Food & Drink

  • BEST AFRICAN RESTAURANT

    House Of Lalibela

    Sweet and friendly servers, a lush yellow room that glows like a candle flame, an attention-getting wine list, and sometimes a singer crooning pretty pop standards in the corner--this is an African restaurant? It sure is, and thank heavens for House of Lalibela, the first local African restaurant that pays as much attention to the pleasure of the dining experience… More >>
  • BEST ASIAN GROCERY

    Dragon Star Oriental Foods

    A visit to this bustling St. Paul market can't help but lead one to reflect on what dilettante carnivores we've become. It isn't just that Dragon Star's formidable butcher shop features entire phyla that you might not normally think of eating, either. It's also the market's startling range of critter bits, from brains to hooves and everything (literally) in between.… More >>
  • BEST BAGELS

    Bagelman's New York Eatery & Deli - CLOSED

    You don't have to be an East Coast purist to know the difference between a bagel and a bun. Whether you prefer a plain bagel with lox or a schmeer or you're loading up some blasphemous, fruity deal with peanut butter, what really matters is texture and contrast: a crisp, slightly shiny surface sliced open to reveal dense, chewy innards… More >>
  • BEST BAKERY

    Turtle Bread Company

    Ambition, accomplishment, and too many wicker baskets don't often walk hand in hand in this life, but they do at Turtle Bread. Wandering the aisles recently, we were struck by the sheer accomplishment in so very many fields. Cardamom bread is sweet and light and smells like the lace-doily version of heaven. Normandy cheese bread is rich and herbal; the… More >>
  • BEST BARBECUE

    Market Bar-b-que - CLOSED

    We've had troubles with this old-time favorite before: bones that were too dry; a general lack of inspiration or attention. And yet these days Market is serving the best barbecue in town. Pork ribs are smoky, meaty, and still moistly fatty, just as they should be. Ribs are available in lots of different sizes and prices, but four bones cost… More >>
  • BEST BREAD

    New French Bakery

    What an exquisite burden it is to select the best bread in the Twin Cities: So many chewy crusts to sample! So many flaky morsels to savor! Every year brings more contenders to the table. But until one figures out how to trump the perfect combination of light texture, delicate flavor, and crisp crust found in the typical New French… More >>
  • BEST BREAKFAST

    Ideal Diner

    "It must be an Ideal day," puns Kim from behind the counter, to about every third customer who walks through this little diner's door. It's the noon hour, and four mechanics from a nearby auto shop are over in the smoking section, wiping the grease from their burgers into the axle grease on their jumpsuits. About 20 feet to the… More >>
  • BEST BURGERS

    What the hell is on that grill? The angel on our shoulder wants to say, "Magic!" But the devil says, "Drugs!" Whatever it is, Matt's duly famous Jucy Lucy has it: The Jucy Lucy, in case you're not an earthling, is two beef patties seared around a molten core of bubbling cheese, topped (ideally) with dark-fried onions, and issued forth… More >>
  • BEST CANDY STORE

    Dulceria a La Pinata

    Working in a candy store is not easy. It's so easy to freely sample the goods (all in the name of research, mind you) that one usually ends up gaining a few too many pounds or (horrors!) losing interest in sugar altogether. Kids, on the other hand, will tell you that a candy-store job is a dream aspiration. What better… More >>
  • BEST CARRY-OUT CHICKEN

    Midtown Chicken Shack - CLOSED

    Craving fried chicken is a bone-deep thing, a call to both body and soul, a cry for crisp, salty, moist chicken and something else too--a cry for connection. Last time we were at the Midtown Chicken Shack, a 1/4-white dinner was on the way when we got to thinking about gizzards. So the hollering began: "Hey, how do you do… More >>
  • BEST CHEAP EATS

    Strudel & Nudel - CLOSED

    Even before it became known as Eat Street, this stretch of Nicollet Avenue was home to a wide variety of food bargains. One standby is this "German-European Delicatessen," an offshoot of the Black Forest Inn. Open from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., this comfy café is a lazy-eater-on-a-budget's dream come true. Let's start with breakfast: Try a potato pancake with… More >>
  • BEST CHEESE SELECTION

