Food & Drink

  • BEST APPLE ORCHARD

    Fall. Minnesota. Apples. Any questions? Well, yes: Like, are there any among the 40-some apple orchards listed in the Minnesota Grown directory (visit www.mda.state.mn.us, or call (651) 297-8695) whose trees aren't drenched in toxic sprays four or five times during the growing seasons? Answer: Only one that we could find--and as luck would have it, it's hidden inside one of… More >>
  • BEST ASIAN GROCERY

    This Asian market is reminiscent of a small-town grocery store: No one pays much attention to what's in the cluttered front window, because it's the inside that matters. Truong Thanh's long aisles hold oodles of noodles, fish sauces, and containers of dried, preserved plums, prunes, mangos, and olives. The little bakery section in the front holds, among other things, that… More >>
  • BEST BAGELS

    Unlikely as it may seem, the local bagel picture is getting bleaker. Not content with having added corrupting influences like jalapeño, blueberry, and chocolate, now those crazed bakers seem to be trying to fuse muffins and bagels in unholy demon-child flavors--lemon-poppyseed, chocolate-cherry, orange-almond. Only Big City Bagels makes the crusty boiled wonders the way they're supposed to be, with a… More >>
  • BEST BAKERY

    Per its name, Turtle Bread Company started five years ago fashioning excellent European-style bread--earthy sourdoughs, springy baguettes. Then they moved into specialty loaves: an essence-of-spinach bread, moist Irish soda bread sweet with buttermilk and oats, sour and crunchy focaccias. Finally, gloriously, they began bringing out pastries. Turtle Bread's pumpkin pie is the ideal before which all other pumpkin pies are… More >>
  • BEST BARBECUE

    On a good day, and those days are frequent, the salty pork and beef all but slide off the bone. On those rare off days when the meat is a tad overdone, that subtle, smoky flavor and thin, tangy jus make up the difference. While fad restaurants all over town hang banners heralding awards won at this or that competition,… More >>
  • BEST BREAD

    This is now a bread town that could kick any other bread town's keisters: First we got Alice Factor's crusty sticklike baguettes. Then came the tasty sandwich loaves from the ovens of Great Harvest, the night-black pumpernickel at Blackey's, the fragrant coffee breads at Taste of Scandinavia, the potent sourdoughs at French Meadow Bakery & Cafe--hell, even Lund's has figured… More >>
  • BEST BREAKFAST

    The lunch and dinner cuisine here is what foodies describe at Italian/pan-Asian fusion, but the breakfast is unapologetically, eclectically, eggily American. You can't go wrong with the hearty, meal-in-themselves pancakes--take your choice of honey buttermilk or blue cornmeal ($5.25, or $6.25 with fruit). The omelets are large but light: Try the Fabulous Feta, packed with cheese, spinach, and tomatoes ($6.50).… More >>
  • BEST BURGERS

    What better place to find a 1950s throwback than Edina? Opened 35 years ago and now owned by John Rimarcik of Annie's Parlor and Monte Carlo fame, this soda joint for grease lovers has everything but the Fonz. High-backed vinyl booths, faded tile floors, scratched Formica tables, young lovers gazing over their straws, even a low row of spinning stools… More >>
  • BEST BURRITOS/WRAPS

    Competition finally churned up this category after years of stagnation, thanks to newcomers Chipotle Grill (an outpost of an upscale Denver chain) and Central Avenue's El Rancho Grande (which indisputably makes the Cities' biggest burritos). We still have to give it to the café in El Burrito Mercado, whose guisados (stews) remain unbeaten: One day you can choose a sour… More >>
  • BEST BUTCHER

    In seventeenth-century France, meat wasn't considered ready to eat until it, well, stunk. You couldn't get that past the health inspectors these days, but Louis XIV was onto something: The secret to really great beef is aging. Which is why sides of cow hang on their hooks in Widmer's cavernous refrigerator for at least two weeks before they're sliced into… More >>
  • BEST CAESAR SALAD

