Food & Drink

  • BEST APPLE ORCHARD

    Afton Apple

    Given how hard Afton and Hastings are working to avoid becoming entangled in the sprawling web of St. Paul's suburbs, we're relieved to predict that Afton Apple should be able to sustain its countryside character for some time to come. Fairly remote but still easy to find, the orchard is a fruit-picker's paradise, stretched over 170 acres of rolling fields… More >>
  • BEST ASIAN GROCERY

    United Noodles

    United Noodles is the Asian grocery where you come for the vast selection, stay for the cleanliness and organization, and return for the reasonable prices and helpful, friendly service. It is the only place to go when you appreciate a Lunds-like environment and your shopping list includes durian and dried squid. Looking to learn about kimchi, pick up some fermented… More >>
  • BEST BÁNH-MÌ

    Saigon Restaurant - CLOSED

    What are bánh-mì? Here's one answer: They're the love child of French baking and Vietnamese salads--Vietnamese hoagies made of cilantro, sweet pickled carrots, daikon, julienne cucumber, slivered jalapeños, spicy mayonnaise, and some sort of filling all smooshed together inside a crispy, airy loaf of French bread. But here's a better answer: They're the best thing to happen to cheap gourmets… More >>
  • BEST BAGELS

    Hometown boy-made-good Mike Sherwood sure has won us over with his bagels. The rounds bear chewy crusts and thick layers of toppings, and they emit the sweet, biscuity fragrance you hope for when you rip into one. Sherwood takes extra points because of his good Dunn Bros. coffee, and he's so eager to please he even (and this is so… More >>
  • BEST BAKERY

    Wuollet Bakery

    Who would have guessed that ecstasy could cost a mere $2.99? That's the going rate for a Turtle Bread cherry swirl. It's the size of a salad plate, and the flaky, buttery pastry is nothing less than heavenly. Toss in the glaze (sweet, but not sickly) and the cherry filling (tart and juicy) and you have a truly magical breakfast… More >>
  • BEST BARBECUE

    John Hardy's Bar-B-Q

    Luckily this category allows for fudging, because no one, and we mean no one in the metro area deserves the title "Best Barbecued Ribs." We'll leave those naming rights up to the judges at the annual Rib Fest in downtown Minneapolis. Those poor carnivores can gnaw their way through the chapped, charred flesh that's passing for pork at area restaurants… More >>
  • BEST BREAD

    Great Harvest Bread

    When you open the door to Great Harvest Bread, it's hard to tell what's more overpowering, the sight of rows and rows of grainy, golden loaves and stretchy dough or the intoxicating warm, yeasty scent. You'll scarcely have a moment to collect yourself before a clerk is slicing you a slab of fresh-from-the-oven bread. Would you like the chewy, tart… More >>
  • BEST BREAKFAST

    Mill City

    Ordinarily it's hard to think of someplace that serves hot meals just two mornings a week as a breakfast joint. But once you've fueled up at Mill City, it's hard to kick off a weekend anywhere else. The hot standards served here from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays include eggs, pancakes, and thyme-roasted potatoes. Don't stop there,… More >>
  • BEST BURGERS

    Matt's Bar

    You can keep your fancy burgers laden with all manner of vegetables, sauces, stinky cheeses, and enough other crap to require a knife and fork for consumption. As we see it, the best burgers are simple, and in keeping with the spirit of such a food item, they don't come from anywhere you'd have to dress up to visit. No,… More >>
  • BEST BURRITOS

    El Burrito Mercado

    Burritos aren't Mexican. Tacos are Mexican. Burritos are tacos by way of California super-growth-hormone, and so the best places for burritos in town are not necessarily the best places for that oft-cited Holy Grail, "authentic Mexican food." What are the best places for burritos? Glad to spill the beans, and they are, in no particular order, Edina's Tejas, Uptown's Bar… More >>
  • BEST CANDY STORE

    Candyland

    Arnie Kelsey, St. Paul's legendary candyman, got into the popcorn business in 1932, when he bought a stand next to the now-vanished Riviera Theater. Over the next few decades, Kelsey expanded his shop, added a confectionery, and moved to Wabasha, where the beloved Candyland still stands, an aromatic reminder of St. Paul's glory days. Although the store's range of sugary… More >>
  • BEST CARRY-OUT CHICKEN

