Chef's Day Off: Where Carrie McCabe-Johnston of Nightingale likes to eat

McCabe-Johnston and her husband and co-owner Jasha Johnston at their late-night eatery Nightingale
McCabe-Johnston and her husband and co-owner Jasha Johnston at their late-night eatery Nightingale
Alma Guzman
It's relatively rare -- maybe even a blue moon-level occasion -- for a chef, particularly one at a new restaurant, to be able to go out on the town and have someone else cook for them. So when local chefs do get a chance to get away from their own kitchens, where do they choose to eat? This Chef's Day Off series reveals some of the lusted-after dishes and top restaurant picks of the talented people who shape our local food scene.

This week's featured food professional is Carrie McCabe-Johnston, chef and co-owner of new Whittier late-night (and usual dinner hours too) hot spot Nightingale. Before deciding to take the plunge and open her own place, McCabe-Johnston spent some time under the tutelage of local chef (and 2010 James Beard award-winner for Best Chef Midwest) Alex Roberts. After completing her culinary training at Art Institutes and an internship at Restaurant Alma, McCabe-Johnston was hired on as the head baker at Brasa and that influence is apparent on Nightingale's menu in everything from the braised pork shoulder on grits to stunning desserts. Having been in the industry in one way or another since she was a teenager, McCabe-Johnston says she has always appreciated places that are open late. Some of those spots made her list, and her son Levi managed to sneak his favorite pick in there as well.

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Restaurant Alma: This is our favorite restaurant in the city, hands down. We are always treated very well by all of our old friends over there, and the food is so thoughtful and satisfying.  On my first night away from Nightingale, I took my 15-year-old son Jakob here for dinner.  He's been lucky enough to be a diner there since he was 7.

112 Eatery: The kitchen being open late was our first draw to the 112, as Jasha and I would go out on dates after our kids went to bed.  The food keeps us coming back, and we almost always order the same items: Start with a martini then get the sweet and sour crab salad, followed by scallops with oyster mushrooms, Chinese fried eggs, and cauliflower fritters and French fries, or gnocchi. Plus, it is great to support another husband-wife team.

A bunch of the restaurants on Nicollet: We live close to the "Eat Street" stretch of Nicollet Avenue, and we tend to eat close to home.  Quang for grilled beef salad, Pancho Villa for sopes, and the Black Forest Inn (best patio in the city!) are all places we like.  The Bad Waitress is our seven-year-old son Levi's favorite place to go.  If you are a guy in the know like he is, you ask for the box of toys they hold behind the counter.
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2551 Lyndale Ave. S
Minneapolis, MN 55405


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