    Surdyk's

    We do hear one complaint about Surdyk's Cheese Shop pretty often, and it runs like this: I went in last Saturday and it was full of other people! In my way! Cheese shoppers seem to be an especially sensitive bunch of flowers, nurtured as they've been on meaty Italian Taleggio; nutty, five-year-aged Gouda; double Gloucester; and creamy pyramids of American… More >>
  • BEST CHICKEN WINGS

    Arnellia's

    There's a certain grace to eating a chicken wing well. A real chicken-wing connoisseur will basically invisibly vacuum up his or her wings. You'll be sitting there, and you'll think you're talking, and they will have wings, and then suddenly they will not, they will have bones. It is an art, it is a skill, it is a nifty bit… More >>
  • BEST CHINESE RESTAURANT

    How many menus are there at Chan's, the brand-new bright Chinese place on 25th Street, just off Nicollet Avenue South? One time we counted seven: the standard lunch menu, a pair of dim sum menus (ooh, those salty and savory rice-noodle bundles with dried shrimp), the bubble-tea menu (sweet drinks with giant tapioca balls in them--yum!), the fresh fish list… More >>
  • BEST CHOCOLATE

    BT McElrath Chocolatier

    The B.T. McElrath chocolate factory is located below ground, at an unassuming Minneapolis industrial complex that was once the site of research labs for General Mills. Development for such favorites as Wheaties and Cheerios originated here, explains Brian McElrath, chocolatier and co-owner of the company, along with wife Christine Walthour. The B.T. McElrath workspace is equally innovative. Here McElrath and… More >>
  • BEST COFFEE (BY THE POUND)

    Bean Counter Coffee Company

    The Twin Cities are overrun with coffee shops, but only a handful roast their own beans. "It's an expensive proposition to get into," says Bean Counter Coffee Company co-owner Brian Ortale. This mini-chain not only roasts its own beans at its Highland Park store but will do so at your command. Give them a day's notice and your freshly roasted… More >>
  • BEST COFFEEHOUSE

    The Spyhouse Espresso Bar And Gallery

    A lot of people will argue that trying to pick the best coffee house is like trying to pick the best cash machine: Duh, it's the closest one. But Spyhouse is more than just a coffee house--it's an inspiration to higher living. We're talking serious integrity here. Drip coffee comes from an importer who lives in the neighborhood and hails… More >>
  • BEST CROISSANTS

    Some people can generate a palpable physical rage over the Enron debacle. We can generate one over the infuriating fact that A Baker's Wife's is not located in our local neighborhood commercial node. It's simply impossible to overpraise the baked goods that come out of this place: lemon bars like butter made into sunshine; pecan tartlets as crumbly and fine… More >>
  • BEST DELICATESSEN

    Zaroff's

    Matzoh brei, stuffed sweet-and-sour cabbage with raisins, blintzes, potato latkes, chicken in a pot ($11.95), chopped liver, rugalach ($2.25), brisket, knishes, half-sour pickles--there isn't a single item missing from Zaroff's lineup of delicatessen favorites. They even do shiva catering for funerals. And they have stuffed derma, and kishka with gravy ($4.95). We can't think of one thing that Zaroff's doesn't… More >>
  • BEST DINER

    Hamlin's

    The uninitiated may be hard-pressed to locate this little gem, tucked away as it is in the rear of the Renaissance Square building; a tiny sign is all that announces its presence to passersby on Nicollet Mall. This is probably just as well: any better publicity and Hamlin's would become unmanageably crowded. As it is, whether you sit in one… More >>
  • BEST DOUGHNUTS

    Blackey's

    Heard the one about the crackheads in Louisiana who stole a Krispy Kreme truck and led cops on a wild chase, strewing doughnuts on the highway as they fled? Stupid crackheads, what do they know about anything? Those doughnuts are merely sweet and light, merely hot. The doughnuts at Blackey's? They're light as clouds. Stick your nose in one and… More >>
  • BEST DRIVE-IN

