10 best light bites in the Twin Cities right now


Just because the dew point is a bit lower doesn't mean it's time to pack away the belly shirt. We've still got four solid weeks of summer left, so make the most of them by eating out, eating light, and doing it all in your skimpiest duds. Six months (or more) of wintertime looms, and then your body isn't gonna see the light of day for a while. 

10. Salads from Punch Pizza. 

Let your friends be the ones to slop marinara and cheese all over the place while you keep it on the light and elegant side with a really excellent salad and a glass of Pinot Bianco. A half salad is the perfect size for a light meal, and at about $5 an unbelievable bargain with a side of rosemary-dusted foccacia. 

9. Elote from Tinto y Cocina Cantina 

Hot days and cool nights are the surefire way to know that sweet corn season is neigh. We've scoped it in a few supermarkets already, which means that always delectable elote gets better than it already is with its creamy swells of spiced aioli, queso, and tangy lime. Pretty much nobody is doing it better right now than Tinto Cocina y Cantina, where the braided husks make them as exquisite to look at as they are to eat. 

8. Beef ceviche from Saint Dinette


In a mad genius move, chef J.D. Fratzke flips the script on the traditional fish as protein in a ceviche, then gives it further Mexican flourish with additions of dulce de leche crema, jicama, pickled chile, and toasted beef tongue. It's like eating a street taco, a tres leches cake, and a ceviche all in one, at a fraction of the calories. 

7. Misticanza of 20 Herbs and Greens, Pistachios, Pecorino Fiore Sarda from Parella 

What may to the naked eye look like just a regular old salad is in fact a masterwork of a composed dish made up of 20 fresh herbs, toasted pistachios meaty and sweet, and high quality Italian cheese that sends it into the territory of the kind of thing you usually only get on vacation. Everything at Parella is spectacular, so it may seem difficult to linger over the salad section, but know that this dish is a light lunch in its own right, especially when paired with the potted smoked eggplant, so luscious and complex it will have you swearing you're eating foie gras. 

6. Snapper ceviche from 4 Bells 

The local raw and crudo boom is about to reach a critical mass, but then again, who are we to look a gift horse in the mouth? Improved fishery technologies plus great access to fresh-caught seafood thanks to our status as a major airline hub means we're eating practically as good as they do on the coasts. Take this snapper ceviche, rendered ever so slightly rich by a couple daubs of creme fraiche and pine nuts, but then made vigorous again with citrus, chile relish, and mint. These intricate few bites are delightfully maddening to decipher, and before you have, it's gone. Don't try to share it. 

5. Salads from Giordano's 

The whole town has gone bananas over the coming of our own Giordano's Chicago-style deep dish pizzeria. While the lines snaking down the block are undoubtedly there for the promise of pools molten cheese and sauce, we were truly impressed by their salads, made with lovely summer tomatoes, copious piles of real cheeses, well-seasoned vinaigrettes, and good lettuces. Be the only one in your group to take the high road by stopping after one slice (advisable in any case) and filling up the rest of the way with veggies. You'll be the only one with jeans that remain buttoned. 

4. Panzanella from Brewer's Table 

When a panzanella landed on my table sans any bread, I started to get fired up. Menu items with quotation marks are one thing, but the best thing about a panzanella is the bread (pan) soaked with vinaigrette, tomato water, and salt. But don't knock it 'til you try it, as they say. Boquerones swiping up olive puree, pickled tomatoes, and buttery lardo make an astonishing foundation for a few little toasted bread crumbs that tease like this: "You hardly even miss me, do you?" 

3. Thai-style grilled chicken from Chino Latino 

The pan Asian/pan Latin Uptown institution recently got a menu redo, with a few new, captivating items tucked into the old lineup like that surprise song at the end of the CD. This family-style Thai grilled chicken can easily serve four four dinner, more as a snack. Peel off the exquisitely cooked flesh and build it into a lettuce cup like a taco with rice noodles at the base. Drizzle on the fiery chile fish sauce but use caution — the stuff is a mightily powerful potion. 

2. Yellowtail Crudo from Il Foro 

If you've never tasted the delightful, floral tang of fresh passionfruit, you are missing out on one of life's great pleasures. Chef Joe Rolle says he keeps the stuff in house because he himself can't get enough. We can't get enough nested against yellowtail made bewitching with vadouvan (a style of curry) chile and cilantro. Thanks to the high-protien, low-fat nature of crudo, it's an indulgence your waistband can withstand. Your pocketbook might be another matter — you'll pay $16 for the pleasure of these few celestial bites. 

1. Sweet Corn with Miso Butter and Chile from Libertine 

Libertine didn't miss the memo on the coming of sweet corn season, and like the visionaries they are, they've nudged elote into the corner for a moment. Instead, the've cloaked the ears in a habit-forming nectar of miso butter and chile, introducing Eastern flavors to the cornfield party for once. They've also cut the cobs into thoughtful little easy-to-eat hunks, making it so you don't have to look like a chipmunk in front of your date.