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Best of the Cities 2010

Yes, that ballpark rocks. And, getting there on the Northstar line is pretty cool. That kestrel is awful funny. And did you try the Vincent burger at the park? Those are just four reasons to celebrate the new stadium and the Twin Cities. Read on to discover 100 more reasons to love the place you live.

Best of the Cities 2010
Photo by Thomas Strand

(page 4 of 7)


Everyday Wine Shop

Solo Vino

Sure, Solo Vino has aisles filled with the most tastefully selected, most interesting wines from all over Europe. But what everybody really loves about it is the ever-changing bargain bins in front of the store that are stocked with everyday drinkers, wines priced under $15, and often under $10, wines that are easy to justify when you’re sitting on the couch watching Project Runway with a carton of Thai take-out. • 517 Selby Ave., St. Paul, 651-602-9515, solovinowines.com

Wine Shop for Collectors


Surdyk’s is famous for its vast selection of both collectible and everyday-drinking wines. But did you know that Surdyk’s has wines you can’t even see? It’s true, Surdyk’s airplane-hanger-sized basement is stocked with all sorts of things you have to know to ask about, like the famous Guigal “La La” wines (La Mouline, La Turque, and La Landonne), hard-to-find German Ausleses, and back-vintages of collectible Bordeauxs, such as Château Léoville-Las Cases. Does this sound like Greek to you? Fear not, Surdyk’s is famous for stocking its aisles with real wine professionals: people happy to talk to you on whatever level you’re most comfortable. But if you’re someone who does know what the above means, now you know something else very valuable. • 303 E. Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-379-3232, surdyks.com

Wine Shop for Newbies


WineStyles may be a chain, but it does an awfully good job of being clear and non-threatening to novices. It divides its wine offerings into a handful of styles including: crisp, silky, rich, fruity, bubbly, mellow, bold, and nectar, and then offers a manageable number of wines in each style. The genius in WineStyles is actually that all of its wines are approachable and appealing, which leads to a very comforting shopping experience. • Three metro locations: 12484 Champlin Dr., Champlin, 763-422-9120; 314 Clydesdale Trail, Medina, 763-478-4488, Shakopee; 8170 Old Carriage Ct., Shakopee, 952-445-3513

New Gastropub

Victory 44

Victory 44 opened as a gastropub, then grew into something vastly more interesting. The cooks, led by chef-owner Erick Harcey, get their ingredients in the morning, figure out what to do with them, write the names of their creations on a chalkboard, then greet you at the door, explain their ideas, take your order, pull your beer, deliver it, cook your entrée—you get the idea. But the genius is there’s never a dish they don’t know intimately. Shouldn’t every restaurant be like this? • 2203 44th Ave. N., Mpls., 612-588-2228, victory-44.com


Salty Dog by B.T. McElrath

Chocolate bars used to be a booming Minnesota export, as local candy makers used our prime position on the railroads and our nearness to sugar-beet sugar to make a world of fantastic-sounding chocolate bars, including the Cherry High Ball, Nic-L-Nut, and Seven-Up. (That last one was seven different flavors in individual chocolate squares, all held together in a chocolate line.) Things haven’t gone too well for the reputation of Minnesota candy bar since World War II, but that may change once the world gets wind of the Salty Dog—a B.T. McElrath chocolate bar in which dark chocolate is combined with finely chopped butter toffee, the whole thing sprinkled with fleur de sel. Eating a square of the chocolate treats you to waves of flavor, deep dark chocolate flavors, buttery nutty toffee flavors, and the salt to focus and reset your palate. Will Minnesota be a chocolate-bar power again? If you take this Salty Dog out for a walk, it just might. • B.T. McElrath Chocolatier, 2010 E. Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-331-8800, btmcelrath.com

French Fries

Bar and Cafe Lurcat

The crisp, golden, bubbly French fries at Bar Lurcat and Café Lurcat are something beyond French fries, and seem almost like a tourist attraction, like the pommes soufflé at Arnaud’s in New Orleans. No plane ticket required. Pair them with a Lurcat Basil Haden Manhattan, and a walk around Loring Park in the moonlight with someone who can appreciate that rare meeting place of low-brow (French fries!) and high-brow (done with seriousness.) • 1624 Harmon Pl., Mpls., 612-486-5500, cafelurcat.com


Strip Club Meat & Fish

The Strip Club, the nouveau steakhouse with the grass-fed, ethical, and local focus, is easy to love. Half of you can enjoy the restaurant purely in terms of mindless indulgence: Oh, those berry-sweet, finely mineral, yet puzzlingly affordable steaks! And half of you can enjoy the intellectual underpinnings that make it ethical and right, as brought to you by philosopher-locovore chef J.D. Fratzke. Those two halves add up to one perfect night. • 378 N. Maria Ave., St. Paul, 651-793-6247, domeats.com