    Those fond of the bastardized versions of the classic served in most local restaurants needn't raise their forks here. This is exactly what a caesar is supposed to be: icily crisp leaves of romaine drizzled lightly with a garlicky dressing, daintily topped with Parmesan and homemade croutons and, for the brave of palate, anchovies. The salad alone is worth the… More >>
  • BEST CALAMARI

    If your taste runs to little rings of squid battered and deep-fried beyond recognition, you're at the wrong address. But if you love the sweet, tender flesh lightly kissed with batter and sautéed in garlic and butter, you have found nirvana. One bite of Rainbow's calamari, and you'll never allow another restaurant's to cross your palate. And while you're there,… More >>
  • BEST CHEAP EATS

    If you can't eat yourself into a stupor here for chump change, you need to move on down to Texas to be near those heart-stopper steak houses that serve up 56-ounce cuts of beef free to anyone who can actually finish them. Take a couple of friends and start with an order of mandu ($1.99)--a scallion-studded vegetable pancake that arrives… More >>
  • BEST CHEESE SELECTION

    All praise the lactating animals, who through their maternal generosity provide milk for their own young and also for us, the perpetually young. All praise the artisanal cheesemakers, who through careful adherence to their craft keep the world at least partially safe from Velveeta. And all praise Surdyk's, for gathering the animals' milks and the cheesemakers' arts so that we… More >>
  • BEST CHICKEN WINGS

    The chicken wing may be simultaneously the most common and the most maligned member of the bar-food pantheon. Everyone has them on the menu, no one seems to give them much thought, and after a few beers, you don't care too much what they taste like. Not so at Eli's: Here the scrawny little wing gets just as much respect… More >>
  • BEST CHINESE RESTAURANT

    For the past several years, Rainbow has been the rising tide that lifts all (Chinese-food) boats, setting standards in service, food, atmosphere, and amenities. Other local Chinese restaurants have dishes to rival Rainbow's--seafood at Dinkytown's Shuang Cheng, noodles at Edina's Big Bowl, stir-fries at August Moon, specials at either Little Canada's My Le Hoa or Maplewood's Singapore Chinese. But none… More >>
  • BEST CHOCOLATE

    Minneapolis's own precious private treats, Brian McElrath's chocolates are the perfect little vacations on cloudy afternoons: Zinfandel-balsamic-vinegar truffles conjure up a nighttime picnic by a dark river; jasmine tea palets invoke flowery gardens in early spring; the cardamom flavors in the Scandinavian truffle are Christmas under Northern lights. Yet all this glory originates from the very spot where Wheaties were… More >>
  • BEST CO-OP

    Ah, the co-op wars. Is the cash register a tool of imperialism? Is selling sugar about the same as, or worse than, peddling heroin? Questions that had the city in an uproar a mere 25 years ago seem pretty quaint now that the biggest quandary for many co-ops seems to be whether to plow their profits into ever-fancier buildings or… More >>
  • BEST CROISSANTS

    You probably could do this at home. Roll out a frozen pat of butter, nice and thin; lay it on a sheet of dough, also flattened; fold and roll and chill and fold and roll...repeat seven times, and with some luck and a few years of practice, why, you might have yourself an angelically light, subversively rich, nostalgically golden croissant… More >>
  • BEST DELICATESSEN

    Downtown Minneapolis corned-beef lovers are still weeping over the closing of the Cecil's in City Center. Fortunately the family business survives on St. Paul's vital, though diffuse, restaurant row--and for those afraid to leave their cube, they still deliver to downtown Minneapolis businesses. If you make the trip, you can shop for kosher foods and specialty items while waiting for… More >>
  • BEST DIM SUM

    Hong Kong chefs and wide alleys between tables are the secrets to My Le Hoa's success. The thick rice fun noodles are fresh and tender, the har gow shrimp dumplings bouncy and ethereal, the five-spice quail smoky and sweet. Meanwhile, the aisles make the passage of the carts swift and efficient so that a new plate of some tasty treat… More >>
  • BEST DINER