    Pollo Al Carbon

    Minneapolis's newest wonder-chicken comes from a most unlikely place, a barely transformed onetime Hickory Hut on East Lake Street. But hey, diamonds come from mines, not velvet boxes, right? See past the Mexican TV blaring from the eaves, the plastic-draped tables and instead toward the pollo al carbon .It is so good that it will make you weak in the… More >>
  • BEST CHEAP EATS

    This bustling indoor bazaar, crowded into an unassuming office building on East Lake Street, has more culinary options per square foot than anyplace else in the Twin Cities. While the half-dozen tiny restaurants clustered around the first-floor food court consist of little more than a menu and a grill, they do add up to a staggering buffet. You could, for… More >>
  • BEST CHEESE SELECTION

    Surdyk's

    To our vast surprise, we just learned that Surdyk's doesn't have just the 300 cheeses displayed in its jam-packed cheese case. Honest to goodness, there are another 40 or so behind the scenes. They're nothing special, just the unspectacular Neufchâtels and low-glamour, low-fat Swisses that cheese-shop manager Sally Witham doesn't want obscuring her real treasures. But please note, Witham is… More >>
  • BEST CHINESE RESTAURANT

    Dragon Court

    In China, Chinese food is big: Banquets are thrown for every occasion (and lots of non-occasions), and no matter how they tried, Communist forces never managed to limit citizens' devotion to the complex web of interacting elements that make a good meal. Ideally every aspect of the meal must be balanced against an opposing force: foods with a glossy glaze… More >>
  • BEST CHOCOLATE

    Chocolatier McElrath

    You'll need a big glass of milk when you start biting the wings off one of Brian McElrath's butterflies. Filled with gooey, fudgey fillings, nuts, and berries, these chocolates and truffles seem almost too pretty to eat. Almost. We bought a selection and nearly came to blows over who got the last bite of the passion-fruit-flavored flower and the pecan-encrusted… More >>
  • BEST COFFEE CAKE

    Jerabek's Bakery - CLOSED

    Let's face it, as a rule Eastern Europe is a hard and oppressive place. The dominant color--in clothing, in the buildings, in the sky, in people's faces--is a plain and flat battleship gray. The native folk music is minor-keyed, lugubrious, laden with woe-is-me lyrics about battles fought and lost eons ago. And the politicians are terribly authoritarian, dry as a… More >>
  • BEST COFFEE HOUSE

    Swede Hollow Cafe

    "The message today is internal sunshine," beams the man behind the counter at the Swede Hollow Café on a bitterly cold, desolate February morning. And he says it with such sunny conviction that you can't help but smile at the cornpone sentiment. Swede Hollow is that kind of place: It oozes shiny, happy feelings. There's none of the smoky, dour,… More >>
  • BEST COFFEE--BY THE POUND

    Whole Foods

    Caffeine (read: coffee) remains the most desirable--and affordable--of all buzzes. And nowhere is this more evident than at Whole Foods. These upscale natural-foods grocery stores have a staggering selection of more than 30 different kinds of beans (all right, some are decaf), freshly roasted right on site, as well as an assortment of coffee presses, milk frothers, and other brewing… More >>
  • BEST CROISSANTS

    Trung Nam French Bakery

    Sure, you can go to the New French Bakery or Turtle Bread Company or French Meadow Bakery & Café and get a perfectly good croissant. Flaky. Buttery. Greasy, in a good way. The whole deal. But at Trung Nam French Bakery in Frogtown you get all that and you get to feel like you're part of an economic renaissance… More >>
  • BEST CULINARY TIME WARP

    Little Jack's

    Admit it: You've always figured your grandparents lived in lackluster times. No cash machines, too many white gloves, and what-- mono sound, at best? But every once in a while, you find a place like Little Jack's, where the cocktails are cheap as hell and good as heaven, the steaks flop over the sides of the plates, the room is… More >>
  • BEST DELICATESSEN

    Zaroff's

    It's not Amy and David Zaroff's fault their deli is new! It's not their fault you want shuffling old people dispensing wisdom while they hack phlegm. It's not their job to fulfill your Seinfeldian fantasies about the delicatessens of bygone days, and for god's sake, give these kids some credit--they do a good job. Sweet-and-sour cabbage rolls that would make… More >>
  • BEST DIM SUM

