2013 Best New Restaurants
We rounded up the best new dishes, drinks, and dining experiences that 2013 had to offer. Bon Appetit!
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Restaurant of the Year: The Runners-Up
With its cozy, window-lined dining room and WASPy plaid décor, the Kenwood restaurant feels as if it’s been around forever. It’s only been a year, though, since The Kenwood moved in to its eponymous neighborhood, and in that time, chef/owner Don Saunders (of the dearly departed Fugaise in Northeast and In Season in Armatage) has turned the space into a civilized cafeteria for its affluent neighbors. The eatery is the only place to dine in Kenwood’s one-block “downtown,” so versatility was imperative. It’s become a place where regulars drop in to grab a latté or croissant on their way to work or herd a passel of kids in for an early supper. But they also bring clients and out-of-town guests for dinner (for everything from barramundi ceviche to boutique-beef burgers) or one of the best brunches in the metro (cheddar grits and blue prawns, eggs en cocotte). The only thing they can’t get is a reservation.
2115 W. 21st St., Mpls., 612-377-3695, thekenwoodrestaurant.com
Union Fish Market
The city of Minneapolis did a collective neck swivel toward Union’s pioneering glass-encased roof deck when the restaurant opened last winter. The accompanying basement club, Marquee, attracted its fair share of attention, too, between its gritty alley entrance and pricey bottle service. Meanwhile, the first-floor restaurant received all the attention of a middle child. So its owners (the team behind the Crave empire) rebooted the space this fall as Union Fish Market, a seafood concept with a more contemporary menu than the traditionalists down the block at Oceannaire. Sure, the Fish Market waiters still wheel around the conventional tableside cart of iced crab, oysters, and prawns, but the rest of the restaurant’s fare is more chef-driven than any of its sister eateries. And Fish Market certainly wasn’t the first place in town to introduce some of its trendiest elements—the hand-hacked ice hunks in the craft cocktails, the sea beans paired with ahi, yogurt, and olives. But the kitchen has contributed several innovations to the local culinary conversation, among them a miniature, shrimp-filled version of our favorite cornmeal-crusted, stick-wielded fair food, and smoked sturgeon rillettes topped with lingonberry jam to spread on lefse discs—Scandinavia’s answer to peanut butter and jelly. Finish your meal with the buttered-potato ice cream. It sounds awful, but tastes surprisingly good.
731 Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-455-6690, unionmpls.com
These days, the North Loop seems to be hatching hip locals faster than its warehouses used to churn out baking soda and tractor parts. And this year, Borough restaurant, along with its lower-level cocktail bar, Parlour, became a major player in the neighborhood’s dining scene by remaking a former o-ring factory with an of-the-moment industrial/heritage/found aesthetic (think: exposed ducts, warm wood floors, cheese-grater lampshades). Fortunately, the food and drink keep pace with the place’s style. The kitchen crew, led by Nick O’Leary and Tyler Shipton, has turned out such avant-garde dishes as champagne potato-chip soup and Thai-style octopus that are as different in their inspiration as they are similar in their layering of flavor. Barkeep Jesse Held’s drinks do the same, by incorporating hard-to-find spirits, house-infused liqueurs, and at least a dozen kinds of bitters. The result is a place that has the convivial spirit of a neighborhood watering hole yet draws crowds from all over the metro.
730 Washington Ave. N., Mpls., 612-354-3135, boroughmpls.com
For most diners, learning exactly how much butter and salt goes into the average restaurant dish might be enough to trigger a heart attack. Not so at Marin, sister restaurant to Mill Valley Kitchen in St. Louis Park, which brought healthful, California-inspired cuisine to the swank Chambers hotel in downtown Minneapolis. The restaurant prints the nutritional information right on the menu, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much flavor can be packed into, say, a 360-calorie bison burger. With judicious application of acid and spice, chef Mike Rakun makes lean proteins such as marlin crudo and whole grains like lemon quinoa taste indulgent—he knows how to satisfy diners without having to wrap everything in bacon and deep-fry it. The space’s handsome, rich makeover, which dispensed with the stark, gallery whites, feels both luxurious and inviting. This is especially true when nursing an after-dinner cocktail among the stacks of artfully arranged tomes in the lower-level library.
901 Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-252-7000, marinrestaurant.com
The Lynn on Bryant
To think we once believed the barometer of a modern urban neighborhood’s quality of life was its corner coffee shop. Gradually, we set our expectations higher, first to a coffee-shop-with-benefits, and today to a full-service restaurant. The Lynn plays that role for Lynnhurst, where a “community hub” means a mod, spare, barn-wood-lined dining room serving meals created by a well-pedigreed chef (Peter Ireland, of Blackbird in Chicago and, before that, Café Boulud, New York). At dinner, French staples—croque monsieur, duck confit, omelet, and pâté—meet locally grown ingredients, from honey to grass-fed beef. At brunch, the baked pancake, known as the gateaux de Bordeaux, tastes like an angel’s wing. And for picnics or home entertaining, the Lynn offers a full takeaway menu (call 24 hours ahead), should one wish to pick up cassoulet for six. It seems the concept was exactly what the neighbors wanted: Ireland’s Kickstarter campaign for the Lynn revealed pent-up demand to the tune of $35,000.
5003 Bryant Ave. S., Mpls., 612-767-7797, thelynnonbryant.com
5 Best Dishes of the Year
Burch’s Sea Bean and Crab Salad
Sea beans are a relatively new arrival on local menus—the Burch crew discovered them on a recent trip to England—and their briny, grassy crunch pairs impeccably with tender, fat hunks of Dungeness crab. Each cool, light bite tastes as delicate and fresh as a sea breeze. • burchrestaurant.com
World Street Kitchen’s Yum-Yum Rice Bowl
For a while, the only way to get the Yum-Yum rice bowl—the sticky starch topped with your choice of protein, fresh herbs, sauces, nuts, and other goodies—was to track down the WSK truck. Now, the brick-and-mortar restaurant grants easy access to this addictive blend of flavor (spicy, soothing, savory), color (green, white, mahogany), and texture (crunchy, creamy, crisp). • eatwsk.com
Borough’s Foie Gras
At Borough, the richest of the meats—foie gras—likes to go sweet, changing its accompaniments with the season: Thanksgiving style, with sweet potatoes and homemade marshmallow, or a more summery strawberry and pistachio, for example. Appetizer or dessert? Let your mood decide. • boroughmpls.com
The Kenwood’s Beef Tataki
Don Saunders, chef/owner of The Kenwood, created this Japanese-style beef tataki for his pal, the barman Pip Hanson. The meat is briefly seared and sliced very thin to reveal its rare center, then garnished with black sesame seeds, Japanese mayonnaise, pickled vegetables, and artfully painted soy sauce. • thekenwoodrestaurant.com
Marin’s Scallops with Lobster-Fingerling Hash
Plump scallops, seared just ’til their crusts crack, rest atop a potato hash studded with bits of lobster. The trio is enhanced by the triple play of whole corn kernels, a sweet-corn purée, and popcorn puffs. The playful dish tastes far more indulgent than its 390 calorie count. • marinrestaurant.com