    From the stool closest to the door at the Band Box, you can see the towers of downtown Minneapolis, but this venerable Elliot Park grill seems far away from the harried heart of the business district. A local institution since 1939, the red-and-white oasis comfortably seats 15, and the red countertop lets you watch your burger sizzling on the grill… More >>
  • BEST DOUGHNUTS

    The State Fair fires up its vats of oil but once a year, so allow Mel-O-Glaze to fill the gap. The recipe is basic--no cardamom or other secret ingredient--but a doughnut is not a recipe thing, it's a time thing. Researchers have produced algorithms showing that its quality declines proportionally to (and exponentially with) the number of minutes it's been… More >>
  • BEST DRIVE-IN RESTAURANT

    The pig, decked out in a black top hat and bow tie, calls out to you as you glide down University, beckoning you to this chocolate-pudding-colored building, one of the finer regional examples of neo-rib-shack architecture. The neon sign says "Dine in Your Car," but there are no carhops here anymore. After getting your food at the drive-thru window, you… More >>
  • BEST FISH MARKET

    You might as well chuck that pack of by-product weenies right over the back fence where it belongs--into the neighbor's pit-bull bowl. Thanks to Coastal's recent team-up with Icelandair, backyard grills around the Cities can look forward to a summer of luscious, affordable arctic char, in steady supply from far northern waters. Between that and denizens of the deep from… More >>
  • BEST FOOD REINCARNATION

    Open since 1984 as the little brother of the venerable Black Forest, Strudel is perhaps the best local illustration of that Great Law of traditional cuisines, "Nothing Shall Go to Waste." The deli makes inspired use of the Forest's most adaptable staples: Here are the famous breads, both as full loaves and as building blocks for a full line of… More >>
  • BEST FRENCH RESTAURANT

    Mais oui, mais oui! Chef Vincent Françoul was last at New York seafood hotspot Le Bernardin and that is why the fish is so spectacular! Not that the French bistro specials have changed at all since Françoul's arrival--the steak frites, the soupe à l'oignon, the tarte tatin, the French wines--all the classics remain. Vraiment, one could justly say that with… More >>
  • BEST FRENCH TOAST

    It might be more fair to describe this brunch item as bread pudding made from a single, gargantuan slice off a buttery loaf (brioche, perhaps?), which the kitchen staff must soak in custard--no trace of egg whites or skim milk, just yolks and cream and vanilla and a little orange zest to keep things lively. Your slice arrives with a… More >>
  • BEST FRESH PRODUCE

    In freshness and selection, the Wedge's produce section holds its own vis-à-vis any grocery in town, but it's the staff that wins the top honors. Go ahead, try them--ask about any fruit or vegetable. A Wedge worker will have a ready answer and a paring knife to cut you a sample. You'll be expertly steered toward, depending on the season,… More >>
  • BEST FRIED CHICKEN

    The best way to explain Sallie's expertise at preparing this most homely and humble of foods is to describe what their fried chicken isn't. The coating is crisp without being greasy; they don't take a dousing of salt or an indiscriminate cayenne blast as a substitute for a complex layering of spices; and the meat, dark or white, is never… More >>
  • BEST FRIES

    Chicago-style hot dogs (and damn good ones) are the headliners at this West Bank institution, but for the past 18 years owner Jerry Petermeier has put just as much care into his hand-cut French fries. He starts with an 80-count (a.k.a. medium-to-large) Idaho that has been carefully aged to reduce the amount of moisture. But the real artistry involves a… More >>
  • BEST GERMAN RESTAURANT

    Every year it's a question that bites to the center of our souls: Do we prefer fun and comfort--or sophistication and long car rides? That's the basic Black Forest versus Schumacher's debate: One has piquant sauerbraten and architectural Austrian desserts but is separated from city life by a long and dullish car ride. The other has the loveliest beer garden… More >>
  • BEST GOURMET GROCERY

