Charlie Awards finalists announced

The countdown to the Twin Cities best food awards show is under way

The countdown to the Twin Cities best food awards show is under way

The Twin Cities' annual awards ceremony for the best and brightest in the local restaurant scene is quickly approaching. This week a number of the finalists for the Charlie Awards -- so named for Charlie's Exceptionale, a legendary downtown Minneapolis restaurant --  were announced. We have the final list and spoke with a past winner to find out exactly how the process of selecting a winner works.

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From more than 125 entries, the public voted for a select few finalists to advance in the category of Outstanding Menu Item. A panel of food industry insiders and big wigs will taste dishes from each of the finalists to determine who will win a coveted Charlie Award.

The finalists for Outstanding Menu Item (as selected by the voting public) are broken down by neighborhood:

Downtown Minneapolis
FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar - Bison Bone Marrow
Murray's - Blue Cheese Crusted Filet

Northeast Minneapolis/North Metro
Masu Sushi & Robata - Tonkatsu Curry Ramen

South Minneapolis
Corner Table - Crispy Pork Belly
Rainbow Chinese - Szechuan Wontons

St. Paul/East Metro

Cahoots Coffee Bar - Lavender Infused White Mocha
Lindey's Prime Steak House - Lindey's Special Sirloin

South Metro

Tavern 4 & 5 - Wood Fired Rotisserie Chicken
Porter Creek Hardwood Grill - Wood-fired Pork Chop with Apricot Chutney

West Metro
Sushi Fix - Tuna Poke

In addition, a number of food trucks submitted their best menu items to the competition. Those selected to go head to head for the big win include:

Hot Indian Foods - Indi Frites, French fries tossed in an Indian spice blend served with creamy aioli
Red Wagon Pizza Company - The Monty, a meaty pizza that includes zesty sausage and thin-sliced pepperoni
The Moral Omnivore Food Truck - Fried Tomato BLT, soft bun, crispy fried red tomato, bacon, and slaw

Last year's food truck winner, Christina Nguyen of Hola Arepa, explained the process to us. "Every restaurant and food truck who wants to participate nominates one of their dishes," she says. Then that dish is listed on the Charlie Awards website for public to vote on. People can vote as many times as they like. Restaurants and food trucks with the most votes are selected for the next round. "Then peers and food people vote on which they think should win," says Nguyen. Among many other experts, Hola Arepa owners Birk Stefan Grudem and Nguyen were on the panel that voted on this year's food truck winner. 
The third annual Charlie Awards will be held on Sunday, November 17, at the Pantages Theatre. The show begins at 3:30 p.m. with a reception immediately following from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in the IDS Center Crystal Court.
A four-course chef's dinner will be held at the Walker Art Center after the post-awards show reception. Doug Flicker of Piccolo and Sandcastle, Steven Brown of Tilia, Lenny Russo of Heartland Restaurant, and Michelle Gayer of the Salty Tart, all winners from 2012, will prepare the dinner.
You can buy tickets for the event at or at any Ticketmaster outlet. Main show tickets are $35 (or $25 for members of the hospitality industry). Tickets that include the show and VIP dinner are $125 each. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Open Arms, a nonprofit that cooks and delivers meals to community members with life-threatening illnesses.

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