Egg, sausage and cheese sandwich at Picnic

It's tempting fate to consider being all things to all people. E and Andrew Kitzenberg pull off that feat by knowing their Linden Hills audience well. On a crisp, spring midday, just after the lunch-through-late night restaurant opened, the bright dining room, designed by Aaron Wittkamper, was buzzing. E worked her way around the room, checking with tables and taking notes on what was working for the restaurant. She credited a good portion of its success to "just putting creative, talented people in the spot and getting out of their way."

Lunches are sandwiches, snack boards and a few entrees, including a "bowl of cheese," based on a famous Chapel Hill (E's hometown), N.C., restaurant that serves a similar lasagna-in-a-dish meal to hungry college students. The menu is filled with personal touches from the Kitzenbergs and their staff, and more is on the way, with plans for pop-ups, menu specials and picnic baskets when band shell season kicks off.

It seems like everyone could find something on the trim menu, including this breakfast sandwich ($11). Juniper zips up the housemade breakfast sausage that's enveloped in just-jiggly scrambled eggs, delightfully gooey cheese and a swipe of spicy mayo. Unfolding the bite from its wrapping, a wave of savory aroma smacks your taste buds awake. Put your elbows up and hold all calls: This bad boy demands your full attention.

"A little bit of this and a little bit of that all strung together," E said with a smile. "I mean, that's a picnic." (Joy Summers)

4307 Upton Av. S., Mpls., 612-208-2340,

Sorry Babe from Blue Ox Sandwich Factory

Ever drive by a place and think, "I should really stop there sometime"? This is one of those places, and yes, you should stop.

Sandwiches are appropriately sized and named for a shop called Blue Ox: the Lumberjack, Meat Axe, Sawmill. My pick was the Sorry Babe ($9.99), a pile of thinly sliced roast beef topped with crisp bacon, lettuce, tomato and blue cheese dressing — all between a pillowy, slightly sweet Hawaiian bun. It's smoky, meaty and very filling. It's also very messy, thanks to the blue cheese dressing, but in the most delicious way. This is a sandwich to enjoy at the table with napkins nearby, not, say, in the car. Sides (soup, fries, chips) are extra; the cooked-to-order fries are delightfully crispy and a worthy addition.

Blue Ox may be a sandwich shop, but there also are salads, housemade soups, malts and scratch sweet treats, too. Located in a frontage-road strip mall near Burnsville Center, Blue Ox opened 17 years ago and has been owned by industry vet Gjon Prendi and his sons Dominic and Noah for the past two years. Service is fast and unbelievably friendly — one more reason to stop. (Nicole Hvidsten)

14270 Buckhill Road, Burnsville, 952-898-2583,

Pernil sandwich at Little Brazil

There is a small slice of home for local Brazilians in a converted Caribou Coffee off Shepard Road in St. Paul. Stepping inside Little Brazil Cafe, where the dominant language is Portuguese, it immediately feels like a portal to South America.

Charles Spies, who grew up in Itapiranga, saw the vacant building while riding his bike down by the Mississippi River and was inspired to build this taste of home. Market shelves are stocked with ingredients, Brazilian coffee is served all day, and the hot bar is stacked with dishes to eat there or grab for a riverside picnic.

My daughter and I had stopped in for an after-school snack and she was thrilled to find the corner bookshelf stocked with picture books in Portuguese and small toys to look through while I considered the menu. I stashed a couple of empanadas to take home. Like a savory Pop Tart, the rectangles are laced with chopped meat and cream cheese, so easy to reheat.

The pernil sandwich ($14.70) was an irresistible feat of meat and cheese: Chopped pork, tomatoes, onions and chimichurri pesto spill out the edges of the toasty bread. Each bite contained a multitude of flavors: rich meat, gooey cheese, and herbaceous garlicky notes. At the summit was a little flag, like the promise of victory for surmounting the generous dish. (J.S.)

230 Spring St., St. Paul, 612-709-9190,

Pork Bánh Mì at Bun Mee

Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday. After the casual chain pulled up stakes in Shakopee, this Vietnamese restaurant and tea house opened less than a year ago — but not before transforming the interior into a breezy, transportive getaway.

We stopped to satisfy a pho craving, and delighted in deeply flavorful broth filled with noodles, rare beef, meatballs and the requisite toppings ($16.75). It was enough for two meals. But seeing (and smelling) the freshly baked baguettes tempted us to sample a bánh mì, and that was the right decision. There were nine varieties; we chose the heo quay, or roasted pork belly. Add to that the traditional bánh mì fillings — pickled carrots and daikon, cucumber, pâte, cilantro, mayo and a house sauce — and crispy pork bits, stuff it all in a crusty, warm baguette and it's a recipe for nirvana. There was no skimping on filling here, and each bite was a flavor and textural powerhouse.

The other half of Bun Mee is Bun Tea, with an array of boba, teas, Vietnamese coffee and desserts. Both sides do a robust takeout business, and service is delightful. There's plenty on both menus to conquer; we'll be back. (N.H.)

4135 Dean Lakes Blvd., Shakopee, 952-222-9999,

Pork Bun at Keefer Court

The thing about Asia Mall in Eden Prairie is that once you know about this wonderland, it's hard not to want to go back all the time. This is a problem for me, as I live across the metro in St. Paul. I'd resisted going at first; I have a wealth of Asian shops, markets and restaurants at my disposal near University Avenue and the Little Mekong district.

Now it's going to need to be a regular pilgrimage, if not for the black sesame mochi doughnuts or the dry chili spiced chicken, then for the familiar and new-again flavors of the Keefer Court pork bun ($4.75). It was a dish that I'd first encountered like so many others, when I was absurdly poor in my 20s.

The newly opened outpost at Asia Mall bears little physical resemblance to the West Bank original, but, thankfully, the food is there. The burnished bread is a toasty color and crackles just a bit as it's pulled apart to reveal the savory treasures inside. The texture is akin to the squish of a great brioche roll, or maybe more the glutenous pull of a tender milk bun. Inside, chopped bits of pork in a just barely sweet, and a little bit salty, sauce is everything in one bite. The best part is now I can afford to buy a couple and share with friends. And it's totally worth the drive. (J.S.)

12160 Technology Drive, Eden Prairie,