You don't have to be Andrew Zimmern to discover that funky foods can also be delicious. Around town we have all matter of offal (and potentially awful) dishes that not only taste great but are often served against a backdrop of fine dining.
In honor of Halloween, we count down the five scariest-sounding local dishes and explain why each is worth getting over your preconceived notions of gross.
5. Head-on shrimp at Solera
Fresh, full shrimp--seasoned, tossed in oil infused with garlic and chiles, and fried--arrive before you with beady little black eyes peering out beneath curly antennas like grandpa's eyebrows. The exterior of the shrimp is salty and crisp, the interior succulent and begging to be mopped through the extra garlicky oil the chef has graciously provided. The best part is actually locked within the sea bug. Twist and pull to separate the head from the body and suck out the brains at the back of the head. It's the gentle essence of shrimp flavor in a supple cloud of sweet meat. While you're at it, gnaw off those salty little eyeballs for good measure.
4. Grilled octopus at Sea Change
Eating live octopus is said to kill an average of six diners a year. We don't recommend that. Instead, try the grilled variety, prepared by the Sea Change kitchen with a Spanish flair. The tentacled meat is simultaneously tender and toothsome, with a charred, smoky flavor and a zesty finish from the pimenton.
3. Chendo Bo Bo Chicken at Little Szechuan
The menu has no description, so the unsuspecting eater might see "chicken" and expect that it must be safe. Until it arrives at the table: a heaping plate of wrinkly little poultry digits. Chicken feet aren't filling, but they can make a tasty snack. They're chewy and take a serious commitment to eat, but the dish is amazingly full of flavor and redolent with garlic and spices.
2. Roast bone marrow at Lake Avenue Cafe
Some foods hide behind a pretty exterior. When you order the roast marrow at Duluth's Lake Avenue Cafe, there is no question what part of the animal it came from. Giant leg bones are scraped clean and roasted until the interior marrow is gelatinous, sweetly savory, and utterly rich.
1. Lamb brains at Saffron
Maybe the zombies are on to something. If all brains tasted the way they come out of the Saffron kitchen, the next big food trend would be zombie fine dining. Occasionally served as a taco out of Saffron's wildly popular World Street Kitchen food truck, or in a more refined presentation in the dining room, the lamb brains are lusciously creamy, with snappy little bites of garlic and bright, ruby tomatoes. They're so delicious Bo Peep may need to look for a new day job.