The Twin Cities’ newest notable restaurants show the area’s food scene—from ethnic eateries to breakfast spots—continues to evolve
(page 1 of 2)YOU DON’T HAVE TO like the idea that you may have descended from a chest-thumping Neanderthal, but you have to agree—everything evolves. Restaurants included. Since the first restaurant by today’s standards arrived on the scene (1725 in Madrid, according to Guinness World Records), new concepts have cropped up as fast as fry cooks can griddle plates of hash: the Colonial tavern, the London coffeehouse, the cafeteria, the supper club, the drive-in, the automat, the theme restaurant decorated with vintage guitars or mechanical animals.
In the Twin Cities, dining trends have come and gone over the years as restaurateurs continue to innovate. Not only do the Cities now boast a dining scene with a breadth of cuisines across a range of price points—from $5 bowls of Vietnamese pho to eight-course, $150 tasting menus—we’re also cultivating a culture of original thinking, the kind of award-winning cooking that garners national attention. The public has become sophisticated to the point that novelty—serving Californian or Tibetan cuisine in meat-and-potatoes land—isn’t enough. We want oysters as fresh as those we ate on Cape Cod, served in an attractive space by a knowledgeable staff member who will help us pair them with the right Sauvignon Blanc. If your restaurant can’t do that, there’s probably another one that can.
Five of this year’s notable new restaurants—an ethnic eatery, a combination wine shop/bistro, a mall restaurant, a breakfast spot, and a wine bar—are a harbinger of things to come: eateries that are classier and more convenient, serving more inspiring food than their ancestors. So put down that caveman’s club, pick up a fork, and dig into 2007’s latest.
Ethnic Goes UpscaleWhen seeking out great ethnic food, foodies seem to think strip-mall joints decorated with a few maps, photos, and rugs tacked to the wall, the way they might look in their country of origin, have the most cred. Brothers Sameh and Saed Wadi, whose cousins own the Holy Land deli in northeast Minneapolis, are challenging that notion with Saffron, which presents Middle Eastern flavors in a formal, fusion cuisine as hip as its Warehouse District digs.
Photo by David J. Turner
One-Stop Wine Shop
Photo by David J. Turner
The new café space has soaring ceilings and bright murals of abstracted diners. It’s a bit loud and chaotic, not the place for a romantic dinner, but its classy, casual vibe is perfect for a weeknight meal. It’s the rare wine bar with a kids’ menu—Johnny can have his chicken fingers while Mommy sips a Chardonnay.
The café’s cheese and antipasto plates are as well-considered as its wine list. We ordered by the glass—a brassy French Cotes-du-Rhone Blanc and a more laid-back California Pinot Noir—but wines are also available in tasting portions or, for a $10 corkage fee, from bottles purchased next door. We found the kitchen’s cooking to be as impressive as the wine shop’s 4,000-bottle selection. Short ribs braised in red wine were tender and rich, served with fluffy potatoes and crisp green beans. A whole trout was paired with caramelized fennel—there’s never enough caramelized fennel—and a risotto that was neither soupy nor clumpy, cooked perfectly, as if an Italian grandmother had stirred it. On the way out, we picked up a bottle of wine to take to a party that evening and deli items for the next day’s lunch.