Best New Restaurants of 2010

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.

1. Heartland Restaurant & Farm Direct Market

When Sir Thomas Moore first described a utopia in 1516, he probably wasn’t thinking of Lenny Russo’s new downtown St. Paul restaurant and market. Probably. But who knows, maybe he had a futuristic vision—a vision of an experimental Midwestern restaurant and market attempting to operate apart from the evils of society (if those evils are defined as petro- and industrial-chemical agriculture), a place where everything comes from local farmers doing the things that local farmers have done since time immemorial, like raising animals out of doors and letting those animals graze and fertilize the land on which they live.

In other words, Heartland.

Heartland’s chef and owner Lenny Russo has been a local-foods pioneer in Minnesota ever since he moved here from Hoboken 30-odd years ago. But when his restaurant, Heartland, relocated this summer from its little Mac-Groveland spot to a grand red-brick warehouse overlooking the historic St. Paul Farmers’ Market, it was more than a mere restaurant expansion. It was the establishment of a locavore utopia, with locally minded foodies finally able to connect directly to local: farmers, meats, dairy, farm produce, liquor, pickles, jam, charcuterie, wedding cake, you name it.

Which is nice, of course. But what’s in it for you? A lot. Sit at the wine bar and find out. There’s duck prosciutto like a fine Syrah made flesh; crepes filled with local sheep’s milk ricotta and local chanterelle mushrooms; smoked bison chops so intense and delicate you’ll feel like you’re eating in another distant country. In the dining room, the food is a joy, too, featuring the same kind of multi-course offerings that were the hallmark of the smaller Heartland: three-course prix-fixe meals of $30 (or so) for a vegetarian offering, and $36 (or so) for a meal with meat. They’re always surprising: Who knew goat chops were so tiny and sweet, who knew a local frisee salad could be delicate as lace?

As good as the food in the restaurant and wine bar is, however, the offerings in the new Heartland Market are even more astonishing. Gazing upon the shelves of the new Farm Direct Market at Heartland is like stepping back in time, to about the year 1890 or so. The carrots and tomatoes were grown by a local farmer. The pickled cherry tomatoes were put up by the guy who owns the shop. The milk and butter are from the neighborhood, and the cakes, bread, and soups are all made on site. The headcheese was also put up by Heartland, made from local hogs that have been turned into pork glacé in the freezer case. (Well, scratch that; it’s the year 1890, plus refrigeration.) There are also quarts of frozen soup for those who prefer to defrost a little three-star-restaurant cooking in the privacy of their own microwaves.

Three-star, if admittedly rarely four. Food at Heartland has never been dish-for-dish perfect; I once had a chilled golden-beet borscht that tasted like underseasoned baby food, a plate of roast goat swamped by its sour sauce. But the ambition and, often, realization of the utopian dream is what makes this the restaurant of the year. Nowhere else can actually change your idea of what it means to eat in North America. Wild-boar braunschweiger and headcheese; Lake Superior trout with walnut-oil poached mushrooms; smoked lamb ribs with Door County cherry glace de viande; a dessert of meringue-and-ground-nut layers in the style of Ferdinand Point, layered with fresh sheep’s-milk ricotta and Zestar apple slices—this is living and cooking in Minnesota as if it were a pocket of northeastern Italy, a place where the ingredients are specific and important and untransportable. You can cook Austrian or Szechuan food in Minnesota, but you certainly can’t cook Heartland food in Austria or China; they simply don’t have the ingredients. In the world of food, that’s huge. That’s the difference between cooking and a cuisine.

Still, is it really a cuisine if one lone man, chef and owner Lenny Russo is the only one doing it? In fact, one person can change the world of food. Odessa Piper, in Madison, Wisconsin, demonstrated that cooking from a northern place could be done year-round. Ferran Adria messed around with agar agar and liquid nitrogen and changed what was served in restaurants worldwide. Why couldn’t Lenny Russo be the person to change the worldwide perception of Minnesota food, from lutefisk to pickled daylily buds and grouse? Heartland is so much more than a restaurant: It’s an experiment in utopia, in the medium of Midwestern food.

