The best new Twin Cities restaurants of 2009

Sea Change, Anchor Fish & Chips among favorite new spots

The ANCHOR FISH & CHIPS
302 13th Ave. NE, Minneapolis
612.676.1300; www.theanchorfishandchips.com

While I like the mashed-potato-frosted Shepherd's Pie and the fried-egg-and-ham-topped Helicopter Burger at this jam-packed Northeast chippery, I prefer to spend a leisurely weekend at the Anchor with one of their authentic Irish breakfasts.

The plates are essentially hearty dinners that double as morning meals. For $12, the Full Whack is large enough to split if you have a modest appetite. It comes with eggs (order them based, which is like over easy except the yolk turns custard-like), grilled tomatoes, grilled mushrooms, potato bread, and Heinz beans (a tomato-y, less-sweet version of American baked beans), plus several kinds of meat. There's the "banger" sausage link; the "rasher," or back bacon; and honest-to-goodness black-and-white pudding—soft, bready sausages that taste a lot like Thanksgiving stuffing. For it to be any more Irish, you'd have to cross the pond.

BAR LA GRASSA
800 Washington Ave. N., Minneapolis
612.333.3837; www.barlagrassa.com

Nothing says hospitality like a gratis appetizer, especially one that tastes better than a lot of food you've bought and paid for with your hard-earned cash. The one at chef Isaac Becker's new Warehouse District bar hotspot, La Grassa, packs a more flavorful wallop than you'd expect for something served in kitschy floral-print dishes that look like they came from Grandma's: The much-maligned lima bean has never tasted so good, swimming in oil with cubes of Manchego and pickled vegetables.

While you're indulging in your snack, ask your server when the burrata came in, and if it's fresh, place your order: Italy's buffalo-milk mozzarella is one of the world's finest cheeses. Then prepare yourself for a bowl of Bar La Grassa's gnocchi, which may be the best preparation in the Cities. Its pillowy nubs melt on the tongue but perk up the taste buds with caramelized cauliflower and citrus. The pork ribs, marinated in garlic, rosemary, and chiles, are magically crusted on top, yet moist and fatty underneath. But don't eat too many or you won't have room for the caramel crepes or lemon lavender mousse. 

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