Cinnamon roll from Relish
Just because there was a fire doesn't mean the building is cursed.
When the family behind the Coffee Shop Northeast first toured the former Bad Waitress spot, it had been a perennial commercial real estate listing. "We had a really good feeling about the space, and my family had been wanting to potentially do a second location," said Skye Horton. She and partner Matt Burt, along with her parents, Jenni and Rich Horton, baker sister Maeta Horton, her mom's sister Jenni as well as spouses Jodi and April Lund were all on board.
After scrounging together finances and pooling their skills, they took the plunge. Relish opened May 8 with funky chic decor and an all-day menu that serves everything from coffee and cocktails to breakfast sandwiches and chopped cheeses.
Everyone was set to dig in when a minor kitchen fire stopped them in their tracks. "We didn't even get a full seven days under our belt," said Skye.
Thanks to the flame retardant that did its job containing the fire, everything had to be scrubbed from top to bottom. And now they're open again, which is great news for diner fans.
The morning menu is set up like a coffeehouse, with counter service and eggs all the good ways. Being an absolute sucker for a cinnamon roll ($3), I had to add one to my breakfast order, and thank the sticky-fingered gods of morning dessert I did. Plush white bread dough twirls around the crunchy and oozy cinnamon sugar insides and the whole thing is topped with a generous amount of frosting.
I loved it so much that we've already been back again — there's also lunch, dinner and drinks to try. And a restaurant location might carry a curse, but the best way to break it is a little love, creativity and tenacity. This place seems to have it all. (Joy Summers)
700 Central Av. NE., Mpls., 612-223-8983, relishmpls.com
Tostones from Hola Arepa
If the temperatures are going to feel tropical, so should the surroundings. That rationale is how we landed at Christina Nguyen and Birk Grudem's Hola Arepa, which has been open nine years (!) already.
To cool down, we took advantage of the season with the spirit-free Uno ($8), a rhubarb-hibiscus-ginger mix. Refreshing and lip-pursing tart, I could have had several, but we needed to save room for the main attraction.
Yes, the arepas are the stars of the show, and they never disappoint. My go-to is the slow-roasted pork ($14.50), topped with beans and cotija cheese, all snug in a fresh cornmeal griddle cake. And who can resist the yuca fries, so light and crisp, every single time? This time we tacked on plantain tostones — twice-fried smashed plantains topped with guacamole, black beans and quick-pickled red onions and watermelon radishes ($11) — and it is officially part of our regular rotation. The thin plantain patty was the perfect vessel for this vegan dish, and its hashbrown-adjacent taste and texture had me mentally adding an egg to make it a standout (albeit no longer vegan) brunch dish, with or without the tropical feel. (Nicole Hvidsten)
3501 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., 612-345-5583, holaarepa.com
BLT at Lowry Hill Meats
Summer is fleeting. The memories of the other seasons linger, even on those few sunny days when the weather is just right and fresh produce is ready for harvest. Unfortunately, our days left with Erik Sather's neighborhood butcher shop Lowry Hill Meats are also fleeting. At the end of month, even before the rhubarb runs out, Sather and his team will close the shop and move on to new adventures.
For now, the meat counter is stocked with ruddy ruby-colored aged steaks and pork chops with thick, creamy fat caps. The sandwich counter is also delivering all kinds of tasty goods from within the case.
One more BLT for the road came with sweet-smoky edged bacon, tender butter lettuce leaves and a generous swipe of garlicky mayo on toasted whole grain bread. The tomatoes were a deep, saturated red, and the juices dripped down my chin with every bite. It was a four-napkin affair, and I appreciated every glorious moment. (J.S.)
1934 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-999-4200, lowryhillmeats.com
Wonton noodle soup from Gion Restaurant
Leave it to the parent of preschoolers to get a winter bug on the cusp of summer. Looking to soothe a sore throat, only soup was appropriate, even if it was 85 degrees outside. I ordered delivery from New Hope's Gion Restaurant, a beloved Vietnamese noodle shop in my slice of the west metro.
The wonton noodle soup ($15) was the right medicine, its warm and sweet broth coating my throat and bringing me back to life mid-fever. Plump wontons topped with crisp onion bits, sliced pork and a tangle of noodles saved the day. And there was enough there, arriving in deconstructed form, to enjoy again and again until I was feeling better.
Of course, I had to add the pork bánh mì ($10) to my cart. I saved it for a sweet-savory lunch for the next day, when my sore throat was much improved. (Sharyn Jackson)
9418 36th Av. N., New Hope, 763-951-2829, gionrestaurant.com
Alabama Pork Sandwich at Southern Social
Eagan's Southern Social is the newest restaurant from Trellis Hospitality, which also owns Barley & Vine in Lakeville and Tamarack Tap in Woodbury. This former Green Mill has been given an ambitious makeover, with black and dark gray walls and a new patio that overlooks a duck pond.
The menu is an outgrowth of the barbecue at Tamarack Tap, so smoke and sweet sauce are front and center. At the urging of my server, I tried the pulled pork sandwich ($13.95), topped with a tangle of fried onion strings, purple cabbage slaw and a delicate drizzle of Alabama white barbecue sauce on a toasted brioche bun. With a mild, smoky pork shoulder as the base, it's a sandwich made for lovers of onion rings — but those crispy toppers are tasty.
Add a hibiscus sweet tea ($4.50); it's the kind of refresher one could quaff all season long. And it probably wouldn't hurt to ask them to add a little bourbon. (J.S.)
1940 Rahncliff Court, Eagan, 651-478-7919, southernsocialmn.com