I'm often disappointed when national magazines and whatnot make their picks for the best this-and-that in various cities across the country without doing very thorough--if any--on-the-ground research.
But I recently found myself impressed by the selection of Twin Cities restaurants that made it on the online reservation system OpenTable's list of 50 Restaurants Fit for Foodies. The winners were picked by OpenTable diners--more than 7 million of them who submitted reviews--and are a good reflection of newer, lesser-known eateries that non-locals would have to dig a little deeper to hear about. While all our longtime "best restaurant" mainstays (La Belle Vie, Alma, and 112 Eatery, etc.) are certainly excellent options, the foodie tends to seek out up-and-coming eateries that demonstrate culinary innovation.
Here's why I think the OT picks are deserving, along with a few more of of my own recommendations:[jump]
Saffron Restaurant & Lounge For the last several years, chef/owner Sameh Wadi has been wowing diners with Saffron's Mid East influenced approach to fine dining, though it's reputation for greatness has stayed in the long shadow of its neighbor across the street, 112 Eatery. This fall, the young, up-and-coming Wadi started pulling double duty, cooking over the lunch hour at his World Street Kitchen truck on Nicollet Mall. The lower priced, more casual street fare means fans of Saffron can experience Wadi's talent with flavor even more often.
Piccolo Doug Flicker, former chef/owner at the foodie fave's now-shuttered Auriga, made his comeback in this south Minneapolis, 36-seat matchbox. But good things come in small packages, namely Flicker's innovative, mini-entree, coursed dining approach (think small plates, but with each dish having more variety and composition). Diners will find homey classics like scrambled eggs with pickled pig's feet and truffle butter alongside, say, a futuristic roast chicken cooked sous vide and assembled with meat glue.
Haute Dish Local diners have had their eyes on chef Landon Schoenefeld for years--probably for all the wrong reasons. This year, he's been earning the spotlight on the culinary merit he's been displaying at his own restaurant, Haute Dish, that re-imagines Midwestern cuisine with French technique and a penchant for kitsch. Start with the deconstructed version of the namesake casserole: a sculpture of short ribs, haricots verts, porcini béchamel, and house-made tots.
Heartland Restaurant St. Paul's crown jewel is featured in this week's Dish column, discussing how the restaurant's recent move/expansion--and addition of the Farm Direct Market--is a big step forward for local food. In addition to introducing restaurant diners to the region's lesser-known bounty--bison ribeye, wild boar braunschweiger, pickled ground cherries--chef/owner Lenny Russo makes such foodstuffs available at retail.
As for other foodie hotspots, I'd recommend Sea Change, which is innovative for its commitment to sustainable fishing as well as its so-out-its-in ingredient combinations, and the new Travail up in Robbinsdale, a sort of Willy Wonka's workshop meets gastropub that I've reviewed for next week's Dish. I also think foodies would likely dig the French-Filipino Subo, but I haven't been there since opening chef Neil Guillen's departure--and, if they dare--might try going back to Il Gatto now that Tim McKee revamped the menu.