    Yangtze

    Every year we wonder: Does Yangtze have the best dim sum in town, or is it My Le Hoa? So every year we make the pilgrimages, and this year Yangtze just knocked our socks off, combining gorgeous food with we-only-have-eyes-for-you service. As soon as we sat in the (always) crowded dining room, carts converged on the table, yielding translucent dumplings… More >>
  • BEST DINER

    Mickey's Diner

    Minneapolis and St. Paul make an odd couple: The former is an uppity, too-eager-to-please debutante, always putting on airs, while the latter is like an old man on a park bench, nodding bemusedly as the world goes by. Consider, as an example of our capital city's civic character, Mickey's Diner. Since its opening in 1939, Mickey's has hardly changed: It… More >>
  • BEST DOUGHNUTS

    Blackey's

    The rumor mill never sleeps: Before another decade has turned, we hear, the Twin Cities will be home to both an Ikea and a Krispy Kreme outlet. Now, for all of us who have packed into a minivan and driven to suburban Chicago to check out a 40-million-square-foot warehouse of modular Scandinavian design, it would be impossible to overstate the… More >>
  • BEST DRIVE-IN

    Porky's drive-in

    Ray Truelson was a man in tune with his times. After stints running a root beer stand and the Flattop drive-in in south Minneapolis, in 1953 Truelson opened Porky's drive-in on University Avenue in St. Paul. The signature item on the menu was a hamburger with an onion ring plopped on top of the bun. At the height of its… More >>
  • BEST EAST AFRICAN RESTAURANT

    Blue Nile

    Since moving from its cramped Lyn-Lake home to more spacious new quarters on the West Bank, this beloved stalwart of the local restaurant scene has added a bar, a basement-level dance club, and a weird decorating scheme that suggests Tex-Mex by way of Addis Ababa. But what's best about the Blue Nile is what has stayed the same--namely, the food.… More >>
  • BEST EASTERN EUROPEAN RESTAURANT

    Moscow on the Hill

    The character of St. Paul's Cathedral Hill neighborhood is a throwback to the quiet River City of yore: elegant, genteel, and welcoming. As such, it's the perfect setting for the elegant, genteel, and welcoming Moscow on the Hill, a fusion of French style and Russian soul, which, like its environs, charms with its unassuming authenticity. While Moscow on the Hill… More >>
  • BEST FISH MARKET

    Coastal Seafoods

    The sea raven is one God-awfully ugly fish, like a cross between an alligator and a catfish, with bulging eyes and teeth like Matt Groening would draw. There it sits, one day, in the case at Coastal Seafoods, and even at $2.99 a pound there's no way in hell people are buying it, let alone eating it. Enter Tim Lauer,… More >>
  • BEST FRENCH RESTAURANT

    New French - CLOSED

    Frankly, the New French isn't all that French; the spare, light-filled warehouse dining room is more Soho than Seine, the menu is more modern than moules et frites. Still, until a thoroughly French restaurant manages to enchant us for more than a single course (Brasserie Zinc does lovely appetizers, La Fougasse charming desserts), when we crave French it will always… More >>
  • BEST FRESH PRODUCE

    As you enter this 27-year-old Minneapolis institution, you're blinded by the bright yellow-orange display of citrus fruits. Then you turn and see the wall of greens--springy lettuces, spinach, collard greens, and kales that look as though they came from the garden this morning. You'll find half a dozen types of mushrooms, from crimini ($4.99 a pound), to portobello ($5.99 a… More >>
  • BEST FRIED CHICKEN

    In the car, listening to the radio, heard some rich, famous foodie types insisting that the best fried chicken in the country is in Kansas City, at a place called Stroud's. Nearly drove the car off the High Bridge. Was at Stroud's not six months ago: Lucille Williams's chicken makes Stroud's chicken seem downright flabby. Floppy. Shabby, even. Lucille's fried… More >>
  • BEST FRIES

    Billabong's Joe Bob Aussie Chips

    There are better places for unadulterated fries (Hamlin's Coffee Shop and the Wienery, both in Minneapolis, make perfectly caramel-colored, deliciously crisp versions), but in choosing the best candidate in such a grease-soaked category, why not go all the way? We're talking here about Billabong's Joe Bob Aussie Chips ($5.75). A silly name, granted, but it fits the silly Australian-themed décor… More >>
  • BEST GOURMET GROCERY

