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2013 Best of the Twin Cities

2013 Best of the Twin Cities

(page 7 of 9)




Sea Change
photo by tj turner/sidecar

Sea Change

Sea Change is hardly under-the-radar, especially not this year. 2013 turned the spotlight on chef Jamie Malone when she graced the cover of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs issue. Lured by those accolades, the responsibly harvested porcini-crusted ahi tuna, and, of course, the theater, crowds are flocking to the chic dining room and raw bar. Weather permitting, they’re also swarming the restaurant’s tiny, street-side patio, but, the restaurant’s second “back patio,” often sits empty, likely because it's not visible from the front entrance. It’s a shame, as the dozen or so tables, shadowed by the Guthrie’s Endless Bridge, have some of the best views in Minneapolis. Facing the river and looking out onto the curving line of the Stone Arch Bridge and the neighboring Mill City Museum feels like a seat on the Midwest’s back porch. • 806 S. Second St., Mpls., 612-225-6499, seachangempls.com


North Loop

Back when Origami and Sapor arrived in the North Loop area, the neighborhood felt as if it had more restaurants than residents. But as former factories were converted to modern lofts, so followed Black Sheep’s artisan pizzas, Bar La Grassa’s fresh pastas, and the Bachelor Farmer’s Scandinavian toasts. This year, the neighborhood launched two of the Twin Cities’ hottest new eateries, which brought in a classic lobster boil (Smack Shack) and a decidedly more experimental foie gras torchon with house-made marshmallow (Borough). Now, an easy jaunt around the block could turn into a progressive dinner.


Heartland Restaurant & Farm
photo by A. Steinberg/sidecar

Heartland Restaurant & Farm Direct Market

Heartland Restaurant put St. Paul on the four-star dining map when it opened in 2002 with an egalitarian vision of working with local, sustainably raised products: what’s good for the diner is good for the local economy. When the business moved to Lowertown, the upscale dining room was joined by a full-scale butchery and market to offer the restaurant’s raw ingredients and value-added goods. Among the market’s stellar breakfast fare is a bona fide quiche—a savory, custard-y tart, not an egg bake in a pie crust. On the sweet side, there is pain au chocolat as buttery and flaky as you’d find in a Parisian café and even jelly-filled doughnuts. You can sample all three, along with a cup of locally roasted coffee, without cracking 10 bucks. The market’s purpose is less revenue generator than restaurant larder and community builder. The stocks available in the freezer, for example, sell for less than the cost of their production. • 289 E. Fifth St., St. Paul, 651-699-3536, heartlandrestaurant.com


Sun Street Laugen Croissant

Long before there was the cronut—and long after it is gone—there was and will be perhaps the most inspired pastry combination since butter met flour: the pretzel croissant. This is a bakery mainstay in parts of Germany and Austria (known as laugencroissant or laugekipferl), and New York’s City Bakery has built its reputation on them. Here in the Twin Cities, there’s only one place to get them: Sun Street Breads. Sun Street’s pretzel croissant is pretty close to its Bavarian counterpart: soft, buttery layers on the outside, with a chewy—never tough—mahogany crust. It’s a little salty and has a recognizably sharp, pretzel-like tang, appreciated by those who just don’t understand sweet pastries in the morning. Use one to sop up the yolk of a perfectly soft-cooked egg at Sun Street, or take it home and slather it with tart jam. But get there early—the last pretzel croissant is often snapped up by midmorning. • 4600 Nicollet Ave., Mpls., 612-354-3414, sunstreetbreads.com


New Scenic Cafe
photo by stephan hoglund, stephanhoglundphotography.com

New Scenic Café, Duluth

Chef Scott Graden’s New Scenic Café has long been the North Shore’s standard-bearer of gourmet fare, featuring ingredients from the lake right out the window as well as those from oceans far beyond. We’ve come to expect excellence from the sorts of dishes you don’t often find in Duluth, such as Superior-sourced, prosciutto-wrapped herring sandwiches and delicate sashimi tuna tacos. What we didn’t anticipate was how much we’d enjoy Graden’s most casual offering: the cheeseburger. His straightforward formula of ground beef (local and grass-fed, when they can get it), shallots, tomato, and cheddar has been on the menu for years, hiding amongst the beet-cured gravlax and asparagus flan, pitch-perfect with savory umami and juiciness. The quirk is the burger’s accompaniment: fruit, not potatoes. But with pineapple this sweet on the plate, you’ll never miss the fries. • 5461 North Shore Dr., Duluth, 218-525-6274, sceniccafe.com


