1. Cardigan Donut’s ethereal crullers
The new skyway “donut lounge” Cardigan hasn't been open long, but they've already been selling out of their Instagram-worthy, over-the-top Rainbow Road. It's six different colors of dough, pulled together and studded with Lucky Charms marshmallows. Yeah, you want to snap a pic, and yeah you want to take a bite, but would you want the whole thing? When actually eating an entire doughnut is the matter at hand, tuck away that iPhone and make room for a cruller.
While goofy doughnuts make the airwaves (Glam Doll’s mac & cheese “donut” went viral) Cardigan is all about the classics, hence their reference to the always-in-style wardrobe item. It doesn’t get more classic than the cruller, and here they take extra care to keep it classic. Made to order, these get an a la minute whip of fresh eggs, so that once fried, they puff up airily, much like oxygen in a balloon. They actually call it part doughnut, part soufflé. So ethereal are these beauties, they feel like they could almost lift off your plate and drift away. Better hang on, and hang on tight. Don’t you dare touch that iPhone.
Pro tip: On June 2, National Donut Day, Cardigan will be selling a special edition doughnut throughout the day. The White Chocolate Raspberry Bar will raise money for the Salvation Army and also spread the message that the doughnut shop regularly delivers to the downtown Harbor Light Salvation Army Center as part of their Work is Never Wasted program.
40 S. Seventh St., Minneapolis
2. Tofu steamed buns at Oui Bar
Drippy pork belly tucked in a marshmallowy steamed bun is almost unassailably delicious. It’s the edible equivalent of sliding your feet into booties lined with Vaseline. Don’t judge.
But as we all know by now, plant-based dining is giving pork fat a run for its riches. Have you ever imagined what would happen if you swapped out that pork belly for a slice of well-marinated tofu? Wonderful things! They’re doing it at Radisson Red’s Oui Bar, and just because they’re nice guys, you can order the pork belly version too, maybe one of each, side by side, like an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. In fact, I did just that and surprisingly found that I preferred the tofu. Also available in tempura shrimp, all the buns are garnished with scallion, house made pickles, Kewpie mayo and sweet soy.
In addition to tinkering with steamed buns, the new hotel designed with Millennials in mind is also tinkering with boozy things, including their signature Boozy Pops. They’re just what they sound like: popsicles with booze. Oui Bar reports the fave thus far is made with Pamplemousse Rose, the lower alcohol French wine blend that we previously promised will be sweeping the Twin Cities this summer. The sweep has already begun.
609 Third St. S., Minneapolis
3. Inspired ice creams at The Lotus
The newest outpost of The Lotus, one of the Twin Cities’ oldest Vietnamese restaurants and certainly the most recognizable, is run by the next generation of the Nguyen family. Which means, in addition to banh mi and pho, you can expect things like funky cocktails, hookah nights, and coming soon, a Thai ice cream machine, which they’ve promised is in transit, and they’ve promised we’ll get first crack at trying.
Meanwhile, they’re not letting the desserts section of their menu get dusty. Every time I go in, they’re running dessert specials that I promise myself I’m not going to have and then I devour anyway. At this moment it’s a Pina Colada concoction of toasted coconut, pineapple, thick vanilla ice cream, and whip. Like the Lotus itself, it’s classic, simple, and irresistible.
2841 Hennepin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55408
4. Dirty fries at Firelake Grill
Basically poutine with a pornier name, these fries are just the starter for a table full of hangries. Truffle fries tossed with cheese curds, more cheese, and a little pot of beef demi gravy at the side means there’s a little something for everyone (even kids, if you don’t let on that the umami scent derives from mushroom). Pick at these as images of burgers or pastas dance in your head during the long, painful wait for entrees to arrive. Dive in for a bit of this and a crunch of that, and swipe it all through a lake of beefy gravy-- it does feel a little bit dirty now that we think of it. Dirty, and deeply satisfying.
Mall of America
2100 Killebrew Dr., Bloomington
31 S. Seventh St., Minneapolis
5. Broccolini at Geno’s Northeast
If it seems counter-intuitive to order broccoli in an Italian meatball shop, you haven’t seen the way Geno’s does broccoli. Geno’s does veggies the way it does everything, and that is big. A big side (what they call small, but what is in fact not small) is around $4 and a large (which is really, really big) is $6. Broccolini, a cousin to broccoli, is impressively prepared, shockingly bright, and lightly dressed. It pops with rings of Fresno chile, and is the perfect foil to a big sandwich, a big spaghetti, or any of the other big starch and meat bombs that Geno’s does so well.
12 Fourth St. SE