Erich Christ has been in the restaurant business for 50 years. Fifty years! His wife, Joanne, joined him shortly after the German immigrant converted a 3.2 beer joint into the Black Forest Inn. The rest, as they say, is history.

As we get ready to ring in 2016, let's raise a glass of something bubbly to years gone by, and the influential women and men who played —and continue to play —a significant role in the Twin Cities dining scene. We're grateful for their vision, hard work and endurance. Cheers!

Tammy Wong

Here's the driving force behind Rainbow Chinese Restaurant & Bar, in 1990. She's posing with dishes celebrating the Chinese New Year 4688, the Year of the Horse (the price for that opulent 11-course meal? $30. Sigh.). The restaurant, a key Eat Street (Nicollet Avenue's restaurant row) address, opened in 1987. After nearly 10 years in a cramped, utilitarian strip mall location, Wong traded up, big time, relocating across the street into the stylish quarters the restaurant now occupies, a strategy that only cemented the Rainbow's status as an Eat Street anchor and a Twin Cities dining institution.

2739 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., 612-870-7084,

Suzanne Weinstein

The image above dates to 1982. "Suzanne Weinstein, who used to work with computers, hoisted a halibut at her small Minneapolis distributorship, Coastal Seafoods," reads the caption.

She launched her wholesale business the year prior, and Weinstein expanded into retail in 1985; by 1992 she had a second shop.

Today, Coastal Seafoods has long been an irreplaceable player in the Midwestern food chain, supplying fresh seafood to more than 200 restaurants, supermarkets and natural foods co-ops in five states. And those two shops? They remain prime destinations for Twin Cities cooks.

2330 Minnehaha Av. S., Mpls., 612-724-7425 and 74 S. Snelling Av., St. Paul, 651-698-4888,

Joanne and Erich Christ

"When I came to Minneapolis in 1965, I bought myself a job," Erich Christ told the Star Tribune in 1992. He was 24 years old, trained as a butcher and had a yen to open a restaurant. And so he did, on May 15, 1965, with a $500 down payment.

He married Joanne, a server. Many expansions — and several children — followed, along with plenty of innovations, including one of the city's first patios.

Along with their beloved Black Forest Inn, the couple (seen above in a 1977 photo) have another outsize legacy: Eat Street, which probably wouldn't have happened without the Christs' galvanizing efforts.

1 E. 26th St., Mpls., 612-872-0812,, 612-872-0812

June 8, 1988, at Broder's Cucina Italiana: Molly Broder stood at the specialty case of the Italian kitchen she and her husband, Tom, started.

Molly Broder

In 1988, a stromboli at Broders' Cucina Italiana cost $2.50 for a large slice. Lasagna was $2.25, and a 12-inch "South Jersey" hoagie was $5.99. Broder and her husband, Tom, founded the quick-service restaurant in 1982. Over the years, that enterprise expanded to include two other Italian-centric operations: Broders' Pasta Bar (1994) and Terzo (2013).

Tom died in 2008, and the couple's sons Thomas, Charlie and Daniel all grew up in the business; Thomas and Charlie remain deeply immersed.

The collection of restaurants is a family-owned force of nature, each occupying a different corner of the 50th and Penn intersection in south Minneapolis. Molly, naturally, remains at the heart.

Broders' Cucina Italiana, 2308 W. 50th St., Mpls., 612-925-3113, Broders' Pasta Bar, 5000 Penn Av. S., Mpls., 612-925-9202, Terzo, 2221 W. 50th St., Mpls., 612-925-0330,

Lenny Russo

This New Jersey native arrived in Minnesota in 1985 and immediately began peppering his résumé with a veritable constellation of never-to-be-forgotten Twin Cities restaurants, including the New French Cafe, Loring Cafe, Faegre's and the Rosewood Room, as well as the before-its-time Blackberry Creek Market, where the image above was taken in 1992.

After leading W.A. Frost & Co., Russo, a top proponent of the region's farm-to-table movement, partnered with spouse Mega Hoehn to launch what's now Heartland Restaurant & Wine Bar in 2002.

His four-star efforts have earned him five nominations for Best Chef: Midwest by the James Beard Foundation. Look for his first cookbook, "Heartland: Farm-Forward Dishes From the Great Midwest" to appear in bookstores in March.

289 E. 5th St., St. Paul, 651-699-3536,

March 25, 1981: Brenda Langton in her restaurant, Cafe Kardemena, in St. Paul.

Brenda Langton

For 35 years, she's not-so-quietly changed hearts, minds and diets. Langton's life's work began in 1978 in a small storefront that she christened Cafe Kardamena. It was located next door to W.A. Frost & Co. on St. Paul's Selby Avenue, and it "didn't apologize for its vegetarian stance," according to the Star Tribune in this 1983 photo.

A pattern had started. By 1986, Langton turned her evangelical-like fervor to the then-hot Minneapolis Warehouse District, where her Cafe Brenda and its semi-vegetarian menu was a prime draw for 23 years.

For the past decade, Langton's Spoonriver — as innovative and welcoming as its owner — has become as closely associated with the Mill District as the Guthrie Theater, Mill City Museum and Stone Arch Bridge. It is, in other words, indispensible.

750 S. 2nd St., Mpls., 612-436-2236,

January 17, 1988: Lowell Pickett of the Dakota Bar & Grill.

Lowell Pickett

The Twin Cities' leading impresario has a rare skill set: a proven ear for jazz and a sharp eye for culinary talent. Since he founded the Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant in 1985, Pickett (depicted above in a 1988 photo) has played host to pretty much every headline-grabbing jazz musician in the country, and he's partnered with a select fraternity of game-changing chefs, including Ken Goff and Jack Riebel, as well as the kitchen's current occupants, chef Derik Moran and pastry chef Katie Elsing.

In 2003, after years in St. Paul's sleepy Bandana Square, Pickett relocated the Dakota across the river to a center-spotlight address at 10th and Nicollet. Downtown Minneapolis has never been the same.

"I'm constantly impressed and inspired by the talent here, from what's onstage to what's coming out of the kitchen," he told the Star Tribune in 2007. We are, too.

1010 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., 612-332-1010,