BEST RESTAURANT IN SPITE OF ITSELF - 2005
4762 Chicago Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55407
In the hands of Chef Steven Brown, a seared scallop wearing a gossamer cloak of sea urchin--the sparkly fellow standing sturdily upon a cloud of black cuttlefish ink-tinged rice--becomes not so much an experience of food, but an experience of immortality, as the intensity of the sea and the sweetness of its bounty spread through your soul in a sweetly singing oceanic harmony. Yet the dining experience at Restaurant Levain is usually the opposite of harmonic. Every seat seems to be smack dab in an awful traffic pattern so that you're jostled continuously by both servers and other guests. Servers are cheery, but rushed and under-informed. And the wine program, which as of this writing gives evidence of improving, has been, since the restaurant's inception, anemic at best, and amateurish and grasping at worst. So how has Restaurant Levain become widely known as the best restaurant in the state? Because of Chef Steven Brown's considerable powers. Restaurant Levain is one of the strangest restaurants in the country. It's like going to your basement rec room and finding a billion dollars' worth of gold dubloons and rubies, but learning that the treasure can only be experienced in that very rec room. It is the greatest odd restaurant Minneapolis has ever known.