Best New Restaurant - 2009
Tequila has a reputation for creating evenings that don't end well. (By the way, we're not discussing the assless chaps incident. Ever.) But in the hands of a couple of noted real estate developers (including Ryan Burnet, who worked on the Chambers and W hotels) and restaurateurs Tim McKee and Josh Thoma (the guys behind La Belle Vie, Solera, and Smalley's Caribbean Barbeque), the much-maligned spirit feels like a class act. Shea Design transformed a tiny Nicollet Mall coffee shop into a Latin-goth tequila bar with red-and-black walls, Che posters, and dripping candelabras; it looks like a hipster decorated the place for Día de los Muertos. While the 100-plus-bottle tequila list is as impressive as the margaritas, the real star is the menu of small plates based on Latin American street food. Downtowners can chow on a Tecate-battered fried mahi-mahi taco or a red chile enchilada with fried egg and chorizo for lunch, happy hour, dinner, or after-bar. Whether the dish is as homey as barbecue pork sopes with avocado and pickled onions, or as delicate as a citrus-dressed diver scallop ceviche, everything reflects the deft touch of a chef. We'll even drink tequila to that.