BEST NEIGHBORHOOD CAFÉ (MINNEAPOLIS) - 2002
If those Sunday suppers weren't beguiling enough--$20 three-course meals just made for grown-up family dining--this year Alma added weekend brunch, full of things like ricotta pancakes with lemon zest, a scattering of fresh raspberries, and organic maple syrup. Spread out a newspaper on the sunny tables and the room feels completely different than it does at night, when the stark arrangements of twigs give the room an elegant feel that's perfect for romantic tête-à-têtes. Oh, nighttime at Alma, when you feel justified in making a dent in that wine list and splurging on chef Alex Roberts's signature blend of the straightforward and the somehow simultaneously playful. A salad of lamb chops roasted with anchovies, black olives, and mustard? Why not? That's what's great about a neighborhood café: It rises or falls to the requisite level according to your needs. Casual breakfasts, Sunday suppers, fancy dinner dates. What next? Some kind of gourmet ball-pit to toss the kiddies into, filled with apricots and chestnuts? We wouldn't be entirely surprised.