Q: I follow your weekly Burger Friday blog (startribune.com/tabletalk), and I was wondering: Is there one burger that you’ve tried recently that you would recommend above all others?
A: Definitely, and it’s the cheeseburger at Revival (4257 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., 612-345-4516, revivalmpls. com). Chef/co-owner Thomas Boemer taps into the American diner tradition, grilling thin-ish patties (a blend of ultra-fatty short rib and brisket) to an almost crispy exterior, stacking one on top of another and then dousing them in plenty of salty American cheese that quickly melts into semi-sauce status. Tangy bread-and-butter pickles add a necessary amount of vinegary bite; the kitchen’s impressive house-cured bacon lays on another level of fatty heft, and the bun, baked to Boemer’s specifications at St. Paul’s Saint Agnes Baking Co. (source of so many great Twin Cities burger buns), does not disappoint. It’s $13, and worth every penny. My tip: Visit at lunch, when the no-reservations restaurant is slightly less jam-packed.
Q: Where should we be celebrating morel season?
A: I’ve spied Minnesota’s official state mushroom on menus all over town the past few weeks, but the morel mania that has made the most lasting impression is at the Birchwood Cafe (3311 E. 25th St., Mpls., 612-722-4474, birchwood cafe.com), where for $5 chef Marshall Paulsen will add morels to any dish on the menu, while supplies last. Hopefully, that means at least through the weekend. “We’ll keep doing it as long as Minnesota morels are available,” Paulsen said. “We’ve been lucky. One guy has been bringing all he has just to us. We also found some behind the Birchwood in our garden, which is really weird.”
Q: We’re looking for something different. Any suggestions?
A: Here are two: Chimborazo (2851 Central Av. NE., Mpls., 612-788-1328, chimborazorestaurant.com), where chef/owner Marcos Pinguil fills his menu with the homestyle cooking of his native Ecuador, including flavorful stews, full-bodied soups and an appealing weekend brunch menu. Top price? $12.
And chef Hector Ruiz, he of Cafe Ena, Rincon 38 and La Fresca, has launched a fourth restaurant: Caribbean-focused La Ceiba Bistro (3500 Bloomington Av. S., Mpls., 612-729-0523). Those who recall Ruiz’s longtime El Meson will be pleased to learn that he’s reviving some of the restaurant’s most popular dishes, including paella and chicken with rice. Other menu items include roasted halibut with a garlic-habanero butter sauce, and oven-roasted red snapper with grilled pineapple. Wine and beer, too. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served daily.
Q: With the Modern Cafe closed, I’m in need of a new favorite casual restaurant. Where would you go?
A: I’d start with the Kenwood (2115 W. 21st St., Mpls., 612-377-3695, www.thekenwoodrestaurant.com). Although it doesn’t share the Modern’s retro sensibilities, the House of Don Saunders is blessed with all kinds of worthy neighborhood restaurant attributes, including scrupulous cooking, a something-for-everyone menu that covers the basics (a wicked-good burger, the grilled Caesar to end all grilled Caesars) but also steers diners in hyper-seasonal (pasta-dressed morels, halibut with spring vegetables) and occasionally offbeat (beautiful veal sweetbreads with tonnato) directions. Smooth service, handsome room, a daily brunch menu (well, except Monday, when the restaurant is closed) and won’t-bust-the-budget prices. What’s not to like?
Q: Is there anything new I should know about?
A: I’m going to answer your question with a question: How much time to do you have? Yes, there’s plenty on the just-opened front.
Haute Dish chef Landon Schoenefeld has kicked open the doors to Nighthawks (3753 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., 612-248-8111, nighthawksmpls.com), his postmodern homage to the blue plate special. Dinner is on the docket Monday through Saturday (to midnight), and the kitchen revels in a pancake-centric brunch on Saturday and Sunday.
Carrie, John and Elizabeth Tinucci have opened the third location of their Colossal Cafe (1340 Grand Av., St. Paul, 651-414-0543, www.colossal cafe.com) in the former home of the Twisted Fork Grille, serving breakfast and lunch daily. Make mine a short stack of Flappers (the grill’s yeasty pancakes), topped with Brie and apples, please.
Como Dockside, the restaurant and music venue located in architect Clarence Johnston’s 109-year-old Como Park landmark, is now open (11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday). The father-and-son ownership team of Jon Oulman (Amsterdam Bar & Hall in St. Paul and 331 Club in Minneapolis) and Jarret Oulman have given the former Black Bear Crossings a once-over, added a New Orleans-inspired menu (catfish po’boys, gumbo, andouille sausage with white cheddar grits) and are pouring beer, wine and cocktails.