    Tucked just a couple of escalators beneath downtown Minneapolis's skyways, this gourmet-food nook may have started as an afterthought to the department-store empire upstairs, but it's got some great prepared foods and, in our opinion, the best all-around local selection of sauces, oils, spice mixes, specialty jams, and the like. Downtown workers can pick up packaged lunches, deli salads, and… More >>
  • BEST GREEK RESTAURANT

    These cities' Greek restaurants are so different, they almost defy being lumped together as a category: Christos is masculine and elegant, Myconos festive, It's Greek to Me airy and familial. But Gardens of Salonica consistently charms us with a grace composed of equal parts generosity (a Greek salad with every entrée!), attention to detail (roasty hand-cut, oven-browned fries come with… More >>
  • BEST HOMEMADE PASTA

    Tom and Molly Broder take their pasta seriously. In 1980 they traveled to Bologna to study pasta-making with Italian-food deity Marcella Hazan. In the two decades since, they've built up a fanatically loyal following of cooks who appreciate fresh pasta, but lack the time or the counter space to crank their own. Every day, the staff in the back room… More >>
  • BEST HOT DOGS

    So you've sworn off your favorite illicit substance; you can't get a date with you-know-whom; and that boat you were going to sail across the Atlantic is at least one lottery win away. But there's one craving you can still satisfy with less than $2.50 in your pocket: Get in line at Joey D's counter, grab a couple of Chicago… More >>
  • BEST ICE CREAM PARLOR

    The unifying thread lacing together a stunning variety of Twin Cities restaurants is their reliance on Sebastian Joe's ice cream for dessert. So here is a tribute to the unsung Seb-Joe chefs, concoctors of such flavors as Danza di Limone (ethereal lemon ice cream with almond slivers), Spumoni (sprightly lemon-, orange-, and almond-flavored ice cream with apricot and almond chunks),… More >>
  • BEST INDIAN GROCERY

    Looking at the way this place has dominated its category for so many years running, you might be fooled into thinking that the Indian food-import business is static. Not so. Plenty of other Indian groceries have arrived on the scene in the past few years. Some have closed, some have thrived, but none has courted customers as fiercely, none has… More >>
  • BEST INDIAN RESTAURANT

    This was the year when you could practically hear restaurateurs on the Indian circuit running up phone bills to circulate the message: Come quick! There is a large city with not enough restaurants! So we joyously welcomed India Palace's buttery glory and Passage to India's late-night convenience, and lucky Eagan got a new Chutney's. Ah, Chutney's, the one and only… More >>
  • BEST ITALIAN GROCERY

    Snare a parking spot in the back, circle around to the front counter, and place your sandwich order. (Prosciutto and provolone on a semolina loaf? Chicken, Jarlsberg Swiss and aioli?) Then jog back to the deli case for a couple of pounds of imported cheese. (Fontina Val d'Aosta? Caciocavallo from Sicily?) Add some meat to your basket. (Thick-cut pork chops?… More >>
  • BEST ITALIAN RESTAURANT (CHEAP)

    The mood is friendly and casual, the food familiar and comforting at the self-proclaimed oldest family-owned Italian restaurant in St. Paul. At this East Side establishment, the focus is on the Southern Italian-style basics--like your mom used to make, regardless of her ancestry. Diversity in the pasta dishes consists of what noodle shape you choose to accompany your meat, cheese,… More >>
  • BEST ITALIAN RESTAURANT (NOT CHEAP)

    D'Amico Cucina: the greatest dream, the blackest nightmare. Dream of the crisp, rich, ethereal piadina topped with Gorgonzola, carpegna prosciutto, and warm rosemary honey. Fantasize about cloud-buoyant gnocchi and tongue-sizzling, perfect Meyer lemon souffléd pudding. But fear a wretched table behind a pillar if you're not recognized by the staff, and sweat over the condescending sneers of the efficient, unforgiving… More >>
  • BEST JAPANESE RESTAURANT

