BEST RESTAURANT (MINNEAPOLIS) - 1999
It's been a strange year for Minneapolis restaurants: All the former powerhouses have succumbed to their own success. D'Amico Cucina coasts along serving pedestrian food, Goodfellow's is so taken with itself that embarrassingly pretentious servers now trot out neglected plates, and Aquavit--well, the great Swedish hope hasn't come up with an experience to match its prices. So what's a diner to do? The most satisfying restaurants this year have been the more modest, chef-driven spots. Auriga wins because of the underdog factor (oh, those eager-to-please young chefs); because the food is of a consistently high quality and the wine list is seriously, accessibly chosen; but most of all because there is often greatness in the revolving menu--like that one time when they served ethereal chestnut and duck-egg ravioli with watercress and truffle butter, or that star anise-glazed roast leg of lamb with caramelized Meyers lemons. Put simply, Auriga has proven itself time and again to be the restaurant we most want to go to.