BEST RESTAURANT—ST. PAUL - 2008
Lenny Russo, chef-owner of Heartland in St. Paul, was doing the whole local, seasonal, sustainable thing way before it was hip. Russo's love for his Midwestern pantry shows through in his poetic menu descriptions: "Pan-seared Singerhouse Farm rabbit loin with black trumpet mushrooms, organic leeks, and roasted carrot coulis.... North Star Farm elk roast with baby root vegetables, braised red chard, and black walnut-foie gras butter.... Milk chocolate mousse with a honey-oat Florentine cup, a chocolate-hazelnut truffle, and Frangelico sabayon...." The fixed-price meals are the best way to experience Russo's depth and breadth—the vegetarian version is hands-down the best high-class, meatless meal in the city. The service at Heartland is as classy as the beautiful Arts and Crafts dining room, from which you can watch Russo cook. The adjacent wine bar, which Russo opened a couple of years ago, is a long, sexy space with smaller portions than the main room, plus cheese and charcuterie, so foodies on a budget can get a piece of Heartland's bounty.