    - CLOSED

    Even in the dead of winter, there's a surprising level of activity in the parking lot at Porky's. Perhaps against winter's bleak, gray sky the Porky's sign--a giant, brightly colored neon pig in a top hat--seems all the more inviting. Under the pig's cartoonish gaze, vehicles zoom past the drive-through window, then pull into a slot under the carport's slanted… More >>
  • BEST FISH MARKET

    Whole Foods Market

    Nine times a week, the sign behind the counter proclaims. That's how often fresh fish is delivered to the seafood department in this capacious supermarket. Arriving directly from Pigeon Cove Whole Foods Market, the chain's own waterfront seafood facility on the docks in Gloucester, Massachusetts, the wide selection of fish and shellfish is as fresh as it is tasty. Farm-raised… More >>
  • BEST FOOD CRIME

    Haute Dish

    As if naming their restaurant after our restaurant section weren't enough, this snappy little reincarnation of the Minneapolis Table of Contents has perpetrated a series of serious offenses against food tradition. Prosciutto on escargots. Mu shu duck wrapped in crepes. Tater tots formed of risotto. And for dessert, small cinnamon doughnuts to dip in hot lemon curd. But of course.… More >>
  • BEST FRENCH RESTAURANT

    café un deux trois

    Forget about this downtown stalwart at your peril. Because while other French restaurants come and go, café un deux trois sticks to the basics of classic French bistro cooking and classic New York front-of-the-house efficiency. The current menu offers all the beloved regulars: boudin blanc, escargots, steak tartare, moules, steak au poivre, even sautéed calf's liver with onions. The rest… More >>
  • BEST FRESH PRODUCE

    Those tiny, variegated green berries that resemble nothing so much as miniature Japanese lanterns? They're gooseberries, too tart for eating out of hand but delicious in pies and popular with bakers of a certain age. Those finger-size, gnarled tubers that bear an unfortunate resemblance to the earwigs the evil Khan loosed on the crew of Star Trek's USS Enterprise? That's… More >>
  • BEST FRIED CHICKEN

    Lucille's Kitchen

    What makes the fried chicken at Lucille's Kitchen so good? Secrets, of course. Secret seasonings, secret recipes, secret secrets. But the secret's not as secret as it once was: Nowadays people come from all over to get Lucille's fried chicken--from Duluth, from St. Cloud, from Wisconsin. Sometimes now, as word of this lacquer-crisp, knee-weakeningly tender chicken has spread, requests… More >>
  • BEST FRIES

    Hamlin's

    Fries matter. There have been times when we've thought of splitting Best Fries into several divisions. Best fries, large and floppy: Convention Grill. Best fries, ultra-crisp: Oceanaire. Best fries, nighttime: Café Barbette. Best fries, chili-cheese: Joey D's. Best fries, St. Paul: Andy's Grill. We could do this all day. Sometimes we do. And that's when we get to thinking that… More >>
  • BEST GOURMET GROCERY

    Kowalski's

    Let us say first off that we still believe that Woodbury is a soulless nowhere. But. Oh. My. God. The Woodbury Kowalski's. You know something's up as soon as you step across the threshold and are confronted by two desks of customer-service help. There isn't that much greeting and grinning in the entire Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. After that, where… More >>
  • BEST GREEK RESTAURANT

    It's Greek To Me

    Perhaps the most satisfying single piece of paper in the entire metro area is the Xeroxed sheet that gets laid on the table at the beginning of a meal at It's Greek to Me: a handwritten (and often hand-revised) list of the day's specials. Baby octopus in garlicky red wine, a sweet slab of winter halibut, braised lamb stew with… More >>
  • BEST HOMEMADE PASTA

    For those who crave fresh pasta, the Twin Cities don't offer much in the way of choices: Make it yourself, or head to Broders'. And let's face facts: How often are you going to go to the trouble, when you can so easily find tender and tasty homemade egg, spinach, or herb-and-garlic noodles at this warm, cozy little market, for… More >>
  • BEST HOT DOGS