Cedar Summit Farms

Cedar Summit cream comes from a mixed herd of a few hundred Holstein, Normandy, and Jersey dairy cows who live near New Prague and eat exclusively pasture grass and forage year-round. (How’s that possible? They live seven months out in the fields, and five months indoors, just like the rest of us.) Pop the pale yellow top off a pint of Cedar Summit cream and you’ll typically find the top of the bottle plugged with a layer of solid cream. Stick a chopstick in there and swirl up a teaspoonful to pop in your mouth: This is fresher than the most expensive burrata, sweeter than butter, and changeable with the seasons (you’ll taste hay in winter, green herbs in spring, and smell flowers in summer). It’s like having clear access to the purest taste of life, as lived out of doors. • Available at many stores including some Lunds, Byerly’s, Kowalski’s, and the co-ops, cedarsummit.com


Rochdale Farms

Hand-rolled butter doesn’t come in neat blocks like regular butter; it comes in wax-paper rolls, like a section of hastily wrapped jellyroll cake. And Rochdale Farms’ hand-rolled butter, from a cooperative of Amish farms that make butter and cheese in Richland, Wisconsin, doesn’t taste like regular butter—it tastes sweeter, lighter, more vanishing, more energetic, not necessarily richer, but very much fresher. Cut a curl of this handmade butter with a cheese knife, and let it adorn a warm biscuit, or a slightly tangy bit of bread, and see how the simplest, most old-fashioned things weren’t improved by improvements. • Available at local co-ops, including the Wedge and Seward. seward.coop


Nothing delights the eye like a big pizza pie—especially these

Authentically Italian: You get Punch Pizza’s Vesuvio with the spicy salami and hot peppers, we’ll get the Margherita, the $5.95 wonder of just-basil-tomatoes-and-fresh-mozzarella that tastes so sweet and light. We’ll go halvsies on the pizzas, one fiery, one sweet. We’ll both love the blistered, wood-fired smoky crusts, and we’ll raise glasses from our pitcher of beer to toast the cheapest great food in town. • punchpizza.com

Authentically New York: A New York slice should be so crisp you can fold it like a greeting card, and only the coal-fired pizza at Black Sheep Coal-Fired Pizza allows this miracle. Get yours with hot salami if you’re in a Brooklyn mood, or with oyster mushrooms and smoked mozzarella if you’re in a more Soho-boho state of mind. • blacksheeppizza.com

Authentically Minnesotan: Red’s Savoy cuts their pizza the way heaven, Paul Bunyan, and Babe the Blue Ox intended: Like a checker- board. Sure, this means the interior squares are bordered on four sides by cheese, which gives no good fingerhold, but if you’re eating pizza with someone you’re not comfortable holding melted cheese in front of, you must not be from around here. • Various locations

Authentically Vegan & Gluten-Free: Pizza Lucé has long been the first-choice of vegan and vegetarian pizza lovers, with their cashew-based cheese substitute, and bounty of vegetarian toppings. But did you know they have a good gluten-free crust, and train their staff in cross-contamination to eliminate risks of the regular crust passing on to gluten-allergic customers? Someone buy those good Pizza Luce folks one of a gluten-free brownies as thanks, won’t you? • pizzaluce.com

Ballpark Food

The Vincent Burger

We all loved the Dome Dog, but now that we’ve got a sophisticated new Twins stadium, it’s time we kicked our ballpark fave up a notch, too. That’s why we order up the Vincent burger, cradle that $12 sandwich in our hands like the priceless gem that it is, then gobble it down faster than you can say “peanuts and crackerjack.” The gourmet burger, made with Angus beef and stuffed with smoked Gouda and braised short rib, has been wowing Vincent fans for years, and the new home for the burger puts Twins’ ballpark food a league of its own. • Six Hennepin Grille locations within the stadium

Coffee Shop

Bull Run at Rustica

Lots of people call themselves coffee fanatics, but there’s a good argument to be made that locally it’s really only Greg Hoyt, the owner of coffee-roaster Bull Run, who can truly claim that title. How fanatical is he? The beans are sourced from all over the world and roasted specifically in artistic ways. The water for his regular coffee and his espresso are filtered differently. There are three different ways to order that regular coffee (including a “siphon” which looks like it was lifted straight from a chemist’s laboratory). The baristas are so well trained they can wax on wisely about which style you might enjoy with which coffee and why. Oh, and if you get a latté, the milk will come from a single Wisconsin dairy judged to make the best milk to go with the espresso. Aren’t fanatics wonderful when they’re on your side? • 3220 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-822-1119, bullrunroasting.com


D’Amico Kitchen

The worst part of going to the best museums in the world is, of course, the overpriced, canned-tasting lunches one is forced to endure. Oddly, D’Amico Kitchen in downtown Minneapolis’s Chambers has utterly inverted this situation, using the Chambers’ world-class art collection as the mere gilt on the lily of its flavorful, affordable lunches. How affordable are they? How about three courses for $10? How flavorful? The truffled mushroom risotto echoes with deep umami flavors; the beet salad is bold and well flavored; and options like the suckling pig panini or veal meatball sandwich are Italian in just the right way, full of ingredient-first flavor, rich, and plain. • 901 Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-767-6960, damico-kitchen.com

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