The NE Pup Burger at Duke's on 7
We had barely stepped onto the expansive Minnetonka patio with our dog, Stella, and we were smitten (the large jar of dog biscuits was a good sign). Turns out we aren't alone. Duke's, part of the locally owned Craft & Crew group of restaurants, has been open just a few weeks and is already seeing brisk business. Among the reasons: its dog-friendly patio and dedicated dog menu.
Of course, you don't have to have a dog to appreciate the patio, but dog parents definitely will. We were barely seated when a bowl of ice water arrived for Stella, along with the appropriate amount of coos and head scratches, to keep her occupied while we perused the impressive menus — for dogs and people.
We ordered Stella the NE Pup Burger (a ⅓-pound burger served atop an organic jasmine brown rice mixed with veggies and sweet potatoes, $8), but had plenty of choices, from chicken and sweet treats to frozen bones and meatloaf. (Our server touted the healthfulness of the dog menu.) Stella wasted no time on her burger, but it was filling enough that we brought home a doggy bag, too. A luxury? Yes. Worth it? Definitely.
Equally worth it — for humans — is the sunfish sandwich ($16). A hefty portion of cornmeal-crusted sunfish is topped with housemade tartar sauce, lettuce and roasted peppers and nestled into a sliced ciabatta. It rivaled my dad's fried fish, and that's saying something. (Nicole Hvidsten)
15600 Hwy. 7, Minnetonka, 952-767-2320, dukeson7.com. Open Mon.-Thu. 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Fri. 11 a.m.-midnight, Sat. 9 a.m.-midnight and Sun. 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Note: all Craft & Crew restaurants are equally dog-friendly and have dog menus.
Disco Fries at Hi-Lo Diner
Being from New Jersey, I find myself longing, every now and then, for a diner. On the East Coast, a diner is more than just a short-order grill. It's a place that's lit with fluorescents, has a novel of a menu, is open all hours, is where you go when you're on your way home from anything, and serves disco fries. So, the homesick part of my heart leapt when I saw disco fries on the menu at Hi-Lo Diner, a Minneapolis transplant of an actual East Coast diner car.
Disco fries are your run-of-the-mill crinkle-cut fries smothered in gravy and cheese — gobs of mozzarella or, even better, barely melted squares of American. While it shares some ingredients with Canadian poutine, it's a purely New Jersey invention. Disco fries were a staple on many a late-night diner run after high school football games and musical rehearsals, when a gaggle of hungry friends and I would demolish a plate of them in under a minute.
Hi-Lo's version hits the spot. They use shredded Cheddar, which starts to melt into gooey strands beneath a ladleful of steaming hot beef gravy. A pinch of chives fancies it up, but there's no need. After sharing this as an appetizer, I could barely eat half of the entree I ordered. No wonder disco fries have the reputation for being the best ever drunk food; they'll soak up anything.
Why it's a New Jersey legend is a mystery to me, but I am so glad to see it branching out. If only I could get some Taylor Ham. (Sharyn Jackson)
4020 E. Lake St., Mpls., 612-353-6568, hi-lo-diner.com. Open 9 a.m.-9 p.m. daily.
Crab and Avocado Salad at Central N.E.
In 2020, Central N.E. was one of many Twin Cities restaurants that announced it would be closing for a pandemic-related winter break. What made the closing really sting was that it had only opened two months prior. That hibernation extended into spring and summer, but now, a full year after it first opened its doors, Central N.E. gets the rare opportunity to start over. The restaurant, in an old furniture warehouse from 1897, was relaunched this week.
At a soft opening on one of the week's hottest and haziest evenings, this cooling crab and avocado salad was a highlight. Central N.E. co-owner Andy Cohen pitched it to me as "bacon forward" and indeed it was, with well-done crumbles of thick-cut bacon, generous lump crab, chunks of avocado and a touch of acid from bruschetta-style diced tomatoes stacked prettily atop the slightest pile of lettuce confetti.
Previously, the address was home to the short-lived northeast Minneapolis outpost of the Bad Waitress, which has the same owners. While the original daytime spot on Eat Street still has designs on expanding, this location wasn't a good fit, said Elizabeth Morrissey Brown, owner of Morrissey Hospitality, which manages both restaurants.
Instead, amid a boom of residential buildings, the neighborhood needed more of an all-day-into-the-night kind of place, Morrissey Brown said. And the pandemic closure, while unwelcome, gave the owners a chance to rethink the menu. The offerings lean toward the customizable, with $10 lunch specials, mix-and-match entrees and sides, and a this-or-that cocktail list that lets you choose your spirit.
"We can now give it the fighting chance it deserves," Morrissey Brown said. (S.J.)
700 Central Av. NE., Mpls., 612-354-7947, central-ne.com. Open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Wed.-Thu., 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri., 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Sat. and 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sun.
All-Day Breakfast Pizza at the Grocer's Table
Pizza for breakfast and a breakfast pizza are similar but not identical.
The former is leftovers, a few takeout slices guiltily consumed, often in a hangover haze. For the latter, chef Craig Johnson avoids red sauce, pepperoni, anchovies and other morning-after holdovers. Instead, he views toppings through the clear-eyed prism of breakfast basics, creating what is essentially a bacon-egg-cheesy hash browns-toast combo.
But the outcome is far more refined. For pork, Johnson uses crisped-up pancetta. A runny yolk, which seeps all over the place when broken, keeps a pepper-flecked fried egg from remaining a mere garnish. The potatoes? Slices of tender, golden skin-ons. A trio of cheeses (Cheddar, provolone and Parmesan, all judiciously applied) and mellow roasted garlic provide the just-right finishing flourishes.
The oval-shaped crust is made from the same sturdy, chewy dough used for the menu's other well composed pizzas, with edges that are nicely blistered after a spin in the kitchen's wood-fueled oven.
While the $17 price might seem steep, the more-than-generous portions are made for sharing. Another plus? There's no walk of shame to the recycling bin to dispose of the pizza box. (Rick Nelson)
326 Broadway Av. S., Wayzata, 952-466-6100, thegrocerstablemn.com. Open 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Tue.-Thu., 7 a.m.-"close" Fri., 8 a.m.-"close" Sat., 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun.
Peach and Tomato Panzanella Salad at Cardamom
The Walker Art Center's new restaurant debuted on Thursday. A collaboration between Café Cerés partners Daniel del Prado and Shawn McKenzie, this successor to Esker Grove is taking its cues from Aegean and Mediterranean culinary traditions, a conceit that really comes alive in this hugely appealing salad ($12).
Flavor-wise, it's basically late July on a plate. It's difficult to imagine a more glorious use for the season's first tomatoes, a mix of juicy, colorful heirlooms. The kitchen wisely enlists the oven to introduce a contrasting texture — and an accentuated flavor — into cherry tomatoes, and calls upon the grill's heat to unlock even more sugars in gloriously sweet, ripe peaches.
Thoughtful touches abound. Basil inserts a cool, garden-fresh herbaceousness, pops of salty blue cheese contribute much-needed tang, croutons add crunch and a muted sherry vinaigrette pulls all the components together without taking over.
It's all awfully impressive, as is the room's subtle and effective makeover and bar manager Megan Luedtke's vivacious spirit-free cocktails. Yeah, I can't wait to go back. (R.N.)
723 Vineland Place, Mpls., 612-375-7600, walkerart.org. Currently open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Thu.-Sun., dinner hours coming later.
Nicole Hvidsten • @nicolehvid
Sharyn Jackson • @SharynJackson
Rick Nelson • @RickNelsonStrib