BEST RESTAURANT—ST PAUL - 2007
Heartland has raised the bar for every restaurant in the Twin Cities by asking, "Just how much can a northern restaurant really expect to source locally?" And then giving an answer that demolishes every other restaurant's "I can't." Can so, say executive chef Lenny Russo and chef de cuisine Robert Moore. In late March, when nearly everyone else in town is working with California carrots and Mexican tomatoes, Heartland was still working with root vegetables preserved in local farmers' cellars and lightening plates with local micro-greens from a Wisconsin greenhouse. Ducks were coming from both southern and northern Minnesota, rosy venison was fresh from Iowa, and bison was being served both as osso bucco, and, in the wine bar, as bratwurst. "We'll know it's spring when the foragers start showing up with fiddlehead ferns," says Moore. This local, flexible cooking stance, as embodied in their elaborate, affordable prix-fixe menus, and coupled with Heartland's excellent wine list and simple, gracious service, has made the restaurant a leader not just in St. Paul, but regionally. Usually, St. Paul restaurants live in Minneapolis's shadow, but Heartland proves that when you have a can-do, can-so attitude, you can flip the script.