    Joey D's

    Every city should have at least one legendary hot-dog emporium. In Washington, D.C., it's Ben's Chili Bowl. In Fort Lauderdale, Hot Dog Heaven. Chicago, of course, is hot-dog mecca, with so many topnotch purveyors (Flukey's, Wolfy's, Byron's, etc.) that it might be possible to subsist there on hot dogs alone--until you keel over from a heart attack, anyway. Hereabouts the… More >>
  • BEST ICE CREAM PARLOR

    Standing in line at Izzy's is an arduous endeavor. Not only is the scent of the sweet, creamy frozen confections almost overpowering, but the longer you stand there--and in summer the queue usually goes out the door--the more often you'll change your mind about which mouthwatering flavor to order. Cinnamon bun? Pistachio? Strawberry cheesecake? Cotton candy? Chocolate? Vanilla? The list… More >>
  • BEST INDIAN GROCERY

    Asia Imports isn't much on décor, so shopping at this unassuming grocery is more of a fragrant pleasure than a visual one. Sacks of jasmine and basmati rice perfume the area near the back, and the odors that emanate from the spice aisle create an appetizing potpourri of cumin, paprika, chili powder, mustard, star anise, and, of course, the various… More >>
  • BEST INDIAN RESTAURANT

    Sri Lanka

    A recent visit to Sri Lanka (which, if you've been living under a rock, re-established itself in Calhoun Village, the strip mall that holds the MGM Liquor Warehouse northwest of Lake Calhoun) resulted in a truly fine meal, highlighted by a starter of scallops and fresh spinach leaves in piquant chutney (a vast portion); a dusky, fiery beef roti; and… More >>
  • BEST ITALIAN GROCERY

    - CLOSED

    All three of our local old-time Italian markets kick ass. Cossetta's does, with its big-party atmosphere, its line of red sauce, its dine-in regulars, and the kids frolicking on the staircases that lead to the upstairs dining rooms. Delmonico's does, with its teeny-tiny, jammed aisles of anisette cookies, home-packed pickled peppers, and tins of pumpkin spice from the Eisenhower administration.… More >>
  • BEST ITALIAN RESTAURANT (CHEAP)

    What is Italian food? Is it the food they're eating in Turin, in Orvieto, in Genoa right this very minute? Or is it the Southern Italian immigrant cuisine that developed in American cities after World War I? When Italians and Germans lived side by side in the factory neighborhoods around Lowertown and started putting sauerkraut on pizza, did that stop… More >>
  • BEST ITALIAN RESTAURANT (NOT CHEAP)

    Pane Vino Dolce

    No doubt this item will cause controversy. Because Pane Vino Dolce is simultaneously the most passionately beloved and the most avidly despised Italian restaurant in the history of Twin Cities dining. It's despised because of its no-credit-card policy (for tabs that usually top $50 a head, with wine), its habit of serving bottled water without explaining that it comes at… More >>
  • BEST JAPANESE RESTAURANT

    What's white, gold, red, and good all over? Fuji-Ya, of course. Is there anything we don't like about this place? The sushi bar has settled down into a first-class operation; the front bar-bar (liquor bar? That sounds dumb) is an exceptionally pleasant place to while away an hour sipping the nice varieties of sake (the wine list is also fine);… More >>
  • BEST KOREAN RESTAURANT

    Hoban Korean Restaurant

    Have you noticed kalbi marinated pork at local supermarkets? Even a scant five years ago, Korean food was considered pretty darn far out of the mainstream, but nowadays a significant chunk of the population sees it with the same familiarity as they do Creole or Greek. Fantastic! So everyone who loves that soy, ginger, and sugar marinade is hereby encouraged… More >>
  • BEST LATINO GROCERY

    Mercado Central

    ¡Caramba! We searched mightily for a smaller underdog market to upset perennial winner El Burrito. The Mercado Central complex in Minneapolis impresses with its freshly made tortillas and sugary cookie selection, as do the Las Americas stores with their excellent assortment of hard-to-find items. But at the end of the day, El Burrito still rules. In fact, this Concord Street… More >>
  • BEST LOCAL CHEF

    Tim McKee

    Some people have accused us of sleeping with Tim McKee, as this marks the millionth year in a row we're giving him Best Chef. It's an intriguing thought and all, but the sad truth is we've never actually met the guy face to face, which makes the logistics a little more magical than we're really looking for, thank you very… More >>
  • BEST MEXICAN RESTAURANT

