BEST VEGETARIAN-FRIENDLY RESTAURANT - 2001
Brenda Langton was veggie-friendly when veggie-friendly wasn't cool. After first establishing a stellar reputation with her (now-defunct) St. Paul-based Cafe Kardamena, Langton crossed the river to open Cafe Brenda in the Minneapolis Warehouse District in 1986. Sure, there are other restaurants serving vegetarian food in the area, but after 15 years in business Cafe Brenda remains the most consistently elegant and inventive. It's easily the classiest veggie fare in town and has earned many national nods. The organic warm mock-duck salad is just one fine example: a transcendent combination of garlic mock duck, greens, glazed ginger, and Chinese noodles with a piquant peanut-lemongrass dressing. The croquettes, a house specialty, are no lame veggie burgers, but deliciously crisp patties composed of an ever-changing combination of vegetables, beans, and grains (only available Friday and Saturday). Two vegetarian soups are offered daily, along with a host of splendid, healthy salads. Carnivores need not turn to soba noodles for solace: The menu always includes some excellent seafood selections (the addictive shrimp quesadilla, the sublime Wisconsin rainbow trout), and the tasty organic-chicken enchiladas. It's just gilding the lily, then, that Cafe Brenda also boasts an affordable list of good wine and beer. You can grab lunch here Monday through Friday, dinner Monday through Saturday. Yeah, you could buy a copy of Langton's 1992 cookbook, but isn't it more fun to have someone else cook?