    Turtle Bread

    One day the lottery will be won and, to paraphrase Scarlett O'Hara, with God as our witness, we'll never go grocery shopping again! Never pushing a cart through the over-lighted, endless, despairing maze, certainly. Instead, we'll do all the shopping at Turtle Bread. We'll throw a darling little basket over one arm and pick up a loaf of bread,… More >>
  • BEST GREEK RESTAURANT

    It's Greek to Me

    This category is always a horse race. The three perennial contenders--Christos, It's Greek to Me, and Gardens of Salonica--are all classy thoroughbreds, but none of them quite pulls ahead of the others. Gardens is the cheapest of the three: A complete meal for two, including wine, shouldn't run more than $25. Gardens also has the coziest atmosphere--the summery interior décor… More >>
  • BEST HOT DOGS

    Joey D's

    The lack of respect accorded the hot dog in modern American life is unconscionable. One of the linchpins of cuisine in this country, the frankfurter is too often treated like a mere assemblage of miscellaneous animal parts. Thankfully there are a few venues around town where the hot dog is still king. The Wienery, on Minneapolis's West Bank, serves succulent… More >>
  • BEST ICE-CREAM PARLOR

    Grand Ole Creamery

    In ancient Greek mythology, the horn of plenty, or cornucopia, was an enchanted goat's horn that would fill with whatever its possessor wished. It was a gift from Zeus to a beloved daughter, whose appetite for milk was limitless. In the Twin Cities, the closest thing to a horn of plenty, O you who lust for chilled lactic products, is… More >>
  • BEST INDIAN GROCERY

    Asia Imports

    We know. We give it to them every year. But we have to. They're the best, and not just because they have all the curry, chutney, and basmati rice anyone would need to make a fabulous Indian feast. Rows and rows of prepared spice mixes that can be easily tossed into a big pot of vegetables or meat make it… More >>
  • BEST INDIAN RESTAURANT

    Sri Lanka

    Would you expect one restaurant to master Yankee pot roast, crawfish étouffée, San Francisco cioppino, and everything in between? Of course not--sheer foolishness. Yet hereabouts, that's exactly what we've been getting from our Indian restaurants, as they attempt to deliver cuisine from tropical fishing villages, high mountain herding cultures, and the agricultural plains. No wonder so many people think all… More >>
  • BEST ITALIAN GROCERY

    Buon Giorno's - CLOSED

    The only frustration when it comes to shopping at this delightful grocery is the parking lot. It's always packed. Especially if you pop over around noon, when scads of famished lunch-breakers are angling for an Italian combo sub (mortadella, capocollo, salami, and Provolone) or a hot meatball sandwich. Still, it's worth waiting for a spot--and fighting through the lines of… More >>
  • BEST ITALIAN RESTAURANT--CHEAP

    Pane Vino Dolce

    A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, nyah nyah nyah, a loaf of bread, a jug of wine, nyah nyah nyah--all of southern Europe has us in its thrall. We're all supposed to come up with a loaf of bread, a jug of wine, some good Parmesan, a handful of escarole, a good summer tomato, toss it all together,… More >>
  • BEST ITALIAN RESTAURANT--NOT CHEAP

    Ristorante Luci

    The cliché about Italian cooking runs thus: French food is about technique, Italian merely about ingredients. In Minnesota, however, ingredients don't come easy: Tracking down the best prosciutto, filleting the freshest trout, making your own mozzarella, securing the most sought-after amarones--frankly, it's a lot easier to simply throw a lot of béchamel sauce around and call it a day. That's… More >>
  • BEST JAPANESE RESTAURANT

    Fuji Ya's

    So just what is it that makes a great Japanese restaurant? Good sushi, a pretty dining room, tender noodles, light tempura, pleasant service, good bento boxes, and a good sake list. Yes, yes, Fuji Ya's new location on Lake Street has all of that, yes. To gild the sundae, they also have a couple of standout surprises: The grilled yellowtail… More >>
  • BEST JUICE BAR

    Asase Yaa's - CLOSED

    There's just something about walking into a place and feeling like you're at home. Maybe it's the reggae music playing over the speakers that even the elderly ladies can't help but groove to, the carved African masks that adorn every wall, or the fact that someone with a smile is always cooking behind the counter that makes you want to… More >>
  • BEST KOREAN RESTAURANT