    Tacos Morelos

    Mexican restaurant culture in the Twin Cities isn't exactly in its infancy, but then again, it isn't too far out of nursery school. Sad to say, there's no Mexican restaurant here that's based on fresh, seasonal, locally grown ingredients. What we've got is Caucasian-culture behemoths and authentic strugglers with nary a penny to spend on extras. That said, Tacos Morelos… More >>
  • BEST MIDDLE EASTERN GROCERY

    The moment you step into Holy Land, you're caught up in the chaos of a Middle Eastern bazaar. Cooks at the deli counter call out to lunchtime patrons to pick up their giant plates of gyros and falafel and baba ghannouj. Once you've made it past that aromatic distraction, you'll come face to face with mounds of pita bread and… More >>
  • BEST MIDDLE EASTERN RESTAURANT

    It's sort of like dining in a collapsing balloon, what with the drooping tapestries dangling just overhead, but the tabouli is fresh-made with plenty of parsley, the spinach pie tastes rich with sumac berry, and there's something sort of charming about this dark little room whose primary light source seems to be a refrigerator case of canned juices and bottled… More >>
  • BEST NATURAL FOODS GROCERY

    Seward Co-Op Grocery & Deli

    Co-ops are definitely not for the Birkenstock set anymore--haven't been for years. But Seward has largely bucked the trend toward boutique organic and is celebrating 30 years in the business with its homegrown values, and products, intact. Along with a plethora of grown-without-chemicals products, the co-op also offers enough deli goods to make for a satisfying lunch destination, including fresh… More >>
  • BEST NEIGHBORHOOD CAFÉ (MINNEAPOLIS)

    Restaurant Alma

    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… More >>
  • BEST NEIGHBORHOOD CAFÉ (ST. PAUL)

    Chet's

    More so than Minneapolis, St. Paul truly is a city of neighborhoods, of small towns interwoven into a big city. That's why we wish there were a Chet's every six blocks or so--a place that served fresh, simple dishes (vegetable salads, polenta, big roast legs of lamb with roasted potatoes...) in a cozy room that feels small-town in the best… More >>
  • BEST NEW RESTAURANT

    Vincent - A Restaurant

    Best new restaurant, best new reason to quit regarding the future with fear and loathing. The minute chef Vincent Francoual opened the doors to his French-in-technique, global-when-it-wants-to-be establishment, he irrevocably changed the dining landscape downtown, and all for the better. It's not just the breathtaking halibut with a bacon-fat-fueled crust you could bounce a quarter on, it's the whole ball… More >>
  • BEST PIE

    Turtle Bread Company

    If there's a more satisfying activity in the Twin Cities than ordering two slices of pie and sitting down along a window bench at Turtle Bread with a cup of coffee, we don't know what it is. Yeah, two slices. Want to make something of it? You try deciding between lemon chiffon, cherry, apple, raspberry, key lime, and whatever else… More >>
  • BEST PIZZA

    A lot of people around here seem to think that a pizza crust is to pizza cheese as a loafer is to Rush Limbaugh. Not true! A pizza is a complex, multimodal, biodynamic system wherein components of crust, cheese, sauce, and topping interact toward the creation of a sum greater than the parts. Moreover, wherein each element both stands on… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO EAT BEFORE YOUR ANGIOPLASTY

    Fat Lorenzo's

    A huge slab of marbled meat is the cliché choice, but we're not biting on it. What's the biggest porterhouse in town weigh in at, anyway, maybe two pounds? Even vegetarians can make a serious run at arterial gridlock by ordering up an extra-large Fat Lorenzo's pie, which tips the scales at nearly five pounds--for about half the price of… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO EAT OUT WITH YOUR KIDS

    Yes, we chose a chain. Moreover, yes, when all is said and done and the carnage is there in front of you in all its thrown, dropped, and/or masticated-and-then-thrown-or-dropped glory, you often find yourself wishing you hadn't taken the kids with you in the first place. But you do go out to eat, and sometimes you take your kids--heck, sometimes… More >>
  • BEST PLACE TO SELF-MEDICATE

