10 most meat-centric dishes in the Twin Cities right now

At Chef Shack, do not choose. Instead, have it all.

At Chef Shack, do not choose. Instead, have it all.

As the skies grow ever steelier, let us gird ourselves with meats. After all we’re preparing for war: six months of fighting back icy chill and brutal winds. The nutrition tyrants implore us to fill our diets with vast proteins; our tastebuds cry out for unctuous, fatty cuts. Take heed of the 10 best ways to get your meat on, right now:

10. The Big Boy Ranch Plate, Chef Shack Ranch

It's the one selection that doesn't make you choose. Instead, have all the meats: brisket, pulled pork, a pudgy handmade sausage, and all the accessories that snap them all together like a pocket square in a coat: pickled onions for color and pucker, profound smoky beans so you're sure to get your vitamins, a forthright potato salad that doesn't fight to be main event, and biscuits as buttery and tender as a baby's cheek, folded with the hand of a trained French chef who set her sights on the good democracy of BBQ.

9. Philly Cheese, Iron Door Pub 

Move over Parlour Burger, the Il Foro burger is meatier

Move over Parlour Burger, the Il Foro burger is meatier

Like choosing between a beer or a bump, some things are best when hoarded and taken down greedily, together. When it comes to a Philly cheese, we're not sure if we're in it for the copious cheese goo or the workaday sautéed steak strips. Fortune of fortunes! We don't have to choose here. Bounteous bell pepper adds extra umami (as if that were necessary), and mounds of cheesy beef make it no wonder this is one of the great classics of the world— cocky and confident as Beethoven wielding his conductor's baton, nose in the air.

8. Anything Thomas Boemer (Corner Table & Revival) does with pig 

According to those who think deeply about these things, Thomas Boemer is the current undisputed national champ of all things pig. Not only that, but he hails from Lexington, North Carolina, which people who think deeply about these things tend to peg as the unofficial, if not the official, world capitol of BBQ. So by now you should know to keep a keen eye on Boemer's two restaurants, Corner Table and Revival, for all that he does with meat, but especially the swine. Revival's Lexington Pork Shoulder is the BBQ he grew up on but even more exalted, and their many changing ways with the animal at Corner Table, particularly the pork belly dishes, are little fleeting miracles.

7. Bacon Candy, Bradstreet

Candy? Bacon? It's a wonder it took most of human civilization to mashup these most obvious of kissing companions. Who doesn't want their bacon lacquered in sugar? If you say you don't you're just a dirty, rotten liar. 

6.Beef Tartare, The Commodore 

It can be a lofty order indeed to improve upon a classic, and that's why we have Christina Aguilera's version of "Lady Marmalade". The aboveboard purity of a beef tartare is difficult to beat when the mainlining of simple, elegant meat is in order. But the Commodor's version, offset by the vinegary saline of a good old-fashioned Minnesota refrigerator pickle, makes it tough to go back to stodgy old ways.

5. Sandwiches, Lowry Hill Meats 

What's in a sandwich, anyway? Well, meats if you're doing things right. And the meat prodigies at Lowry Hill Meats can show you how to do things right. Just as your Subaru needs a Subaru guy, and your Maytag needs a Maytag man, and your face needs Mary Kay, why would you trust your meats to Hormel? Instead, high tail it over to Lowry Hill, where the pinnacle of the meat world is being cut each day, and tucked in between two pieces of bread like the world on a platter, just for you.

4. Braised Beef Short Ribs, Parella 

Comfort foods are as personal as thongs vs. briefs, but we'd say the undisputed champion of the comfort food world ought to be a braise served in cold weather. There's no rushing it, and when done improperly, the result is as worthless as tossing a wet log on a flame. But done with a soft touch and confidence enough to simply leave it alone until good and ready, the result is like a mother's love. Parella's beef short ribs are a study in the latter with meat so tender it quivers, over polenta supple as soft scrambled eggs. Slow roasted tomatoes offer an impression of fruit in these dreary, dark days of almost-winter.

3. Curried Goat, Smalley's Caribbean BBQ and Pirate Bar 

Oh cheesy goo: how lovely are your rivulets.

Oh cheesy goo: how lovely are your rivulets.

Goat. It's the great underutilized protein in the American diet. Bony, yes, but thunderously satisfying when braised with audacious amounts of spice. The great cuisines of the Caribbean keep this little secret all to themselves, and boy is that a shame for us. Or, at least for you, because me? I've got a bead on one of the best dishes anywhere, way out in Stillwater of all places. All funk and nose-tickling curry, served with flatbread, yogurt, and plantains. This is one we'd frankly just as soon keep all to ourselves.

2. Wagyu Four Ways, Sushi Fix 

Have you ever eaten meat butter? Don't you want to? Wagyu is that fabled Japanese beef, the one that guzzles beer like John Belushi, gets massages from its own personal geisha, and sits around on the couch with its hand down its pants like Al Bundy, just because it can. The finished product of all this coddling (not to mention pedigree so serious it must be certified) is the creamiest, most luxurious, Oh My Fucking God bite of beef in the world. Chef Billy Tserenbat fetishizes the stuff the way Jigga loves Bey. Have it a bunch of ways at Sushi Fix— raw, slightly seared, treated like pork belly or simply cooked through and served over rice. Don't fuss, just tell the chefs you want the Wagyu and they'll hook you up all nice. And yes, the rumors are true— if you have to ask you can't afford it. 

  1. The Burger 2.0, Il Foro 

It's like a sleeping giant among us. The Burger 2.0 ought to tower above all of the other double-patty smash burgers in town, but served at lunch only, it flies under the radar. Chef Joe Rolle set out to make a more colossal and superior version of the Parlour burger (his alma mater's masterpiece). He did it. Sirloin, brisket, and short rib come together like a holy trifecta to make melody instead of a one-note toot. Also know that they pile on the cheese with an ice cream scoop. Slices are for lunch boxes.