    Sole

    So, here's a secret we wouldn't tell a soul: In the middle of this past winter (you remember, the ten-month-long one?), in the depths of our greatest despair, our shrink looked at us and said: Do something for you. Something you enjoy. There must be something you enjoy? Half a box of Kleenex later, we remembered: Well, there is Sole.… More >>
  • BEST LATINO GROCERY

    El Burrito Mercado

    Let's take a moment to compare Mexico and Minnesota--they're not as different as you might think. In music, Mexico has mariachi and cumbia and frontejas, and we've got polka. In food, they've got hot tamales and hot chiles, and we've got hot dish. Drinkwise, Mexico is known for margaritas and agua de frescas, and Minnesota for Grain Belt beer. In… More >>
  • BEST LOCAL CHEF

    Tim McKee

    These Twin Towns are not gaga over chefs. There's no breathless charting of people's comings and goings, and the people to whom the first names of local chefs--Doug, Alex, Tim, Brenda, Lucia, Patrick, Zander--have any meaning whatsoever can probably be counted on two hands. That said, it's absolutely startling to consider the fierce loyalty that has bubbled up around Tim… More >>
  • BEST MAD GENIUS

    Patrick Atanalian

    Somewhere in Minneapolis, walking unremarked among us, is a woman to whom we all should be grateful: Patrick Atanalian's Minnesota-born beloved. Were it not for her, Atanalian surely would have flown this snowy burg, thus depriving us of his mad, mad, inspiring, sometimes terrifying, sometimes bizarre genius. Who else would make Chinese chicken with root beer? Who else salmon in… More >>
  • BEST MEXICAN RESTAURANT

    Chiapas - CLOSED

    It takes awhile for out-of-towners to fully grasp what the rest of us already know: It's almost impossible to get authentic Mexican food and booze in the same place in this town. Blame arcane zoning laws that make it tough to get a liquor license, blame our Scandinavian taste buds, but it seems as if we're stuck with this freakish… More >>
  • BEST MIDDLE EASTERN GROCERY

    Holy Land Deli

    Shoppers don't have to go to Holy Land Deli to buy their hummus and baba ghannouj, because most natural-foods stores stock the Holy Land brand. But once those two dips have been tasted, what person in their right mind could resist finding out what else the deli has to offer? Glass cases filled with more kinds of olives, pickles,… More >>
  • BEST MIDDLE EASTERN RESTAURANT

    Sindbad's deli

    Every time we step into this Eat Street storefront we're thrust into a crisis of sorts: Do we forgo the spinach pie ($2.59)--a comforting creation of spinach, sumac, onion, lemon, and olive oil--for the baba ghannouj, a smooth dip of smoky roasted eggplant and tahini? Do we go for the daily special--frequently a family-meal-size leg or shank of lamb cooked… More >>
  • BEST NATURAL-FOODS GROCERY

    Hampden Park Co-op

    If you're trying to find a co-op that hasn't turned into a gourmet supermarket, look no further than Hampden Park Co-op. Formerly known as St. Anthony Park Foods Too, for 12 years this little nook has offered up a wide selection of organic produce, grains, and meat in a cozy space that always smells delicious. Choose from a case full… More >>
  • BEST NEIGHBORHOOD CAFÉ--MINNEAPOLIS

    Auriga

    A recent Strib story noted that the good people of Maple Grove suddenly have a "dizzying" abundance of restaurant options. Why, there's a Timber Lodge, a Red Lobster, and an Olive Garden! Turns out chains are drawn by the "sweet spot" of high incomes and education levels. Pshaw! You want to see a real sweet spot, check where Lowry Hill… More >>
  • BEST NEIGHBORHOOD CAFÉ--ST. PAUL

    This peculiarly monikered gem on a quiet residential stretch of Randolph Avenue fits all moods and occasions. On Saturday mornings you can perch yourself on a stool at the counter with coffee and flip lazily through the Pioneer Press. You'll feel as comfortable as you would at Mickey's Diner or the local coffee joint, but with the added allure of… More >>
  • BEST NEW RESTAURANT

    Chino Latino

    Sometimes it's hard to remember what we like most about Chino Latino. Is it the way it gives the Lake Wobegon (go, be gone!) chino-clad neighbors fits? It's too much, they complain. Too loud. Too crowded. Too intimidating. And we thought we had better jerk chicken when we were in Jamaica...dear, don't you remember that lovely housemaid? Yeah, the pissing-off-the-insecure-neighbor… More >>
  • BEST PASTA