Dogwood’s Chocolate Gibraltar

Dogwood Coffee Bar barista Keith Mrotek has been handcrafting drinks for a decade, so he’s got more up his sleeve than the already-excellent options available at the popular Calhoun Square caffeination spot. We adore his off-menu Gibraltar with chocolate, a four-ounce amalgam of espresso, artfully poured steamed milk, dark-chocolate powder, powdered sugar, and Madagascar vanilla. The drink, which leans more heavily on the espresso than a mocha, is sweet, but subtly so. (The chocolate-free version has a notable lineage: it was developed by James Freeman, owner of the Bay Area’s groundbreaking Blue Bottle Coffee Co.) Though purists may scoff at the presentation—in the tiny glass tumbler that serves as the Gibraltar’s namesake—we like the way it showcases the beverage’s earthy hue and frothy texture. • 3001 Hennepin Ave. S., Mpls., dogwoodcoffee.com


photo by jeff johnson


Hospitality is high on the list of appealing attributes about Stillwater’s Domacin—the name, pronounced DOME-ah-chin, is a Serbian term for an affable host. In fact, one of the restaurant’s owners descends from a Serbian vintner, so Domacin’s wine program is another strong suit, and it’s best enjoyed from the private cellar room. The snug space is lined with wine racks that hold selections from the 700-plus-bottle list, and the curved wood ceiling makes it feel like you’re sitting inside a giant wine barrel. (It can seat a cozy group of eight.) If you care to indulge in one of Domacin’s most precious bottles—they’ve been known to carry rare, costly specimens such as a 27-liter Flaccianello “Super Tuscan”—this would be the place to partake. Just be sure to autograph the empty bottle, which the owners often display in their guests’ honor. • 102 S. Second St., Stillwater, 651-439-1352, domacinwinebar.com


Want to feel like a VIP? Reserve the chandelier-graced, high-backed cocoon at the base of Porter & Frye’s dramatic stairwell. If you prefer a romantic ambiance, there’s always one of the corner booths at Barbette or Saffron’s most secluded two-top, tucked next to a window in the living room’s small nook. But our new favorite place to perch is in the northwest corner of the Uptown Republic, which offers a birds-eye-view of Hennepin-Lake—and the backside of the restaurant’s sign. • porterfrye.com; barbette.com; saffronmpls.com; republicmn.com


Kimichi Tofu House
photo by tj turner/sidecar

Kimchi Tofu House’s Jjiggae

Kimchi Tofu House, a small restaurant near the U of M, specializes in Korean soft tofu stew, called soondubu jjigae. Arriving at the table still boiling, the stew is cooked and served in black enamel clay pots that retain heat for impressive lengths of time. This is advantageous for the flavor of jjigae, which is traditionally made from bits and pieces of leftovers, but zealous eaters should take heed, as the stew could easily blister the palate. Diners choose among a dozen possible additions, from basic vegetables to more adventurous seaweed, octopus, or kimchi, as well as spice levels, ranging from mild to the cautionary “very, very” spicy. When it arrives, bubbling and aromatic, crack the raw egg (delivered on the side) into the stew and stir it slowly, taking care not to break up the chunks of tofu floating into the intense, peppery broth. It’s a steaming bowl of comfort capable of combating even the bitterest cold weather. • 307 Delaware St. SE, Mpls., 612-331-1112


St. Constantine Church Pirogi
photo by tj turner/sidecar

St. Constantine Church’s Pirogi

There was once a time when Northeast Minneapolis was dominated not by hip, scruffy artists but by Eastern European immigrants who worked hard and, as their community grew, seemed to build a church on each and every block of their convivial neighborhood. While languages and traditions were distinct, common among them was pirogi—doughy half-moons stuffed with potato (usually) and often smothered in sour cream. Those immigrants mostly are gone or assimilated, and despite the reinvention of many old-world dishes on restaurant menus, pirogi haven’t made a roaring comeback. A shame, because what’s not to love about soft, yummy fillings—potatoes, sauerkraut, or, if you’re lucky, prunes—wrapped in pasta? Thankfully, there are holdovers from that earlier era passing on the tradition in the century-old Saint Constantine Ukrainian Church. Each September through April or so, volunteers gather to cook the tender dumplings (which they call “pyrohy,” by the way). On Fridays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., eat them in the cafeteria of the church’s adjacent school. Buy a bunch frozen for takeout, too. With them comes friendly advice on how to cook the dumplings—and a cup of caramelized onions. It’s what you’d call old-school hospitality. • 515 University Ave. NE, Mpls., 612-379-2394, stconstantine.com



Here’s a new party idea: DIY local beer mash-ups, a Minnesota riff on the Brits’ Black and Tan. Travail taught us that Surly’s hop-blazing Furious and smooth, creamy Bender could be blended and drunk as a “Fender.” The folks at Lift Bridge have been known to mix their Chestnut Ale and Farm Girl to create the provocatively titled “Chesty Girl.” More creative combinations are yours for discovering, with the help of a few friends and a few six-packs. • surlybrewing.com; liftbridge

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

Oct 18, 2013 04:56 pm
 Posted by  dabhi32

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