    The day you serve eviction papers to your bed partner, the day after you drank too much and told your boss exactly what you really think, the day you lose the house of your dreams by a thousand dollars--there are plenty of times when the Convention Grill fits the bill. Flop into a booth and place your order for a… More >>
  • BEST POWER LUNCH

    Anodyne - CLOSED

    There are times when half of the Twin Cities media elite pass through this coffee shop in a morning. They come from all walks of information--from radio, television, electronic, and print--but mostly they are writers. Mostly they come because they bought houses in the neighborhood a dozen years ago when houses in the neighborhood were cheap. And they come because… More >>
  • BEST PREPARED FOODS

    Falafel King

    The cliché goes: fast, cheap, or good--pick two. But not at Falafel King, where you get all three, with extra garlic. Lemony tabouli salad, creamy baba ghannouj, lowfat pita breads, potent imported olives, spicy gyros with that piercing herbal King sauce, and more, more, more. Truth be told, our current favorite is the $29.95 "small party tray"--a whopping platter of… More >>
  • BEST REBIRTH

    Udupi

    The legendary phoenix ain't got nothin' on Udupi--you want rising from the ashes? We'll give you rising from the ashes. When the Columbia Heights restaurant burned to the absolute ground in the winter of 2000-2001, there was nothing by the side of the road but a cement pad and cinders. (Extra points to anyone who caught the news reports quoting… More >>
  • BEST RESTAURANT (MINNEAPOLIS)

    Auriga

    Welcome to the thousand-dollar paragraph, for which intrepid researchers did battle with many cloth napkins stretched over increasingly rotund, foie-gras-gorged bellies. Who knew living so high on the hog could be so joyless? (If anyone ever told you that the Best Restaurant item wasn't the product of a year's worth of studious research topped by a single bloody month of… More >>
  • BEST RESTAURANT (ST. PAUL)

    zander cafe

    What a joy it has been to watch this chef-driven spot morph from a single brightly lighted room to a food and wine festival. A recent visit brought to light a wine list bursting with hard-to-find choices (a Hendry pinot noir, for instance), fantastic food (a three-ingredient soup that shone in the bowl like a bright mosaic, and a Portuguese… More >>
  • BEST RESTAURANT FOR A FIRST DATE

    Chino Latino

    As soon as you pull up to the valet out front, your intended will know how cool you are: Did they use a casting agency to draft all those broad-shouldered hotties? Sheesh. Way to class up a sidewalk. Stroll through the orange air lock toward the host stand and it's like leaving Minneapolis for the weekend, without the troubles that… More >>
  • BEST RESTAURANT FOR APPETIZERS

    Aquavit

    They glimmer like little sea jewels in frothy laces of foam, the appetizers at Aquavit. Mussel meats nestled together like butterflies in a bowl of chilled dashi broth, lobster in half-moons of ravioli, wee herring tacos with a fiery spine of horseradish, polenta cakes the size of quarters hosting braised twists of beef that look like miniature campfires. Nowhere in… More >>
  • BEST RESTAURANT FOR DESSERT

    Goodfellow's

    The most magnificent desserts often show up when you least desire them: at the conclusion of a filling, wine-soaked meal. And that's why Goodfellow's front corner bar, with its handful of tables, is an insider's ace in the hole. Settle in and order a coffee or a glass of bubbly and one of renowned pastry chef Joan Ida's so-rich, so-smart… More >>
  • BEST RESTAURANT FOR GLUTTONS

    Q. Cumbers

    There's nothing fancy about this Edina soup-and-salad emporium. No menus, table service, or ambiance. Just fresh, well-prepared food at a decent price--and as much of it as you can shovel down your gullet in one sitting. The lunch buffet costs $7.50, while dinner will set you back $8.75. Seniors get a discount, and kids under 12 are charged according to… More >>
  • BEST RESTAURANT FOR LATE-NIGHT DINING

