighborhood renaissance? Here’s hoping. In the meantime, enjoy catfish, fried chicken, hot links, pot roast and peach cobbler, plus buttermilk biscuits buried under turkey gravy during weekend brunch. Dine-in, patio, takeout.
976 Concordia Av., St. Paul, 651-348-2615, tasteofrondostp.com
Owner Jason Dorweiler has relocated from his original Selby-and-Victoria storefront to a 96-year-old former Pullman train car, offering the same appealing array of expertly crafted, Instagram-ready ramen. Dine-in, patio, takeout.
603 W. 7th St., St. Paul, 651-340-5866, toriramen.com