Heartland
289 E. Fifth St., St. Paul
651-699-3536
heartlandrestaurant.com
 

2. Piccolo

The deviled duck egg that recently appeared on the ever-changing menu at Piccolo was everything fine dining should be. It was surprising (as big as a tangerine!). It was eye-opening (creamy as Brie!). It was sensuous (the contrast of rich duck egg with herbal wild asparagus!). It was luxurious (black truffles in the house-made crackers!). And it was costly (eight bucks for half an egg?). But that’s fine dining—a sort of dining, to a restaurant lover, as distinct from regular eating as say, a symphony orchestra is distinct from music. Fine-dining restaurants deploy the world’s costliest and best ingredients and transform them by the most difficult or time-consuming techniques to produce the most exquisite foods possible, typically presented as a flurry of tiny courses arranged in a procession, like the movements of a symphony.

Fine dining, however, has the same problem that symphony orchestras do: a limited audience, comprised of those experienced enough to appreciate it and willing (and well-heeled enough) to pay for it. Consequently, Minnesota has precious little fine dining: La Belle Vie, Cosmos, and that’s about it. Minnesotans mostly prefer to eat bistro style, with an appetizer, a big entrée, and perhaps dessert. Why isn’t there a middle path? Thanks to chef Doug Flicker’s new teeny-tiny restaurant Piccolo, there is.

Flicker, formerly of Auriga, has spent years considering restaurant economics and systems and concluded that the bistro habit of a big entrée balanced by a big starch and a smaller vegetable is killing us. With calories, yes, but it also kills us in terms of deadening us to the experience of flavor. (Flicker maintains that your 12th bite of mashed potatoes barely registers in your consciousness.) But these big bistro plates are also killing our kitchens, says Flicker, in terms of cooks’ inability to reach for far horizons and push themselves beyond roast chicken with potatoes. And restaurant economics were broken, too, thought Flicker, with servers often taking home two or three times what line cooks did. That’s no way to run an orchestra.

What do you do with a system that seems broken to you but that everyone else likes very much? If you’re Doug Flicker, you open Piccolo. The tiny restaurant is dedicated to completely remaking fine dining by dispensing with most of the trappings of fine dining (like brigades of service staff and pricey wine glasses), instituting a system whereby cooks take shifts on the floor as server assistants and everyone sharing the tips, and, most important, simply offering all the little glorious plates of fine dining à la carte, so that you might order two or three little courses and then walk them off with a romantic stroll around Lake Harriet. (Or, if you prefer, indulge in five or six courses and waddle forth from the restaurant sensually gratified and well fed!)

The menu may include dishes like fat little pockets of angolotti stuffed with house-made mortadella, the sweet vaporous meat melting into the tender pasta, all of it given a spine of definition by a sauce made with Dijon mustard. Or it may include butter-poached cod as tender as custard, topped with crisp anchovy-touched breadcrumbs and a frothy hat of wispy micro-greens, served in a nutty and herbal-tasting walnut broth, the edges of the plate dotted with little piped spires of piped walnut purée, the various elements of the dish exploring the quiet edges of dusky, herbal taste instead of diving for typical counterpoints of salt and rich.

Of course, people bringing change are just as often pilloried as celebrated, and in its opening months, Piccolo looked to be widely misunderstood. (The Internet discussion boards lit up with angst about the lack of big bistro-style value plates.) But then a white knight rode in—namely Anthony Bourdain, who featured Flicker’s radical vision on his television program No Reservations. Since that moment, the restaurant has been packed.

“It’s bizarre,” says Flicker. “We did nothing differently the day before the show, the day after the show, but suddenly we’re packed. People are suddenly ordering six, seven, eight courses. They’re coming in at five o’clock and showing up for 10 o’clock reservations. We keep having people fly in and come directly from the airport. It’s so flattering, and I sleep better at night knowing we can make the rent.” Astonishing. Not only is Piccolo the best fine-dining restaurant of the year, it opened in the depths of the Great Recession, doing something no one had ever done before, and made national news.

What’s next in the revolution? Maybe kids’ meals, Flicker says. “We had a 10-year-old girl in the other day. She ordered the devilled duck egg, and she just loved it so much, she came into the kitchen to see how it was done.” How was it done? With great skill and the bravery to imagine a whole new shape of fine dining.

Piccolo
4300 Bryant Ave. S.,
Mpls.
612-827-8111
piccolompls.com
 

 

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.

3. Travail

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
763-535-1131
 

 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.

Haute Dish
119 Washington Ave. N., Mpls.
612-338-8484
haute-dish.com
 

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.

Patisserie 46
4552 Grand Ave. S., Mpls.
612-354-3257
patisserie46.com
 

 

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.

