Butternut squash daiquiri at Cafe Alma
You may not think you want a butternut squash daiquiri, but you do. The rum-based concoction sweetens up the squash in a foamy raft of froth not unlike an Orange Julius. Nibble the baby squash garnish, too. It offers an eye-opening bittersweet edge to the sweet nectar of the drink. Plus it all comes served in an autumn gourd. Leave it to the Bittercube cocktail team to turn winter’s most ubiquitous vegetable into something altogether novel.
528 University Ave. SE, Minneapolis
Crispy-skinned trout over black-eyed pea succotash from Punch Bowl Social
Would you expect to find this dish at a bowling alley? Well, first off, Punch Bowl Social isn't a bowling alley. The new St. Louis Park “eatertainment” complex is an adult oasis of gaming, yes, but they want you to remember-- it’s a restaurant first. This crispy skinned trout over black-eyed pea succotash is an example of that serious cooking approach. Prepared with righteous technique, the skin is seared to potato-chip texture over dewey flesh and served with an inhalable succotash enlivened with roasted lemon salsa verde.
1691 Park Place Blvd., St. Louis Park
Jumbo crispy shrimp with radish noodles from PinKU
Around the corner from St. Anthony's main drag, PinKU is easy to miss. The recently opened Japanese street food cafe is an unassuming addition to University Ave., but inside is a gorgeously minimalist lunch counter that lets you mix and match dishes to build an entree. Whatever you pick for sides, always build your meal around the jumbo crispy shrimp. Big, crustily fried shrimp are slathered in a pink spicy mayo and served over shredded radish. With a little hit of soy sauce, the small plate becomes much bigger, taking on layers of tart, umami, saltiness, and freshness. -Jerard Fagerberg
20 University Ave. NE, Minneapolis
Curry chicken salad sandwich from Gigi's Cafe
Chicken salad is never a very exciting lunch option, but scratch-made cafe Gigi's has elevated the humble cold sandwich by adding plentiful turmeric and curry powder. The Mediterranean flavors aren't held through the entire dish, though. A light and savory hoisin sauce on the roll brings in Asian tang to balance off the spice of the curry, and a well-buttered ciabatta roll is the perfect bread to hold it all together. Served with a side of kettle chips, the sammy is a homey upgrade from the average bag lunch. -Jerard Fagerberg
822 W. 36th St, Minneapolis
Kofta tagine at Moroccan Flavors
In this sea-blue corner of the Midtown Global Market, the most unlikely and complex flavors come forth from a tiny kitchen. Chef/owner Hassan Ziadi is always in a crisp, white chef's coat, and it's fitting becasue the flavors at Moroccan Flavors are so much finer than the surrounds. Take this kofta meatball special, a lavish portion of delicate kofta floating in potently spiced tomato sauce, then blanketed by a soft-cooked egg. A basket of baguette is thoughtfully placed beside for drawing up the beguiling sauce. You'll be full all day. Get it while the getting is good; it's on special now.
920 E. Lake St., Minneapolis