We said bienvenue to Paris-inspired bakeries

Lines have been consistently long for the self-serve bread and pastry boxes at Richfield's Tous Les Jours, the South Korean franchise that finally entered the Minnesota market this year. Then we got Texas-based Sweet Paris Crêperie & Café in Woodbury. The South Korean chain Paris Baguette is still in the lineup for Maple Grove. Each has its fans, and its merits. But in 2023, there was no shortage of locally grown concepts for Francophiles to get their croissant fix, starting with B'beri Desserts at Le Café at Alliance Française, the new northeast Minneapolis location of La Boulangerie Marguerite, an Edina outpost of Cooks | Bellecour, and an upcoming Mother Dough Bakery in downtown Minneapolis' Mill District.

Restaurant names got "Social"

The 11-year-old Eat Street Social may have been one of the sadder closings of the year, but the storied drinking den left something very important behind: part of its name. This year alone, we got Pizzeria Social, the Camden Social, Social Kitchen & Libations and Southern Social. They became part of a very social landscape in the Twin Cities area and beyond, joining Punch Bowl Social, Cobble Social House, Ten 01 Social, R Social on Main, the Social House (in Hermantown), and Eat Street's big sibling (and maybe the OG social?), North East Social. That's not the only naming trend we've seen recently. There are a growing number of Public places (Brazin Public House, Emmett's Public House, Public Domain) along with restaurants that sound like greetings (Hi Flora! and Zhora Darling) or adages (Fool Me Once, In Vino Veritas, Where's the Flour?). Hey, we'll take them over another iteration of "Noun & Another Unrelated Noun."

There were more hours for eating

Late-night dining made a comeback in 2023, with expanded hours to satisfy the munchies from the Flora Room, Billy After Dark, Wrestaurant at the Palace, Litt Pinball Bar and Little Tijuana Neighborhood Lounge. (Fool Me Once, the cosmic cowboy bar at Lyn-Lake, even added an industry night brunch.) Mondays, a quiet night even before the pandemic messed with hours of operation, is finally seeing some more activity. Great early-in-the-week dinner spots joining the fray this year are Maison Margaux, Layline, Breva, Porzana and Star Bar & Bistro. Brunch is seeing some renewed energy, with more on the way. Petite León, Young Joni, Blondette, Raag Progressive Indian Cuisine and Butcher & the Boar are doing the Sunday morning egg thing, and while Meritage just served a one-and-done brunch service, this old favorite is hinting at making it a regular thing. Finally, lunch is getting some new attention beyond the salad bowl assembly line. Baba's Hummus House, Kruse Markit, Love Pizza and the Indigenous Food Lab are all livening up the workweek with hummus bowls, grazing boards, New Haven pies and decolonized lunch plates.

Homegrown brands expanded

In 2023, we welcomed the growth of some local favorites, which are now reaching additional slices of the metro by adding new locations to their portfolios: Boludo, Slice Brothers Pizza, Hope Breakfast Bar, Bogart's Doughnut Co., Yum Kitchen & Bakery, Cooks | Bellecour, SK Coffee, Pimento and El Sazon.

Sandwiches became an art

The return of sandwich wizard Matt Bickford (formerly of Be'wiched Deli) at the spiffy new location of South Lyndale Liquors makes this bottle shop a major player in the gourmet sandwich game. Knockout porchetta sandwich aside, there are more places to find out just how good putting some protein between two pieces of bread can be. At northeast Minneapolis' Marty's Deli, fresh focaccia is the canvas; at Silver Fern, it's the biscuit. Big E is all about breakfast sandwiches with top-shelf ingredients. Westside Wine & Spirits in St. Louis Park honors the suburb's own celebrities with their creative lineup. And at Kim's, chef Ann Kim gives us her glorious (housemade) version of canned meat and cheese on hotteok.

River towns had a restaurant rebirth

We'd drive out of our way any day for a burger at Howard's Bar in Stillwater, which Caroline Smith and chef Adam To debuted this year in the former Whitey's. And that's not all that's worth a road trip. We found lively new places to eat and drink all along the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, since the pandemic welcomed a surge of culinary-minded residents fleeing the cities, from pizza at a sweeping Scandia winery to organic grain spirits made on a family farm in Nelson — and so much deliciousness in between.

Celebrities ruled the food scene

Lady Gaga had dinner at Cafe & Bar Lurcat, James Cameron may have eaten in Duluth, the Jonas Brothers had a drink at Meteor Bar, and everyone tried to get a piece of Swift-mania. In the lead-up to Taylor Swift's big gig this summer at US Bank Stadium — she played two shows, in case you missed it — special menus gave us cupcakes, cookies and coffee flights honoring the singer's eras. Speak now? Let's eat now.