BEST STEAK HOUSE ON A BUDGET - 2004
Whatever the Twin Cities have lost in terms of quality-of-life points due to budget cuts and transit strikes, we should be gaining back thanks to the sheer volume of good, cheap steak available within a 10-or-so-mile radius of downtown Minneapolis. From the Eisenhowerrific Ike's to Dinkytown's oh-so-welcome Steak Knife (student-budget steak that doesn't taste like a hoary cliché!), this category is wide open. But, in the end, the fact is that no one gets everything as right, as consistently, as good old erté. They've got the understated hip-romantic ambience, the thoughtful wine list, the knowledgeable, ruthlessly efficient and aching-to-please waitstaff, and the bar lighting that makes everyone 20 percent more attractive. Oh, and the food: unpretentious and almost uniformly terrific, with a couple of can't-go-wrong house cuts and just enough of a modern tweak to make steak-house staples interesting again. You are hereby defied to find a better pair of pork chops in town than erté's Guinness-marinated and Scotch-and-brown-sugar-glazed version. Come in for the food, stick around for after-dinner drinks and conversation, and you have our guarantee that your date will emerge impressed with both your fiscal sensibility and fantastic taste.