    Mickey's Diner

    Uncle. We give up already. This is indeed a lousy town for late-night dining--and we're going to call late night that which happens after 2:00 a.m., just to knock out the lame-o's of the world who sack out at 11:00. Eleven o'clock is not late night; it's just a poorly organized evening. Three o'clock a.m.--that's late. While we're at it,… More >>
  • BEST RESTAURANT FOR OUTDOOR DINING

    Joe's

    Do you have a favorite Joe's burger? If you don't, you're doing something wrong: You're not enjoying summer intensely enough. Us, we're partial to the Spicy Asian Pork Burger ($9.50) with that marvelous accompaniment of skin-on fries. Some people go for a vegetarian burger, like past favorites black-bean/veggie or sun-dried-tomato/falafel, while others go for that famous curried yellowfin tuna burger,… More >>
  • BEST RESTAURANT FOR ROMANCE

    Loring Kitchen & Bar

    What is it finally going to take for you to get some of that sweet, sweet loving? A carriage ride around the park? Rose petals on the sheets? Boarding school for the progeny? A bodysuit made of theatrical rubber instantly transforming you into Cameron Diaz or LL Cool J? We can't help you there, but if you reserve a table… More >>
  • BEST RESTAURANT IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE

    Marimar

    Wonder how much south Minneapolis hate mail we can generate with this one. We usually reserve this category for long-way-off establishments the likes of Schumacher's in New Prague and Harbor View on Lake Pepin. Who knew there could be a restaurant in Minneapolis that was half an hour from Uptown? Interesting dishes, such as rare-seared duck breast, and an idiosyncratic,… More >>
  • BEST RESTAURANT TREND

    Modern Cafe

    There was a time in this town when cheap wine meant just that: plonk. Suddenly, though, we live in a golden age of half-price wine nights. All credit goes to the Modern Cafe (337 13th Ave. NE, Minneapolis; 612.378.9882) for starting the trend, with their lovely half-price Tuesdays. But get this: At the French Meadow (2610 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis;… More >>
  • BEST RESTAURANT WHEN SOMEONE ELSE IS PAYING

    aquavit

    This downtown gem is so inconsistent we're tempted not to gamble the price of admission. A recent dalliance with the tasting menu had servers throwing down delicacies with such rapidity that we blasted, breathlessly, through seven courses in about 80 minutes. Nearly $300 later, we were dizzy, and not in the right way. And yet at other times the experience… More >>
  • BEST SALAD

    It being the 21st Century and all, it seems a shame that salads should remain relegated to their parochial pre-meal habitat. Yes, some salads are better than others, but when you get down to brass tacks, they're mostly just vegetables dressed up in vinegar. Let Jasmine's bún salad therefore stand as a Declaration of Salad Independence. Constructed with layers of… More >>
  • BEST SEAFOOD RESTAURANT

    Oceanaire Seafood Room

    It's the oyster bar that hooks us. Glistening little puddles of just-shelled mollusk on scrappy little disks of shell that sat oh-so-recently in the world's inlets, bays, and estuaries. Sweet Wellfleets, subtle Blue Points, delicate Kumamotos from the West Coast. Snare a seat at that oyster bar and you'll know why those birds poking around ocean surf always look so… More >>
  • BEST SERVICE AT A RESTAURANT

    Sapor Cafe And Bar

    There are two ways restaurants create great service: by constant training, or by caring very, very deeply. Sapor is of the latter variety: Owners Tanya Siebenaler (chef) and Julie Steenerson (manager) go nuts with caring about the customers. Seriously. A visit with a friend with deathly legume allergies had the entire restaurant on alert, included a special batch of baked-just-for-us… More >>
  • BEST SOMALIAN GROCERY

    Chicago Crossings

    For those who define spice as adding Smucker's to Wonder and Skippy, this place has every fresh seasoning required to flail your tender taste buds into shivering raisins of their former selves. For Somalis, and lovers of Somali food, this crowded but clean and friendly little store sates your chili and curry needs, offering plenty of rice and red beans… More >>
  • BEST STEAK HOUSE

    Manny's Steakhouse

    One of the nice things about writing this blurb is the knowledge that it will never end up on the walls of the establishment in question, because the folks who run Manny's don't give a hoot what chump-change suckers who read (or write) free newspapers care (or write) about. Because if you've got $75 a head (not counting drinks) to… More >>
  • BEST STEAK HOUSE ON A BUDGET