    Broders

    Please do not forget to take a number when you walk into this snug little shop and café on a Saturday afternoon. Upon entering, you may feel overwhelmed by the scent of the garlic meatballs, the sight of the cheesy pizzas, the sound of the customers shouting out their orders, but for God's sake, take a number, or you'll sink… More >>
  • BEST PIE

    Hamlin's

    There's probably sexier pie than Barry Hamlin's. There are almost certainly sexier places to eat pie than Hamlin's lunch counter, tucked in the back of an office building at the desolate terminus of Nicollet Mall. But the salt-of-the-earth volk who frequent Hamlin's know real pie when they taste it. They know that crust, too often textured like wet wood pulp,… More >>
  • BEST PIZZA

    Punch

    Sometimes it seems like Punch isn't playing fair. It's Michael Jordan playing in the sixth-grade playoffs, and the would-be competitors just lie down on the gym floor and cry. But what else can they do? Punch has that wood-fired oven, the imported San Marzano tomatoes, a couple of fail-safe recipes, and a habit of snapping up cases of low-priced Italian… More >>
  • BEST PIZZA WITHOUT SUN-DRIED TOMATOES

    Golooney's

    Last time we were in Golooney's it was a frigid day, and back in the little table area a dozen people crouched, each holding a slice of pizza as crisp as a playing card (but tasting nothing like one), reveling in the $2-or-less treats. Both reheated and fresh out of the oven, these slices are perfection: spicy sauce; crisp, crisp… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO EAT BEFORE YOUR ANGIOPLASTY

    Kramarczuk

    Kramarczuk has a special place in our heart--in the artery just below the left ventricle, in fact, where years of pierogies and Polish sausage have coagulated into a little clot of warm nostalgia. No, Kramarczuk isn't for the health-conscious, the weight watcher, or the vegetarian. But to hell with them. Life is too short not to enjoy the bounty of… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO EAT OUT WITH YOUR KIDS

    Sure, the Talbot's-clad mom at the next table is sporting a diamond the size of your incisor. And yes, the preschoolers who tumbled out of her cute-ute are dressed more for prep school then for Gymboree. But dollars to doughnuts, her kids are making just as big a mess as yours. And, like you, she's here because no one cares.… More >>
  • BEST POWER LUNCH

    Chessen's

    Chessen's? That fluorescent blue box in the shadow of the federal courthouse in downtown Minneapolis? The one with the neon signs and Miller Genuine Draft banner across the front? The place better known for its pickled herring and chopped liver than its porterhouse steaks and dry martinis? Yep, that's the joint we're talking about. We admit that Chessen's is not… More >>
  • BEST PREPARED FOODS

    Tony Linden Hills Co-op

    Screw cooking. There, we said it for you. You already make it through the hectic work week without so much as boiling an egg, subsisting on a patchwork food quilt of leftover Chinese, frozen burritos, and cans of tuna. (No, adding mayonnaise does not qualify as "cooking.") So what makes you think that just because you're having a few friends… More >>
  • BEST REBIRTH

    Royal Orchid

    Pat Sukhtipyaroge always seemed forlorn in Royal Orchid's dingy old Nicollet Avenue location, and no amount of critical praise or loyal customer applause could really make him smile: The actual building had intractable problems, the block seemed forever on the wane, the unlucky aberration in a world of gentrification. He closed the old place down. Fast-forward two years, and Pat… More >>
  • BEST RESTAURANT FOR A FIRST DATE

    Sapor

    Pigeonholes, snap dismissals, and the whiff of the uncool: These are all things you want to avoid on those all-important first dates. Thank heaven, then, for the new Warehouse District restaurant Sapor. The wide-ranging wine list lets you pick between showing off your internationalism and taking solace in the familiar. The stylish room with the flattering lighting makes everyone look… More >>
  • BEST RESTAURANT FOR APPETIZERS

    Loring Pasta Bar

    Appetizers? What a weird concept, when you think about it. They're the foods you eat, um...before you eat. That being the case, it would make the most sense for those tasty before-meal bits to be light and scarce in number. But too often, appetizer means a bottomless pile of chicken wings slathered in ranch dressing or a greasy pile of… More >>
  • BEST RESTAURANT FOR DESSERT

