Dakota Junction

When out and about near Lake Minnetonka, this casual spot is a must for nicely composed salads, impressive tacos and lavishly topped flatbreads. The expertly prepared sandwiches (panini, patty melts, burgers) include an affectionate nod to that great Iowa export, the loose-meat sandwich, and it ranks as a sterling example of the meal-in-a-bun genre. If there's carrot cake, order it. Weekend brunch, too, and an above-and-beyond kids' menu.

2281 Commerce Blvd., Mound, facebook.com/DakotaJunctionMound. Lunch and dinner served daily, dinner served Mon.-Sat.

Estelle's Eatery & Bar

Chef/owner Matt Brown, a veteran of Travail Kitchen and Amusements in Robbinsdale, specializes in imaginatively prepared and reasonably priced crowd-pleasers, including nachos, tacos, burgers, a few comfort-food classics (beef stroganoff, mac and cheese topped with cider-braised pulled pork) and rice bowls. There's a pleasant patio and a well stocked bar.

121 Main Av. N., Harmony, Minn., estelleseatery.com. Lunch and dinner served Wed.-Sat.

Homemade Cafe

The name says it all. Scratch cooking, in generous portions, that ranges from waffles and stuffed French toast to a Buffalo chicken-style salad and hot roast beef sandwiches with mashed potatoes and gravy. The bakery case is Temptation Central, filled with an ever-changing assortment of pies.

809 3rd St., Pepin, Wis., facebook.com/homemadecafeofpepinwi. Breakfast and lunch served Thu.-Mon., dinner served Fri.

Reads Landing Brewing Co.

Take a seat on the deck overlooking the Mississippi River and start exploring the more-than-gastropub menu, which includes fried catfish with cornbread, a rib-eye sandwich smothered with grilled onions and Swiss cheese, jerk-style chicken tacos, shrimp and grits and, of course, brewer Craig Moechnig's handiwork.

70555 202nd Av., Reads Landing, Minn., rlbrewingco.com. Lunch and dinner served Wed.-Sun.


This handsome storefront dining room is an ideal venue for snacking on beef tartare with a zesty Dijon mustard, blue cheese-fortified deviled eggs or build-your-own meat and cheese plates. Larger appetites can enjoy saffron-infused lobster bisque, pan-seared salmon cakes, towering pot roast sandwiches, spaghetti with prawns and a memorable Cheddar-topped burger.

219 Bush St., Red Wing, thestaghead.com. Lunch and dinner served Wed.-Sat.