Quick-service One Two Three Sushi has just opened its fifth outlet, this time on the skyway level of U.S. Bank Plaza (220 S. 6th St., Mpls., 612-259-7832, onetwothreesushi.com). Its sibling restaurant, Masu Sushi & Robata (masusushiandrobata.com) is developing a third location, going into the former El Loro Mexican Restaurant in Apple Valley in late summer. The plan is to launch a slightly smaller version of its two predecessors and operate under a tweaked name, Masu Sushi & Noodle.
In other opening-soon news, Brewer’s Table, the “finer dining” restaurant located inside the mammoth Surly Brewing Co. (520 Malcolm Av. SE., Mpls., 763-999-6526, surlybrewing.com) debuts Friday. The 85-seat restaurant (with another 28 on the outdoor terrace) will serve dinner Wednesday through Saturday, and chef Jorge Guzman’s changes-frequently menu is designed to pair with the brewery’s beers. Unlike the beer hall below, reservations are accepted.
June 1 is opening day at Monello (1115 2nd Av. S., Mpls., monellompls.com), the Italian restaurant going into the former Porter & Frye inside the Hotel Ivy. It’s the work of Jester Concepts (Borough, Coup d’état). Chef (and La Belle Vie vet) Mike DeCamp is starting with breakfast and dinner daily, with lunch following at a later date.
Q: Do you have an opinion about the restaurant receipts — or the touch-pad screens — that include suggested tip amounts? You know, the ones that automatically compute a preprogrammed tip?
A: The C-minus arithmetic student within finds the suggested tip amounts to be enormously helpful. But part of me also feels that it’s a bit presumptuous, especially when it’s a counter-service spot and we’re veering into 25 percent territory. Somehow taking my order, watching me swipe my credit card and then handing me an electronic beeper to alert me so that I can pick up my food, well, that level of effort doesn’t seem to merit a 25 percent tip.
Q: Can you recommend a good wine bar?
A: I’ll give you two. Terzo Vino Bar (2221 W. 50th St., Mpls., 612-925-0330, broders.com/terzo-vino-bar) is home to a superb all-Italian wine list (with an ever-changing by-the-glass roster that hovers around 50 selections) and a first-rate menu of highly shareable noshes (bruschettas, cheeses, cured meats) and full-on meals, including a three-course $40 option. There are bonuses galore, including a great-looking setting, the ability to make a reservation and the sharp, knowledgeable staff.
The second is Gyst Fermentation Bar (25 E. 26th St., Mpls., 612-758-0113, gystmpls.com), which, as the name implies, enthusiastically showcases the wonders of fermented food and drink. Translation: a fascinating (and rarely seen, at least in this town) selection of wines, a connoisseur’s nose for beers, a gotta-try array of kombuchas (including a house-made version), artfully presented cheeses and pickled vegetables and a handful of tasty sandwiches, all served by an enthusiastic staff (who appear to be PhD-level experts in their chosen profession) in stylish surroundings.
Q: We’re grilling over the Memorial Day holiday — burgers and brats — and this always raises the question: Where to buy the best buns?
A: I have two answers for you. Rustica (3220 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-822-1119, rusticabakery.com) recently entered the hamburger bun business, baking expertly prepared, buttery brioche beauties in packs of four for $4 (they’re also available — at a slight upcharge, $4.69 — at Seward Co-op, 2823 E. Franklin Av., Mpls., 612-338-2465, seward.coop). For sausage buns, go directly to the pros at Kramarczuk’s (215 E. Hennepin Av., Mpls., 612-379-3018, www.kramarczuks. com). They’re sturdy enough to hold up to the swagger of a sizzling grilled sausage, and a pack of eight, baked fresh daily, is $6.
Q: Where can we dine while simultaneously enjoying a lakeside view?
A: Count me a huge fan of Sandcastle (4955 W. Lake Nokomis Pkwy., Mpls., 612-722-5550, www.sandcastlempls.com) for its quirky, well-prepared quick-service fare (do not, under any circumstances, skip the pulled pork sandwich, the BLT, the kimchi- and fried egg-covered hot dog or the refreshing house-made aguas) and the swell beachside patio. On Lake Minnetonka, the views can’t be beat at 6Smith (294 E. Grove Lane, Wayzata, 952-698-7900, www.6smith.com) from the dockside patio or the rooftop terrace (if you spy the word “lobster” on the menu, order it).
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