    They've got aces under the table, these folks: The Oz-like view of downtown Minneapolis, the rock-solid menu that encompasses both very good sushi and excellent versions of comfort foods like sukiyaki and tempura, plus discreet, slightly formal service to match the elegant dining room. True, they're not as adventurous or sophisticated as Origami, nor as friendly and eager to please… More >>
  • BEST JUICE BAR

    Sure, every big-time food co-op is hawking strawberry smoothies, chocolate Oatscream, and bee-pollen-laced Ewegurt these days. And little juice bars-cum-cafés, from the corporate to the whimsical, are springing up like wheatgrass. But the juice counter that combines inventive, diverse selections with a price you can swallow is a far rarer sprout. The 12-ounce cup they call "small" at Linden Hills… More >>
  • BEST KID-FRIENDLY RESTAURANT

    Like it or not--and blame it on marketing, or the security of the familiar--kids love chains. Fortunately, one of the higher-class burger chains is also kid-friendly. At Fuddruckers, children eat for 99 cents every day. They get their choice of a hamburger, hot dog, grilled cheese sandwich, or chicken strips, with fries, a drink, and--over at a separate counter after… More >>
  • BEST KOREAN RESTAURANT

    Don't look for Korean barbecue, and skip past the menu pages of Chinese selections. Jang Won specializes in bang-up North Korean comfort food, noodle dishes and rice casseroles laced with tangy sauces and studded with tender meats and vegetables. Here resides possibly the best bowl of soup in the Twin Cities, a sassy number named sam sun cham pong, thick… More >>
  • BEST LATINO GROCERY

    A fiesta for the eyes and the palate. Stroll through aisles packed with traditional and exotic Latin foods--bricks of guava, black beans, peppers of all shapes and colors, stalks of sugar cane--and it's easy to forget that you're in St. Paul rather than Guadalajara. Tomas and Maria Silva have moved the store three times, to successively bigger quarters, since opening… More >>
  • BEST LOCAL BEER

    Summit founder, president, and head brewer Mark Stutrud may descend from Norwegians, but his ales usually owe something to the Germans (Hefe Weizen, Heimertingen Maibock, or his fall seasonal Alt Bier) or the British (Great Northern Porter, India Pale Ale or Winter Ale). Stutrud does not take his commitment to Old World brewing traditions lightly; much of the equipment in… More >>
  • BEST LOCAL CHEF

    How does Tim McKee get that coppa salami to stick to that tube of rabbit loin? How quickly does he have to work to carve a carpaccio of veal and then top it with a foie-gras mousseline sauce? And what sort of margin of error is there when he's making a sauce with such costly, easily damaged ingredients as sea… More >>
  • BEST MEXICAN BAKERY

    There's a hole-in-the-wall bakery on a winding back street just off the beach and across from the posole stand in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, where the owner rises before dawn every morning to mix and knead and set to rise rows of the palm-size split loaves known as bolillos. By 8:00 a.m., the street outside is awash in the aroma of fresh,… More >>
  • BEST MEXICAN RESTAURANT

    A well-prepared Mexican meal is a lesson in proportion and balance. Too much cheese turns even the best-intentioned dish into a gooey mess, and nothing ruins a good plate of rice and beans more than an overabundance of salt. Luckily the good folks of Tacos Morelos set the standard for balance in a modest storefront filled with cheerful mosaic tabletops.… More >>
  • BEST MIDDLE EASTERN GROCERY

    From the two full aisles of olive oils to the four or more varieties of feta in the cooler (try the Egyptian double cream!), Bill's has an astonishing array of inexpensive, easy-to-use ingredients. There are sweet-pepper-based spreads, frozen artichoke hearts, vinegars of every imaginable flavor, and the freshest assortment of baklava and other pastries in the Twin Cities. Nostalgic southeastern… More >>
  • BEST MIDDLE EASTERN RESTAURANT

    In a metropolitan area where diners seem to think that Greece is in the Middle East or vice versa, finding great food in this category can be tough. This ten-year-old, family-owned bistro does offer a Greek salad, but much of the fare is far less standard and more interesting: Consider the kashke bademjon, a savory sauté of eggplant, onions, and… More >>
  • BEST NEW RESTAURANT

