The jovial shoebox that is Al's Breakfast is nothing but a counter. Its 14 highly coveted stools are the place to tuck into superb Benedicts, the bacon waffle to end all bacon waffles and tender, nutty-brown pancakes packed with blueberries and walnuts. Cash only.

  • 413 14th Av. SE., Mpls
  • 612-331-9991

Can't nab a seat at the showy bar at Bradstreet Craftshouse? The kitchen counter isn't exactly a second-best option, particularly for diners who enjoy watching a sharply trained cooking staff go through its nightly paces. Drop in during happy hour (5 to 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. to close, Tuesday through Thursday), when a handful of irresistible items, including a beef slider topped with aged Cheddar and a pulled pork sandwich, are $6.01 a pop.

At tiny, stylish Obento-ya, the menu covers all manner of traditional Japanese dishes, from noodles to bento box meals to sushi, but the real fun is sitting in front of the small robata and ordering simple grilled items: salmon, mackerel, squid, bacon-wrapped asparagus and more.