    Spare us the fancy, dainty concoctions passing as desserts at many chichi restaurants around town. When it comes to sweets, we have no use for orange slices brightened by sprigs of mint. We want chocolate and custard and cream cheese. We want real whipped cream, and we want butter. Oh, and one more thing, we want BIG portions. Clearly then,… More >>
  • BEST RESTAURANT FOR GLUTTONS

    New King's Buffet

    If you are afraid of humans the size of cars, do not come to New King's Buffet. Because they are here, staked out in booths like bears in lairs, getting ready for an Alaskan winter, piles of king crab legs stacked up like firewood before them. Sometimes they take the entire gallon container of melted butter from the buffet back… More >>
  • BEST RESTAURANT FOR LATE-NIGHT DINING

    There is life, and then there is life with oysters at midnight. Just a few weeks ago, Uptown Minneapolis was granted life with oysters at midnight ($16 a dozen), and it feels so right. Also, Gruyère caramelized-onion buckwheat crêpes with salad ($8.50), fancy macaroni and fromage (from $7), and fancy desserts like a pear-ginger pie, all available until 12:30 a.m.,… More >>
  • BEST RESTAURANT FOR OUTDOOR DINING

    Black Forest Inn

    Yes, there are other places to sit outside while you're eating--if you like dining on a sidewalk, getting gassed by bus fumes, and being gawked at by passersby. But there's nothing like the patio at the Black Forest Inn. With its trickling fountains and the plush tangle of vines hanging overhead, it's possible to feel cool even in the sweltering… More >>
  • BEST RESTAURANT FOR ROMANCE

    This renovated Stillwater storefront veritably whispers romance, from the brick walls to the dark wood to the table linens and place settings. The lighting is low but not distractingly so, the atmosphere suffused with quiet elegance, though not so much so as to intimidate: Whether you choose to be seated in the intimate back room with its view of the… More >>
  • BEST RESTAURANT TREND

    There was a time when restaurants bit the dust, and the dust stayed bit: RIP, Loretta's Tea Room, RIP Azure. No longer! Sri Lanka Curry House disappeared for a couple of years, and then came back better than ever. Royal Orchid went bye-bye for almost as long, and then came back as shiny as a new penny. King & I… More >>
  • BEST RESTAURANT WAY THE HECK OUT IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE

    Bayport Cookery

    It would be too much of a cliché to say that in Bayport there is no there there. But seriously, folks, in Bayport there isn't even any the there. There are a heck of a lot of windows there (headquarters of Anderson Windows, you bet), a speed-trap in the road, and no doubt a lot of outraged people who will… More >>
  • BEST RESTAURANT WHEN SOMEONE ELSE IS PAYING

    If you're buying, we're getting the $95 Aquavit tasting menu, paired with accompanying wines. A recent version of the six-course meal started with tandoori smoked salmon paired with fried wasabi sorbet and cilantro vinaigrette, progressed to serrano-chile-wrapped lobster with mushroom-corn orzo and asparagus cappuccino (like a cream sauce). For the third course there was caramelized tuna with a celery-Asian-pear terrine,… More >>
  • BEST RESTAURANT--MINNEAPOLIS

    Restaurant Alma

    There are two basic things that define the best restaurant in Minneapolis--and make no mistake, this is a hotly, hotly disputed category. Basically, the two things are bliss and its necessary support, friendly pleasure. Bliss for what is on the plate or in the cup, and pleasure in the overall experience. There can be bliss on the plate, but no… More >>
  • BEST RESTAURANT--ST. PAUL

    Zander

    There's a new chef working behind the lines at Zander, young chef de cuisine Matthew Bickford, and even though we had dubious feelings about that change at first, it seems Zander the café is just as good as ever. Bold, often counterintuitively combined flavors still dominate the menu, but we've been happy to find no chaos evident on the plates,… More >>
  • BEST SALAD

    Lucia's

    Just consider a recent Lucia's salad made with greens, Spanish air-cured tuna, roasted fennel, and caper berries, all united with a sun-dried tomato vinaigrette ($9.95). What balance! What strength! Or another salad of mixed greens with verjus vinaigrette, apples, hickory nuts, and a French goat-cheese crouton ($8.25). What original simplicity! Not only does Lucia's reliably have the best salads in… More >>
  • BEST SEAFOOD RESTAURANT