    It's been a good year for new restaurants: the fresh margaritas and fantastic burgers at Bar Abilene, the latish-night Uptown dining at Chiang Mai Thai and Passage to India, the buzz of big-money investments like Big Bowl, Pazzaluna, and Oceanaire--not to mention the national prestige of only the second Aquavit in the country. For us, though, the proudest addition to… More >>
  • BEST PANCAKES

    There are three large, elderly men who plant themselves in one of Rick's handful of booths once a weekend and gab. The ringleader looks every bit the Marlboro man: biker's vest, white T-shirt with rolled-up sleeves, and a leather hat embossed with Grateful Dead bears. One recent weekend this gent, whom we'll call Gentle Ben, endured endless crap from his… More >>
  • BEST PIZZA

    Not to get Aristotelian on all y'all, but What Is Pizza? Is it the dough, the sauce, the cheese, the toppings? Or is it the spicy freedom that pizza represents and allows, the get-up-and-go meal that's car- and TV-friendly, the democratic crust that supports both the lowliest hamburger and the most highfalutin' prosciutto? If pizza is the crust, then Punch… More >>
  • BEST PIZZA WITHOUT SUN-DRIED TOMATOES

    It's the sauce. (Isn't it always?) John Newman's grandmother, Antoinette Carbone, taught it to her kids, Frank, Mario, and Dolores, and they made it the mainstay of the restaurant when Carbone's opened in 1962. Not much about the pizza has changed since then: The crust is still impossibly thin. ("Thick crust is somewhat of a hoax," Newman scoffs. "If you… More >>
  • BEST PREPARED FOODS

    In addition to selling everything you'd need to crank up the kitchen yourself, the folks at Mississippi Market have a delicious deli counter packed with ready-to-eat organic goodies for those days when tearing up lettuce leaves seems like way too much hassle. Selections vary daily and with the seasons, but quality doesn't, and many of the dishes bring a new… More >>
  • BEST RESTAURANT (MINNEAPOLIS)

    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… More >>
  • BEST RESTAURANT (ST. PAUL)

    As it went in Minneapolis this year, so it did in St. Paul: The heavy hitters were uneven. The St. Paul Grill lost control of its menu, Pazzaluna never seemed spectacular, Table of Contents doesn't seem to be as good as it was--or is it just that other restaurants have gotten better? Either way, the Zander Café is a breath… More >>
  • BEST RESTAURANT CIRCA 1950

    The building draws you in from across the street: Loud Technicolor green façade, Vegas-red neon signs, the drawing of the Silver Butter Knife Steak that looks like it's been ripped from a yellowing copy of Esquire. It could be some kind of crazy relic from midtown Manhattan, but the restaurant--still a family-run business--has been in the same downtown Minneapolis spot… More >>
  • BEST RESTAURANT FOR A POWER LUNCH

    St. Paul is a government town, and this is a favorite spot for pols to talk turkey over some of the best steak and seafood in town. But you'll also find execs from the St. Paul Companies, Ecolab, and Minnesota Mutual huddled here, pondering cash flow and merger options. The grill offers lots of dark wood, booths you can disappear… More >>
  • BEST RESTAURANT FOR APPETIZERS

    Until someone opens a proper Spanish tapas bar in the Twin Cities, we'll have to settle for the appetizer menu at Giorgio's on Lake. Not that you'll feel like you're settling when you stop by on a warm spring afternoon to enjoy a glass of Gave and a selection of some 20 delectable starters ranging from the basic (roasted garlic,… More >>
  • BEST RESTAURANT FOR CUBS FANS

    Five years ago Tommy Dennis and his brother Bobby decided that their fellow transplants from Chicago needed a place to hang. Born and bred on the West Side, a blue-collar stronghold where red hots and Italian hoagies are staples, they noticed that there wasn't one authentic beef stand in all of Minneapolis. So they snatched up a storefront near Lake… More >>
  • BEST RESTAURANT FOR DESSERT

