Roast Beef Hash from Black Dog Lowertown
Most days, you’d rather open a granola bar than gamble on breakfast from a coffee shop. The risk of an overpriced, underwhelming muffin is too real. But not at the recently refreshed Black Dog Cafe, where a Meritage-pedigreed chef is launching the likes of Nutella-filled croissants and roast beef hash out of the kitchen. The latter is a snapshot of what that dish ought to be, with hashbrowns lacy as a web and basted eggs that flow like lava. Full breakfast served daily.
308 Prince St., St. Paul
Red Curry from World Cafe
Fragrant as fine perfume, this red curry recipe comes from True Thai, the Seward neighborhood Thai institution that has been shuttered now for years. Owner Charles Whitney turned it over to his brother Rob Whitney, who owns and operates one of the best kept secrets in the skyway, World Cafe. The quiet oasis in in the Soo Line Building (formerly Cafe Zentral) cooks scratch-made global fare with an eye toward nutrition. Watch for changing “Pure Life Bowls,” always a combo of grains, vegetables, and proteins. This pitch-perfect red curry is one of them, and dining this deliciously and healthfully, in the skyway of all places, is yet more testament to our sophisticated dining scene.
105 S. 5th St., skyway level in the Soo Line Building, Minneapolis
Ivan Orkin’s Ramen at Ramen Attack (get a good substitute at Zen Box)
Lush with collagen and fats, a precisely made bowl of ramen is almost medicinal. And if you want precise, look toward Zen Box Izakaya’s John Ng and Lina Goh, who have taken it upon themselves to painstakingly spread the gospel of ramen by any means necessary. Now in the third year of their curated event Ramen Attack, they’ve brought renowned ramen chefs from around the globe to elevate even further the slurpy feast. Ivan Orkin of Tokyo and New York was one of the ramen royalty present at this year’s event, and his smoked duck soy sauce ramen with tea smoked duck and garlic duck oil was an umami bomb of epic proportions. With this kind of display, it’s mind-bending to imagine what they’ll come up with for next year’s event, but you may want to consider marking your calendars now. In the meantime, go to Zen Box for incredible ramen -- it won't be Ivan Orkin's, but it will be our hometown best.
Zen Box Izakaya
602 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis
Tom Kha Soup from Thai Cafe
We’re going to keep beating the drum of this tiny homestyle kitchen until Ya Poophakumpanart is a household name. She's the lone chef in this wee storefront, and you can see her mortar-and-pestle and singular attention to detail yourself if you visit. And what a sight to behold. Her spot-on sweet, salty, sour, spicy preparations can easily stand up against -- if not supercede -- all of the better known Thai cooking names in town. This coconut and mushroom-based Tom Kha soup had the levity of a refreshing beverage, while at once being warming, mind-numbingly spicy, and harmonious as a song.
371 University Ave., St. Paul
Beef brisket sandwich at Smoke in the Pit
This little takeout window on Chicago Avenue in south Minneapolis churns out some of the most affordable barbecue in the Twin Cities. Take for example the beef brisket sandwich ($5.75 at lunch), which features full-flavor smoky brisket slopped with tangy Southern barbecue sauce and served on a grocery store hamburger roll -- the kind you might get if the pitmaster was a neighbor handing you a sammy over the fence. The seasoned fries are cooked to a crunchy glaze, and a richly creamed coleslaw (with plenty of mustard) rounds out a down-home meal that could cost twice as much if the restaurant had any kind of ego. -Jerard Fagerberg
3733 Chicago Ave., Minneapolis