5. Ensalada Mexicana from Agra Culture
When your lettuce and tupperware and bottle of light salad dressing refuse to come together in one tight package as you fly out the door, look to Agra Culture. Eating “clean” is their mantra, but you’ll be too busy enjoying the flavor of their ensalada Mexicana to notice the health factor. This dish substitutes lime creme fraiche for cheese, and truly crisp tortilla chips for croutons. “Agra Vinaigrette” binds it in a way that has us getting rhapsodical about a salad.
4. Fall line of chocolates from St. Croix Chocolate Company
Think of these as the buttoned-up answer to autumn’s inevitable regurgitation of Pumpkin Spice Everything. At St. Croix Chocolate Company, they’re honoring the season not with artificial flavor and color, but with all-natural pumpkin brandy, maple, Mexican spices, and dulce de leche. And lest you think these craftspeople are above getting silly, go to their Caramelpalooza on October 15 and watch them get unbuttoned. The free event takes place at Gazebo Park from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and includes caramel-focused food, music, and other activities.
11 Judd St., Marine on St. Croix
3. Falafel sandwich at Common Roots Cafe
In the past year, Common Roots has gone from corner bagel shop to faux-Jewish deli to veritable Mediterranean nosherie, improving its menu substantially along the way. One of the most welcome additions in this expansion has been the falafel, which arrives swaddled in a warm, house-made laffa and dashed with fresh tzatziki. It's not as plump as the falafel sandwiches you might pick up from a cart, but Common Roots is all about sustainable snacking. This well-spiced, garlicky Middle Eastern lunch special also comes with a side of pesto kidney beans, so there's way less guilt involved than in your average street fare. -Jerard Faberberg
2558 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis
2. Oysters Rockefeller at Stewart’s
This classic dish is the recipe made famous at Antoine’s, one of New Orleans' grande dame restaurants. It should almost always be ordered, because the coming together of oysters, hot butter, fresh herbs, garlic, Parmesan, and breadcrumbs is an indomitable combo to satisfy nearly anyone. Stewart’s, the new incarnation of the beloved 128 Cafe, does them with restrained decadence.
128 Cleveland Ave. N., St. Paul
1. Winner Two Point Oh at Rabbit Hole
Rarely does fried chicken get cooked with more aplomb than in Korean fare, though southern America seems to take all the accolades. And rarely does chicken with the bones stripped away retain the moisture of these three fleshy filets. Cloaked in a buttermilk batter, the crust tears away beneath your teeth with the crinkle and delicacy of hot tissue paper. You get your choice of three sauces that run the gamut from sweet to rich to hot.
920 E. Lake St., Minneapolis