    Architectural, sculptural wonders that soar off the plate like something out of the Brancusi or Calder oeuvre, yet they taste great! Oh, that passion-fruit mousse. Oh, those caramel bananas that leap into the milk-chocolate soup. And oh, the miracles the Aquavit chefs can work with a mere apple gingerbread. You can get the desserts in the bar anytime without investing… More >>
  • BEST RESTAURANT FOR GLUTTONS

    Like a landlocked cruise ship, Old Country Buffet wants to stuff you into submission. A mere $6.62 (tax included) buys you lunch. A ridiculous $8.76 (tax included) buys dinner. After that bit of business, it's pretty much between you and the 140 buffet items. Seafood Fridays and Wednesday's Asian fare are a little suspect, but Tuesday's Italian menu and Thursday's… More >>
  • BEST RESTAURANT FOR LATE-NIGHT DINING

    In the interest of not pissing off out-of-state visitors, Minnesota officials should post signs throughout the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport: WARNING! PAST 10:00 P.M., EAT AT YOUR OWN RISK. Locating a midnight nosh that isn't delivered by a surly teenager through a drive-thru window is as difficult as finding an authentic deli in this town. A recent addition to the… More >>
  • BEST RESTAURANT FOR OUTDOOR DINING

    Does eating outdoors make you think mosquitoes and traffic exhaust? Not here: No Wake's boulevard is the Mississippi, whose rushing current foils the bugs and whose traffic consists of the occasional barge. As you sup on good, inexpensive American bistro food, contemplate the possibilities: What would Huck Finn make of all this? And speaking of fictional heroes, doesn't St. Paul's… More >>
  • BEST RESTAURANT FOR ROMANCE

    You meet him at a table on the starboard side of this floating restaurant on the banks of the Mississippi. The floor lists a bit, which is good, because love is a crooked thing, and you might as well face up to that fact at the beginning of the journey. The city sits downstream, and from the open deck you… More >>
  • BEST RESTAURANT TREND

    Not five years ago restaurants were scattered around the greater metropolis like bubbles in a pizza crust, with no particular pattern. Now, suddenly, we've got restaurant districts--or, as the city planners like to call them, "Eat Streets." The first surprise was the eastern stretch of St. Paul's Selby Avenue--home to the cluster of upscale spots including the Vintage, the Zander… More >>
  • BEST RESTAURANT WAY THE HECK OUT IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE

    John Schumacher's story of conquering dyslexia to become an accomplished chef has oft been told, and his talent for wild game and Bavarian cuisine are also legendary. But it's a mistake to concentrate only on the Teutonic kitsch and the cloven-hoofed entrées of Schumacher's New Prague Hotel. Wander into Schumacher's kitchen during prep time and you'll run right into a… More >>
  • BEST RESTAURANT WHEN SOMEONE ELSE IS PAYING

    Is Aquavit the most eagerly anticipated restaurant in the whole gosh-darn history of the Twin Cities? Seems so, but to really get a handle on the complex, extensive menu you're going to need to visit a bunch of times--and, Bunky, on what you earn, things don't look good. That's why you've got to make new friends. Industrial magnates. Powerball winners.… More >>
  • BEST SALSA

    One taste and you'll know why the Senkyr family jealously guards its salsa recipe. The hot version sings on the tongue, tickling the taste buds with the sweetness of onion and the sharp bite of garlic, swirled together in a slightly smoky tomato base. The mild version, a recent addition, is so fresh you'd swear it was made right when… More >>
  • BEST SEAFOOD RESTAURANT

    Oh, that oyster bar! Mountains of ice set with scads of gorgeous mollusks gathered from the world's bays--and there at the top, the hollow husks of some of the world's most magnificent lobsters. Yes, the world's. This new (and rich) kid on the block relies on an amazing infrastructure which gets critters out of far-flung waters and into its room-sized… More >>
  • BEST SPICE SHOP