    Carpenter's Steakhouse

    Twenty miles north of the state capitol and not too darn far off I-35E is a quiet country steakhouse in the quiet country town of Hugo. It's hard to believe the place is as quiet as it is when you consider that they've got a steak that'll make you swoon: "Chef Tony's Special Steak," a one-pound marinated choice top round… More >>
  • BEST SUNDAY BRUNCH

    Soba's

    Though the name promises Japanese cuisine, the menu at Sobas ranges from Mediterranean to Southwestern flavors. But hair-of-the-dog seekers and all-you-can-eaters can skip to the nearest pub buffet: This place doesn't even serve bloody marys. But before you wag a French-toast finger at us, know this: Sobas possesses that grail of the non-vegan brunch connoisseur--the perfectly cooked egg. American chefs… More >>
  • BEST SUSHI

    Katsu Sushi

    Anybody can mince up a lot of low-quality fish, hide it under a lot of chile mayonnaise, and dazzle a lot of fools. But the least-adorned fish, that takes real talent and dedication to do well. So sit right down at the sushi bar at newcomer Katsu Sushi and learn what it means to do the simplest, most difficult things… More >>
  • BEST TAKEOUT

    El Burrito

    This St. Paul institution might be a little too far off the beaten path for power lunchers. But, hey, the category isn't "most utilitarian takeout." And besides, with an inexpensive, tasty, and ever-changing selection of treats, El Burrito's homey cafeteria is worth a little extra effort. The burritos, gorditas, and tamales are perennial favorites, and a meal with rice, beans,… More >>
  • BEST THAI RESTAURANT

    Sometimes, when you're not looking, a restaurant will go and hit its stride. And that's precisely what northern Thai specialists Chiang Mai Thai went and did last year. The appetizer list is full of enough comforts to be reassuring (try fresh spring rolls filled with savory curried beef tenderloin) and enough surprises to keep things interesting (spicy cashews fried with… More >>
  • BEST VEGETARIAN-FRIENDLY RESTAURANT

    The French Meadow

    The French Meadow's tempeh Reuben ($7.50) has long been the subject of vegetarian cult worship, with its seared, sparrow-brown rye crusts, chewy, salty center of piquant Swiss cheese, biting sauerkraut, and perfectly spicy sauce. Hell, meat eaters have even been known to cross over in pursuit of the thing. Then they rolled out table-service dinner with a wine list (many… More >>
  • BEST VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT

    Jasmine Deli

    A tiny little underdog with a tiny little menu and great big bowls, Jasmine Deli is one of the biggest satisfactions of the past year. The beef bùn noodle salad boasts a dozen components of startling freshness, the bánh m" sandwiches are creative and prettily presented (and cost less than $3). Details of greatness abound: Meatball soups are flecked with… More >>
  • BEST WEDDING CAKES

    Jessica's Cakes

    Jessica Bartl's cake tastings are a little different from your usual wedding consultations. For one thing, she comes to you. She appears at your front door, toting a cooler, from which she unpacks a bin of cake slices, and a dozen more tiny containers of custards, mousses, buttercreams, and fruit fillings. There's no method to the tasting, she's quick to… More >>
  • BEST WINE AND LIQUOR STORE

    Solo Vino

    Using the same logic we apply to restaurants--the best restaurant is the one that we'd rather go to, not the one with the most appetizers or biggest staff--we're going to hand this prize to itsy-bitsy underdog Solo Vino. Opened just last Halloween by a trio of longtime local sommeliers and wine insiders (namely Sam Haislet, Chuck Kanski, and Robert Strunk),… More >>
  • BEST WINE LIST

    Barbette

    So cheap, so good. Café Barbette's oft-changing, Europe-heavy wine list has begun to enact a subtle change among a certain group of Uptown fans, causing them to treat--hold on to your hats here--wine with the same casual trust and enthusiasm previously reserved for beer. It's the pricing that's done it, we think, and all hail Annette Peters, wine-list designer and… More >>
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