The figures are astounding: Since Jan. 1, we've charted 91 restaurants that have opened in the Twin Cities metro area, and are tracking 42 more in the pipeline. In no other year has the number of new restaurants ever approached this explosive growth.

In many ways, this is a locally fueled phenomenon. Although our tally includes a few chains — primarily those new to the region, or Minnesota-based enterprises kicking out their next location or two — this ever-growing list isn't about the latest Applebee's or Chick-fil-A. Instead, the vast majority are independently owned and operated ventures. (Chances are, we've overlooked a few, too.)

Sure, the past 10 months have not been without restaurant closings, including several significant farewells, but their frequency comes nowhere close to the volume of debuts. Just look at the numbers. So far in 2014, we have tallied roughly two dozen closings (again, ignoring the volatile fast-food zone). More than half of those once-empty locations have been quickly replaced by newcomers.

While this economy can present unique challenges for restaurateurs — after all, the skilled labor pool is finite — it's certainly an exciting time to be dining in the Twin Cities.

Don't believe us? Just study the map. The possibilities are starting to appear limitless.