    Oh, what that double-strength vanilla does to a banana-cream pie! Fresh nutmeg for creamed spinach! Fresh cumin for chili! Green cardamom pods for curries! Really, cooking with the spices sold in supermarkets is like taking the Flintstones' foot car out on the autobahn and being surprised at the ensuing crash. Kudos, too, to Asia Imports, for premade curries from India… More >>
  • BEST STATE FAIR FOOD

    Every August, the Lord proves His divinity unto His multitudes. He takes swords and beats them into plowshares, and He stacks these on a hill. And His people come to this Machinery Hill to be closer to the Kingdom. He gives them cows broad of back, and pigs fat and fertile. He brings all the birds together under one roof… More >>
  • BEST STEAK HOUSE

    The secret's in the enzymes, those biochemical wonders that dry-age steaks from mere meat to vessels of warm thunder. Those perky enzymes are most perfectly showcased at Manny's, where the ravenous crowds munch through a full-fledged herd of cattle every week. Along with the steers, Manny's offers an encyclopedic and provocative red-wine list, one of the greater concentrations of table-pounding… More >>
  • BEST SUNDAY BRUNCH

    Campiello is proof positive that you can forgo the carving-station-and-warming-tray routine and still enjoy a meal lavish enough that you'll be sleeping it off all afternoon. Once you're seated, unobtrusive servers are quick to arrive with coffee or tea and platters of coffeecake and fruit. They also ask you to select a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice, champagne, or a… More >>
  • BEST SUSHI

    How the world turns. In its first incarnation on the riverfront (1959-1988), Fuji-Ya introduced many Twin Citians to sushi. When the granddaughter of the original chef reopened the venerable restaurant on Lyndale last year, you could no longer count decent local sushi joints on a single hand. But there's still a big difference between decent and great--and Fuji-Ya has recently… More >>
  • BEST THAI RESTAURANT

    Sawatdee remains the queen of all local Thai restaurants with its three-pronged crown. Prong one: an expansive menu made up of nicely done dishes that run the gamut from simple to sophisticated. Prong two: that elegant, brightly saturated decor. Prong three: the ever-friendly service. Competition--from Uptown's new Chiang Mai Thai and St. Paul's much beloved Ruam Mit Thai--has been keeping… More >>
  • BEST VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT

    With only a few truly meatless restaurants, and only one that serves beer and wine, the Twin Cities can be a cold, unforgiving place for vegetarians. We routinely hear things like "Well, you can pick the meat out," we're handed menus featuring "vegetarian" items that aren't (note to restaurateurs: Oyster sauce and chicken broth are not vegetables), and sometimes we're… More >>
  • BEST VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT

    None of the Vietnamese restaurants have really pulled their act together to equal a Sawatdee or a Rainbow Chinese. But we wait, we wait, confident that the time will come. When the perfect Vietnamese restaurant arrives, it will have light noodle soups like they do at the Phuong Café, just-made, sprightly rice-paper rolls like the ones at the Quang Deli,… More >>
  • BEST WINE AND LIQUOR STORE

    People plan their lives, or at least their parties, around the Surdyk's sales: The fall liquor sale grounds many a Christmas party, the wine sale is the foundation of many a wedding (and many a cellar), and the museum-quality collection of microbrews is enough to provide a different selection every week of the year. Service can be harried and aisles… More >>
  • BEST WINE LIST

    Year after year Goodfellow's searches out the best of American wines, and year after year we love them for it. Lately we've noticed how accommodating the list is--cheap, accessible bottles for the young at wine, rare, fine selections for sophisticates. This balanced, capacious collection is a pleasure to choose from, and it presents the best local option for a multiple-course,… More >>
  • BEST-KEPT BREAKFAST SECRET

    It's a mystery why the dozen or so tables at this Phillips joint (located on the blink-and-you-miss-it corner of 25th and Chicago by Children's Hospital) aren't constantly full. Cathy's boasts all the usual potato-and-egg options, plus gourmet coffee and a handful of original breakfast skillets. For those who've never counted a fat gram in their life, there's a pretty tasty… More >>
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