BEST NEIGHBORHOOD CAFÉ—MINNEAPOLIS - 2008
Restaurant Levain launched as an ambitious culinary exploration of foie-gras torchon and butter-poached lobster, but the problem was, it was a little too pricey for most to visit if it wasn't a special occasion. The restaurant closed last year and reopened soon after as a more casual café: It's the same cozy space, with butter-colored walls and dark wood wainscoting, but the revamped menu features French bistro, slow-cooked, home-style fare. This incarnation of Levain is all about value: All the entrées—succulent roast chicken with crackling crisp skin, braised beef short ribs, house-made gnocchi—are less than $20, and they come with a complementary side, such as caramelized Brussels sprouts or sautéed mushrooms. They're the kind of dishes that are easy to pair with a bottle of something from the affordable, well-sourced wine list. Finish your meal with the Valrhona truffle torte and, if you don't live in the neighborhood, you'll wish you did.