Trendy neighborhoods enjoy all the high-visibility food places. But hidden gems abound in the nooks and crannies. Ten places you may have overlooked:
Full bar in a strip mall: Sovereign Kitchen & Bar
This strip-mall wonder with an eclectic menu highlights Minnesota classic flavors: zucchini fritters with pickled onion, scallops with corn elote, and cranberry salad with a choice of fish or chicken.
Prices fall mostly under $20, and a kid’s menu includes a grilled cheese with goldfish and tomato jam.
There’s also a full bar with classic cocktails and a daily 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. happy hour with $6 and $7 cocktails and bar snacks, plus $4 beer.
10060 City Walk Drive, Woodbury
Scratch Italian at the mall: Z Italiano
Located in the old California Pizza Kitchen space at Southdale mall, Z Italiano is one of the few independent offerings there.
Casual pizzas, pastas, salads, and sandwiches make up the menu. Owner Zach Sauerssig calls his culinary sensibility “Italianesque.”
In addition to classic Italian American dishes like Caesar salad and a meatball sandwich, they also serve something called a “BLT pizza” as well as other standard faves like a turkey avocado club.
Beer and wine are also available.
1705 Southdale Center, Edina
Hidden gem donut shop: Sugarush Donuts
Though it’s been around a while, the tiny Midway storefront Sugarush doesn’t get as much press as some of the bigger names in donuts.
But those in the know say they make some of the best. Try a simple raised glazed, handmade croissants, or one of the few donut burgers in town.
712 University Ave. W., St. Paul
Raw fish in the skyway: Downtown Walgreens Sushi Bar
No longer does your noon-hour shampoo and dish soap run need to compete with a decent lunch. The new downtown skyway Walgreens has a sushi bar with real, live chefs. Made-to-order and grab-and-go rolls, sushi and sashimi are all available.
655 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis
Donut fix for students: Ssssdude Nutz
A couple of recent college grads opened up in a little storefront on campus and started selling square donuts, which take their names from celebrities (Oprah Money, Old Dirty Bastard) and take a lot of inspiration from cookies and cereal (fruity pebbles, Oreos).
317 14th Ave. SE, Minneapolis
Bakery at the far end of Lake: Savory Bakehouse
Handmade brioche sandwiches with beet, pear, spinach, and gorgonzola, plus savory babka and shepherd's pie: Those are just a few of the unique offerings from Savory Bakehouse, now open on the eastern end of Lake Street. Owners Sandra Sherva and Max Okray are veteran bakers with a lot of experience at the Birchwood Cafe.
3008 36th Ave. S., Minneapolis
Swank mall eats: Cedar and Stone
A second big hotel has landed at the Mall of America, and with it a second big, swank restaurant.
Cedar and Stone, Urban Table at the JW Marriott Minneapolis offers classic American cooking with a Minnesota bent. Spicy cheese curds with blue cheese yogurt, Minnesota cheddar cornbread with maple butter, and a Juicy Lucy.
The stranglehold on Minnesota flavors continues throughout the menu, including walleye, wild rice soup, and so on.
Though it’s a hotel restaurant, the prices aren’t as eye-popping as you may think. Most entrees stay under $30, and there are plenty of small plates under $15.
2141 Lindau Ln, Bloomington
Another Northeast dive: The Unofficial Dive Bar and Grill
Winner of the strangest name of the year, the Unofficial Dive Bar and Grill is a Northeast— well, you know. A comprehensive scratch menu includes fries, tots, curds, deep-fried everything, and a whole bunch of burgers.
They pride themselves on a rotating tap list and their “un-fanciness.”
3701 Stinson Blvd., St. Anthony
Korean goes global: Gogi Bros
First a food truck and now an Eden Prairie strip mall restaurant, Gogi Bros mixes Korean with international favorites. A bulgogi burger wears a runny egg and pepper jack cheese, and comes with French fries. Korean tacos, Gimbap (Korean BBQ Sushi), and Korean bento boxes are other examples of how they’re mashing things up.
6407 City West Parkway, Eden Prairie
Q in the ‘burbs: ZZQ Smokehouse
Longtime concessions operator Zak Zeug recently opened ZZQ Smokehouse in Eagan, specializing in Texas beef brisket, pork ribs, and pulled pork. Potato salad, coleslaw, and beans are available as sides, and they advertise burnt ends “until they’re gone.”
3390 Coachman Rd., Eagan