    Oceanaire

    Since it opened a little more than two years ago, Oceanaire has dominated the seafood dreams of seafood lovers. The fantasies start with $1.95 bluepoint oysters (opened by a few of the only people you can count on not to shatter the bivalves while shucking), work up through $4.25 cups of clam chowder and $19.95 fried-everything (potatoes, fish, shrimp, scallops,… More >>
  • BEST SERVICE AT A RESTAURANT

    Schumacher's - CLOSED

    At the risk of sounding like one is fingering one's Eaton tie whilst the 21st Century whistles past one's gray-furred ears, what on earth has happened to service lately? It used to be that service was up and down, here and there, a missed water glass, a lengthy disappearance...what could you do? But suddenly that seems like the golden age,… More >>
  • BEST STAR-CHEF EXPERIENCE ON A BUDGET

    All year it's been the strangest thing. Wander into Z Café, the quiet breakfast spot across the street from the more renowned Zander Café, and there he is, celebrated chef Alexander Dixon. Standing there. Behind the grill. Frying eggs. Toasting muffins. Sure, you're about to get the best, richest eggs Benedict you've ever imagined. But it's more than that. It's… More >>
  • BEST STEAK HOUSE

    Manny's

    Every once in a while some knucklehead stands up and makes his knucklehead opinion known, and that opinion is this: that Manny's is no better than one or another of the upscale chains. Now, why is such a person a knucklehead? Because if he were a meathead, he'd know that the specially dry-aged (There is no wet aging! Wet aging… More >>
  • BEST STEAK HOUSE ON A BUDGET

    Saturday night a few weeks ago, and every table seemed to have a steak on it. Some filets, yes, but most often the sirloin, an under-$15 piece of meat with more flavor than one deserves for the price, especially considering the steak comes with all the best trimmings of an old-school supper club: complimentary relish trays, green salads dressed with… More >>
  • BEST SUNDAY BRUNCH

    It takes a surprising amount of soul-searching to figure out what makes a good brunch. Some people want a buffet the size of a football field. Others feel that a pulpy mimosa is a necessity. Some want a simple atmosphere, others a swanky one. Knowing full well that brunch means different things to different people, we were sweating a bit… More >>
  • BEST SUSHI

    Recently, dangling a modest expense account and a yen toward completeness, we tried to round up companions to accompany us to some of the metro area's finest second-tier sushi establishments. No one would go. Second-rate sushi? They'd rather pay for their own topflight sushi than eat the second-best for free. And our friends are notoriously cheap! Reader, we were forced… More >>
  • BEST THAI RESTAURANT

    The King and I Thai - CLOSED

    Sometimes when we nosh at this reborn Minneapolis treasure, we take our server's advice and order the gaeng (or curry) of the day, and are presented--as we knew we would be--with a complex and multilayered dish of meats, seafood, or tofu; vegetables; fresh, aromatic herbs; and a sauce redolent with spicy or rich seasonings to bind the whole thing together.… More >>
  • BEST VEGETARIAN-FRIENDLY RESTAURANT

    Cafe Brenda

    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… More >>
  • BEST VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT

    Quang

    As Morrissey sang, we hate it when our friend become successful. "What," we start to wonder, "are they too good for us now?" If your friend is a restaurant, you're bound to feel the same proprietary interest. Take the case of Quang. The success of this Minneapolis perennial--they recently moved into larger, brighter digs across the street from their former… More >>
  • BEST WINE AND LIQUOR STORE

    Surdyk's

    There's an excellent selection of beer and spirits here, but the vino is where Surdyk's shines. Wine sales at this Minneapolis institution are intense exercises in cart-to-cart combat, as rabid, volume-buying shoppers furiously attempt to restock their cellars. To walk the aisles here is to travel the world of excellent wines, whether they originate from France, Spain, Chile, Australia, California,… More >>
  • BEST WINE LIST

    The Modern Cafe

    How should one go about evaluating a wine list? How about this: Its scope should match that of the restaurant's menu, and its prices should be fair. While the planet boasts plenty of eateries that fulfill that first requirement, the second count is what truly separates the ordinaire from the grand cru. The Modern Café doesn't have the Twin Cities'… More >>
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