What a year! Dozens of new restaurants catapulted the Twin Cities into the upper echelon of food cities in 2019.
The year began with a duo of illustrious openings. In January, a high-profile steakhouse debuted in a higher-profile address: chef Mike DeCamp’s P.S. Steak, in the former La Belle Vie. In February, Minneapolis was indulged with Gavin Kaysen’s third restaurant, Demi. It wasn’t just another opening; that petite showstopper is the Star Tribune’s 2019 Restaurant of the Year (see Startribune.com/taste).
Beginning in the winter, the Twin Cities became a carnivore’s dream. Minnetonka got deep-fried burgers at the Copper Cow. Northeast Minneapolis’ barbecue revolution launched with Beast Barbecue and a move for Market Bar-B-Que. It continued into the spring with Minnesota Barbecue Co. from the Travail team; St. Paul got a brick-and-mortar Bark and the Bite, which previously served its ribs from a convenience store in northeast Minneapolis. Later in the year, Baldamar at Rosedale, Little Chicago Chophouse at Canterbury Park and 801 Chophouse, in a former Barnes & Noble on Nicollet Mall, made the cities meatier.
Back in January, a second location of Nico’s Taco and Tequila Bar (the first is in Uptown), in the former Muffuletta in St. Paul, was the first of a handful of new Mexican eateries that included south Minneapolis’ Don Raúl, Lyn-Lake’s Prieto Taqueria Bar, E. Lake Street’s Habanero Tacos, and Taberna Street Tacos overlooking Bde Maka Ska (aka Lake Calhoun).
Lowertown got the rec-room that every child of the ’90s dreams of with Ox Cart Arcade. Cathedral Hill got the Fitz, topping deep-dish pizzas with ingenuity. Speaking of pizza, this was a big year for the pie: Luigi’s Best became a St. Louis Park legend, Pig Ate My Pizza grew into a brewpub in Robbinsdale, tableside mozzarella service brought buzz to Giulia in the new Emery hotel in downtown Minneapolis, and Isaac Becker and Nancy St. Pierre offered slices in the North Loop with the October opening of Snack Bar.
Starting in the spring — and continuing all year long — a number of classic spots launched new locations: Hamburguesas el Gordo in West St. Paul, Pimento Jamaican Kitchen at Keg & Case Market, T-Rex Cookie in Eagan, Minnesota Nice Cream in Stillwater. Bootstrap Coffee Roasters, a wholesaler, opened its first coffee bar in St. Paul. Afro Deli launched a new spot in the Minneapolis skyway, and FireBox Deli expanded to St. Paul’s Marshall Avenue. The Loon Cafe made the leap to downtown St. Paul in the summer, and Minnetonka’s Hyderabad House Biryani Place opened a Plymouth outpost in late fall. By the end of the year, E. Lake Street’s paletas shop La Michoacana Purépecha expanded to Midtown Global Market, and Pizza Karma opened its second location in Maple Grove.
Other spring openings: Cobble Social House for cocktails, Jinx Tea for tea-based mocktails, the Brooklyn for golf-side dining at Edinburgh USA, Cheese Louise for grilled cheese, Treats Cereal Bar & Boba for cereal ice cream, Olive & Lamb for Greek, Magic Noodle for the mesmerizing making of hand-pulled noodles, and the Prodigal Pub for Celtic whiskeys. Burger Dive gave tipplers at Tony Jaros River Garden smashburgers to soak up the Greenies. Falls Landing gave fans of chef J.D. Fratzke a reason to drive to Cannon Falls.
This summer, Lake Minnetonka saw the opening of Vann, a Norwegian-inspired seafood restaurant, while Hopkins got a California-style wine bar, the Vine Room. Minneapolis, St. Paul and Maplewood got new Italian spots (Trattoria Mucci’s, Due Focacceria, Tono Pizzeria + Cheesesteaks), while a former Italian restaurant in Uptown turned into Asian fusion and bottle service spot Enji. Rose Street Cafe established all-day breakfast, and a “Bread Lab,” in the old Schmidt brewery beer hall in St. Paul. More all-day breakfast came to St. Paul in September at Hope Breakfast Bar. Korean fried chicken took off, with the opening of Bap and Chicken and more than one Bonchon this year. Bacon Social House in downtown Minneapolis focused on all things pork. And Kieran’s Kitchen Northeast became a showcase for the bounty of the Food Building.
Fall was another season for ambitious openings. Rosedale Center got a new food hall, Potluck, in addition to the aforementioned Baldamar, a “modern” steakhouse from the owners of Wayzata’s 6Smith. Pay-what-you-can Provision Community Restaurant took over Salty Tart’s former commissary in south Minneapolis. RH Rooftop Restaurant at Restoration Hardware beckoned the ladies-who-lunch crowd to its chandelier-studded perch neighboring the Galleria in Edina. Indoor golf simulators accompanied classic comfort food at the North Loop’s Thr3 Jack.
This fall, St. Paul’s Grand Avenue got two new sweet spots: Thirty-Six Cafe and the Warming House by Original Hockey Mom Brownies; Black Walnut Bakery opened its first stand-alone cafe on S. Hennepin Avenue, while the Mall of America went all in with Sugar Factory.
More to close out 2019: dog-friendly the Block Food + Drink in St. Louis Park, southern Mediterranean Estelle in St. Paul, natural wine and Catalan cuisine at Bar Brava in north Minneapolis, Tokyo-style crêpes from Ichigo in south Minneapolis, Hot Hands Pie & Biscuit, neighboring Monkey Temple Tandoori Grill and Ale House on St. Paul’s Snelling Avenue, chef-collaborative Just/Us taking over the former Golden’s Deli in Lowertown, and finally, Reverie, the vegan food truck, is serving dinner in its own restaurant in Powderhorn Park. A very good food year, indeed.