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Best of the Twin Cities 2011

Variety is the spice of life, right? Sure, but we think the wondrous mix of things to do, eat, drink, buy, and enjoy in the Twin Cities is better described as, well, pretty sweet. It’s a veritable Candyland out there, and on the following pages we highlight the things that make us feel good as gumdrops. The tastiest focaccia (the best Dara’s ever eaten). The hippest cover band (they know Weezer’s The Blue Album front to back). The most honest auto-body shop (they do exist). And, yes, the best candy store. Admit it, we’re spoiled rotten here. And that’s a good thing.

Best of the Twin Cities 2011
Photo by Darrell Eager

(page 1 of 15)




YoYo Donuts & Coffee Bar

Want to get upper level VP’s to come to your next brainstorming meeting? Then simply note in your invite that YoYo Donuts will be provided, and set your conference table with maple long johns garnished with full slices of bacon, s’mores donuts artfully topped with perfectly toasted marshmallows, and filled donuts plumped with filling fit for a restaurant’s best pie. YoYo Donuts proves what can happen when a bakery gives each and every donut some serious attention. And for the price of a trip to Minnetonka and $17 for a dozen, you can prove that when you host a meeting, it’s worth peoples’ time to come.
5757 Sanibel Dr., Minnetonka, 952-960-1800, yoyodonuts.com


Broders’ Pasta Bar

Name a better place in the Twin Cities that makes its own pasta from scratch. You can’t—because there isn’t one. This 17-year-old, family-run Italian restaurant is a rock of consistency, thanks to executive chef Michael Rostance’s 25-year history with the company (he started at Broders’ Cucina Italiana, the deli across the street, before Molly Broder and her husband opened the restaurant). Rostance takes a traditional approach to the pasta press, pushing the dough through an extruder made with bronze dyes (as opposed to the Teflon dyes favored by American manufacturers). This makes his noodles porous and spongy— chewy conveyor belts for a heavenly tomato cream sauce.
5000 Penn Ave. S., Mpls., 612-925-9202, broders.com

Spice Shop

Golden Fig

There’s a certain art-meets-science wonder to the spice rack at Golden Fig. Each of the grocer’s 50 blends, from the blush-pink Bolivian Rose Salt to the rowdy, paprika-powered “Rebel Yell,” seems like a divine intervention from the flavor gods. But they’re actually engineered by owner Laurie Crowell in her off-site kitchen. With a chemist’s precision, Crowell creates concoctions that stretch the definition of “spice,” including reconfigured sugars—enhanced with, say, cherry cardamom or hints of maple—and “dip” kits, small pouches of seasoning that, when combined with mayonnaise and sour cream, create exotic spreads for bagels, sandwiches, and veggies.
790 Grand Ave., St. Paul, 651-602-0144, goldenfig.com

Cheese Shop


Surdyk’s has a cheese shop you can use the way a bibliophile uses a great bookstore. The clerk greets you, and asks what you’re there for. “I’m in the mood for something I’ve never had,” you say. “Something terrifically aged. Surprise me.” In response, the clerk unwraps the rare, precious, dense Bleu Mont Dairy cheddar, slices off a bit of tangy, nutty golden magic for you, and hands it over solemnly. As you let this unusual flavor experience envelop you, you suddenly realize that you have found a shop that not only sells cheese, but also—like a museum—curates the stuff in all its splendid, stinky, and sumptuous varieties.
303 E. Hennepin Ave., Mpls, 612-379-9757, surdyks.com

Cheese Cart

W.A. Frost & Co.

Nothing points to the maturity and sophistication of a restaurant scene more than its cheese. Great cheese requires two things: first, dairy farmers with the upper-level artistry and economic ability to put their product into storage and not sell it for several years; and second, customers cultured enough to appreciate the flavors that evolve and wealthy enough to pay $20 a pound. No restaurant is more mature and sophisticated when it comes to cheese than W.A. Frost & Co., where they carefully select, care for, and present the best cheeses available. Pair it with something from Frost’s fantastic port and dessert-wine list, and just like that you’ve given yourself a profoundly delicious gift.
374 Selby Ave., St. Paul, 651-224-5715, wafrost.com

Thai Brasserie


Too many local Thai restaurants use curry as an obscuring veil to hide sins: cheap chicken, bleak broccoli, cardboard carrots. Not at Naviya’s.
At this Linden Hills gem, vegetables are exactly what the world’s food-gurus have been telling us vegetables should be: indulgent, sensuous, and extravagant. These bright broccoli florets and crunchy carrots are more than things you’re told you have to eat. They’re jewels that will dazzle and delight as they appear before you.
2812 W. 43rd St., Mpls., 612-276-5061

Health Food

Mill Valley Kitchen

Nutritionists have been up in arms for years now: how can people lose weight if they never know what’s in their food? Enter Mill Valley Kitchen. It hides nothing: the calories, carbohydrates, and fat grams of every dish are listed so you can make healthy decisions for a happier you. Sure the wild-mushroom risotto sounds yummy, but at a quarter the calories, the sesame carrots sound even better. No wonder this bright, spa-chic spot has become the go-to restaurant for the health conscious. Finally, here’s a place where you can stick to your diet without fretting about your diet.
3906 Excelsior Blvd., Mpls., 952-358-2000, millvalleykitchen.com


Salty Tart

It was a year of consolidation and difficulty for Minnesota’s cupcake world. But our own James Beard award nominee for best pastry chef in the whole darn country, Michelle Gayer, was always diversified at her bakery Salty Tart, offering everything from onion-topped milk tarts to sandwiches to tubs of frosting. And, of course, cupcakes. Try the Surly Furious chocolate, malty and deep, or the white lemon curd, bright and clean tasting. And then try whatever else is on offer—just because you can.
920 E. Lake St., Mpls., 612-874-9206, saltytart.com


Best Cookie


Sweets Bakeshop

2042 Marshall Ave., St. Paul; 4747 Nicollet Ave. S., Mpls.; sweetsbakeshop.com



3220 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-822-1119, rusticabakery.com


Franklin St. Bakery

1020 E. Franklin Ave., Mpls., 612-879-5730, franklinstreetbakery.com


St. Paul Classic Cookie

2386 Territorial Rd., St.Paul, 651-227-4840, saintpaulclassiccookie.blogspot.com

Sheer Variety

Two Smart Cookies

181 Snelling Ave., St. Paul, 612-384-1069, smartcookieshop.com


France 44

4351 France Ave. S., Mpls., 612-925-3252, france44.com


[ Readers’ Pick ]

Voted on by Minnesota Monthly readers at MNMO.com

Best Pizza


Pizza Luce






Red’s Savoy

savoyuptown.com; savoypizzaeagan.com


Pizzeria Lola



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Comments may be edited for length, clarity, or appropriateness.

Jul 13, 2012 02:10 pm
 Posted by  johnfpalumbo

Check out Palumbo's Pizzeria at 454 Snelling Avenue South, Saint Paul. This family owned and operated pizzeria has been open for one year (07/06/2011). They serve traditional Caputo 00 flour in their thin, crisp crust, personal size (10 in.) pies. Check out the signature Salmone e Crema di Formaggio pizza (Salmon and cream cheese, Parmesan, garlic cream sauce, spinach, and basil). Authentic, locally sourced gelato, will finish your meal with gusto. Local and national craft beers and an international wine list round out this taste of Italy.

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