Best New Restaurants of 2010
(page 2 of 4)
Is the Great Recession over? A flood of new restaurant openings in 2010 are making restaurant hounds feel very bullish. Which are the best of the best? Here they are, in order. Of course, Twin Cities restaurant lovers have been waiting all year for two particularly important spots to debut, but as of October neither Stewart Woodman’s reborn restaurant Heidi’s nor Steven Brown’s new unnamed eatery have opened. How will they fit in with the top 10 of the year so far? Answering that question is what makes restaurant-hounding so much fun. And what a fun year it’s been.
To celebrate the first Vikings game of the year, the young cooks who own Travail, which opened last July, purchased a whole pig and threw a “pigskin kickoff.” For $30, diners got course after course of remarkable porky treats: charcuterie with half a dozen sorts of house-made salami, headcheese, and such; pork “tartare,” made from cooked, finely minced pork tenderloin tossed in a garlic aioli and presented with herbs; roast pork with pig-roast crisp skin and a spicy squash purée; fresh ham stuffed with a house bratwurst; and even a pork dessert—caramel-apple funnel cake garnished with a slice of chocolate-dipped cracklings and bacon-flavored Dippin’ Dots. (Or rather, nitrogen-frozen house-made ice cream that had been frozen into little spheres, looking for all the world like Dippin’ Dots and tasting like sweet meaty smoke. But really—bacon-flavored Dippin’ Dots!)
It was an unforgettable evening. First, because the food was fun, unpretentious, and utterly sophisticated—especially the so-called pork tartare, which was actually more like the best ham salad Minnesota has ever known. But it was also a memorable night, because every time the cooks pulled a dish out of the oven or finished garnishing a plate, they’d all whoop and high-five one another, like an ultimate Frisbee team pulling off an improbable goal. They did it! It’s super fantastic amazing! At one point, Mike Brown, the chef and co-owner paraded the roast pig leg through the dining room on a board, and diners clapped. (James Winberg, the other co-owner and one of the many chefs, was busy plating.) At another point, Brown came through with the fresh ham, and a roar of approval met him. It was the most innocent, enthusiastic, joyful experience I’ve ever had in a restaurant—and the most enjoyable Vikings defeat of all time. Plain old weeknights and lunches can be just as special: a fried-chicken plate of a bird deboned, pressed, stuffed, fried, and sauced with such utter fanciness that you expect it to be presented by a guy in a tuxedo bearing a silver tray. For culinary thrill seekers on a budget who don’t care for formality, Travail may prove not to be the restaurant of the year, but the restaurant of the decade.
Travail Kitchen & Amusements
4154 W. Broadway, Robbinsdale
4. Haute Dish
Back in the old days, before micro-greens and juniper foam, when everyone paired gin martinis with sole meunière and still considered life worth living, great restaurants were defined not by their cooking but by the larger-than-life personality who made everyone at every table feel like they were center of the universe. I’m thinking here of names like Toots Shore, Warner LeRoy, Sirio Macconi. Not that chef Landon Schoenfeld has lots in common with those charismatic legends, though the young chef, now 29, does have something in common with them. What is it? A certain winning charisma and a combination of honesty, vulnerability, wit, cockiness, true cooking skills, and a sureness of what makes a restaurant work. That’s what inspired half a dozen kitchens in town to empty out, pied-piper style, as line cooks and bartenders abandoned their posts to follow Schoenefeld to his new restaurant, Haute Dish. And that’s what makes Haute Dish a restaurant of the year.
Yes, it starts with what’s on the plates—for example, a finely structured but not overbuilt or over-rich dish of king crab with fat pasta noodles and an airy taleggio sauce that reads to the senses like a vintage Halston silk dress fluttering on a penthouse patio: flowing, luxurious, underplayed, what a night! Or, for instance, an utterly overplayed hand of duck in foie-gras sauce, streaming forth from a can, creating the general effect of a revolver coated on every millimeter with diamonds: Well, that’s unforgettable!
But Schoenefeld’s cooking isn’t just good on a dish-by-dish basis. It’s also unique and creative, plowing fields no one else has thought to. Is Schoenefeld the only chef in America willing to take seriously rural Midwest grocery-store cuisine of the late 1970s and 1980s? He does present his own takes on Tater Tots, chicken and egg noodles (yes, like the casserole), pork and beans, and that shredded-cheese and cottage-cheese topped supperclub salad you may have your own name for, but Schoenefeld calls South Dakota steak-house salad. More than that though, the restaurant experience is just what a restaurant experience should be: The booths are dark and comfortable, the bar is buzzing and lively, the menu coherent and well-pulled off, and the guests made to feel like the stars of the show, which is exactly what a good impresario does.
119 Washington Ave. N., Mpls.
5. Patisserie 46
The bakery-and-café scene in south Minneapolis has gotten so intense lately I fully expect that soon if you go to look at new houses in the area, your real-estate agent will hand you a little sheet telling you what county the house is in, what school district it’s in, and what your artisanal French-inspired, baker-driven neighborhood bakery will be. And if that happens, expect property values near Patisserie 46 to shoot up even higher.
Of course, the popular line on the new bakery of the year is getting to be pretty well-known: John Kraus, one of the United States’ most lauded pastry chefs—Food Network champ! Former director of the pastry program of Chicago’s French Pastry School!—moved to south Minneapolis for the great public schools and our bakery-and-café scene, with Rustica, French Meadow, Lucia’s, Turtle Bread, and Patrick’s Bakery & Cafe all goading one another ever onward and afterward.
However, while you may know that Patisserie 46 has a notable baker in the back, you may not know some other things like: Wow, that famous pastry chef can really make a blueberry muffin—full top to bottom with fat bursting blueberries, the muffin batter not at all tasting of baking powder, the crumbly top crackling with a crisp sugar layer in just the right way! And also: Holy cow, you can do what with apples? You can do this with apples: First, sauté and incorporate them into a mousse made from three kinds of slightly different cultured creams (sour cream, crème fraîche, and cream cheese). Second, roast and combine them with pecans as the topping for an almond-cinnamon financier. Third, pass them through a fine sieve and turn them into a green-apple chutney jelly. Fourth, take your first three apple desserts and unite them in a half-dome construction of apple upon apple upon apple until they’re a half-dome of apple intensity. Fifth, coat that dome in a golf-pants-green apricot gelée with a chocolate apple stem sticking out the top so that the whole thing looks like a Chinese lacquer-box green apple. Sixth, drop a fork through it! Good golly, that’s something you can do with apples? It’s so beyond an apple dessert, it’s like a core sample of an apple-earth, so delicious you want to buy a hundred and drive them around town to everyone you know so you can exclaim: Can you believe it? It’s so good! So complicated! Have you ever seen anything like it? No, you never have, have you….
Of course, saying Patisserie 46 is the new bakery of the year is like saying the United States was the best new country of 1776: You can’t really understand the enormity of this enterprise until you get a few years distance on it. In south Minneapolis, this truth is self evident: that we have certain unalienable rights, and that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of ever better, ever more impressive pastry. Welcome Patisserie 46, and thanks for raising the bar even higher and making south Minneapolis’s pastry scene even sweeter.
4552 Grand Ave. S., Mpls.