5. Savory pastries from Black Walnut Bakery
Too many bakeries leave savory pastry lovers hanging. We want our tarts filled not with sugared creams and fruit, but melted cheeses, salty meats, and caramelized onions. Black Walnut Bakery, one of the Twin Cities' finest, obliges beautifully. Their croissants are like great balloons, filled almost more with air than matter. Countless toasty, flaky layers fall away delicately to reveal good, sharp cheese and leaves of thin, gratifying ham. We regularly push away sandwiches at lunchtime in favor of these.
4. Smoked wings from Erik the Red
These are so heavily smoked that the flesh tells the tale with its smoldering color. The flesh is plump and inviting, the skin taut from proximity to fire. Choose your own adventure when it comes to marrying them with the accompanying lingonberry BBQ sauce. The coming together of those two phrases is a bit alarming. But in practice it’s a coming together that's graceful and balanced, thanks to Erik the Red -- the ultimate Vikings bar.
601 Chicago Ave., Minneapolis
3. Leftover spaghetti and meatballs from DeGidio’s
The beauty of the cooking at DeGidio’s on West Seventh Street is after nearly a hundred years, they’ve got the recipes down pat. They operate in the shadow of the bigger, more famous Cosetta’s, and that’s a shame because this place is preferable in almost every particular. Not least of which is that the spaghetti and meatballs sells for $10, or $12 for a large. Forking over the extra two bucks for the bigger portion is a no-brainer. Discovering this at the back of the fridge any time of day is like found money. If it's been awhile, we highly suggest revisiting this Italian staple.
DeGidio’s Restaurant & Bar
425 W. Seventh St., St. Paul
2. Japanese Fried Chicken from PinkU
In a departure from his exquisite sushi, chef/owner John Sugimara is running a special on Japanese-style fried chicken, a half pound of pure craveability. Heavily marinated in a soy mixture, the meat takes on a meaty umami. It's then double-fried in potato starch, making the crunch serious enough to shake the neighborhood. Accompanied by a light mayonnaise for dipping, it’s an irresistible addition to PinkU's signature, futuristic, bento-style lunch trays. Get it before it's gone.
20 University Ave. NE, Minneapolis
1. Tacos from El Chilo Taco Truck
If you’re a fan of intrepid El Primo taco truck, persistently, religiously parked in the Lake Street Kmart parking lot, you ought to also get acquainted with El Chilo, its St. Paul cousin. Almost as intrepid (St. Paul is still sleepier by any standard, after all), this truck is very often found in the parking lot across the street from the equally intrepid Downtowner Car Wash. Like El Primo, these are the very definition of the street taco, with fragrant and warm corn tortillas cradling hard-seared lengua, orange-tinged al pastor chipped away from the cone, and good “nasty bits” including head meat and stomach. And as with El Primo, you’d be wise to approach the salsa bottles with relish, combined with extreme caution.