6. Il Gatto

First, there was the dawn of time. After that, Figlio opened and, for eons, sat at the corner of Hennepin and Lake streets, with its signature mix of semi-Italian fare, presented on a menu memorably adorned with that blobby black tangle of a logo.

Then, last year, Parasole remodeled the place and relaunched it as Il Gatto. Except, there were two big problems: Il Gatto’s fish-focused, nowhere-Italy menu didn’t have the food to draw foodies—and it alienated the Figlio regulars.

Well, good for the folks at Parasole for having the wisdom to correct a mistake. In August, the owners handed over the design and execution of the menu to Tim McKee, the James Beard award-winning chef who runs Minneapolis’s fine-dining standard bearer, La Belle Vie, as well as Solera on Hennepin and Sea Change at the Guthrie Theater. McKee explains that he has the same arrangement with Il Gatto that he has with Sea Change: Namely, he hires, supervises, and inspires, but the business operations stay with Parasole.

McKee’s first official act was to install as chef-de-cuisine Jim Christiansen, the longtime sous chef at Sea Change but also a cook who has been with McKee since the Stillwater days of La Belle Vie. So, how is the new Il Gatto? In a word, soothing. The cooking is so much better, so much lighter and truer and more authentically Italian that eating at Il Gatto now creates the sort of experience that you have eating in Italy on vacation: You relax and delight. Among the delights is the pesce spada sott’olio (oil-cured swordfish) with circus-bright heirloom tomatoes cooked just long enough to intensify their flavor and remove their skins, paired with a nutty olive oil. The swordfish is meaty and rich, like a halfway point between pork tenderloin and good sushi mackerel, and the tomato and celery leaves on the plate give a fresh accent sprightly enough to make you think the Mediterranean is somewhere right over by Lake Calhoun. The uovo fonduta is remarkable, too: a simple poached egg surrounded in classic toad-in-a-hole style by a frothy fontina-cheese fondue, all of it served with massive swaths of grilled bread. Swipe bread through the egg and cheese and—heavens, that’s just the perfect blend of rich and indulgent and sophisticated and craveable.

McKee also retained the best of Il Gatto, like their antipasto plate with lush Iowan La Quercia prosciutto, and a vast fritto-misto platter that’s the best calamari in town, filled as it is with light-as-a-feather sweet scallops and just-right shrimp. (Keep in mind Christiansen’s background with seafood when you go; the seafood is the new Il Gatto’s strong suit.) The pizzas stretch the limits of what we’re commonly used to seeing on pies around here. Like guanciale! That buttery cut of pork jowl is one of Italy’s most prized charcuterie cuts and something California and New York foodies have been rhapsodizing about for years. Here it’s paired with mission figs and goat cheese; that’s taking dinner-and-a-movie date night in Uptown in the right direction. For too long Twin Cities Italian restaurants have lazily slid by on the inherent popularity of Italian food, doing little more than good-enough. The fact that Il Gatto is suddenly treating it seriously means that it’s without question the most important new Italian restaurant of the year.

Il Gatto
3001 Hennepin Ave. S., Mpls.
612-822-1688
ilgattominneapolis.com
 

7. Smack Shack

Yes, it’s been the year of the food truck, but the best one is Smack Shack. It’s owned by Josh Thoma, a one-time cook at D’Amico Cucina who went on to help open Solera, La Belle Vie, Bar La Grassa, and Barrio and then got into some financial trouble that got him out of Bar La Grassa and Barrio. Well, no one ever said he didn’t know how to create a great dining experience: He staffed the Smack Shack with a gifted former Goodfellow’s cook named Chris Thompson, and—whoa! That’s good street food! The lobster roll is overstuffed with chunks of fresh claw and tail meat. The well-griddled bread bun from Salty Tart is so buttery, sumptuous, and toasty that it acts as perfect foil to the sweet, weighty lobster. But that’s not all! The shrimp in the po’ boy are diaphanous and light as bubbles, fresh and not overfried ’til rubbery—exactly what fried shrimp should be but never are. Specials like lobster grilled cheese with Taleggio and asparagus or lobster-corn chowder are so good you’d think they were being served at good old Goodfellow’s—and not in a parking lot in the bar district near the new Twins stadium.

What’s not to like? The fact that the truck vanished for a few days once because the fuel pump went out. And that Thoma plans for it to drive to California or Florida for the winter. What if it decides not to come back? It’s typically the restaurant-going public that seeks out greener pastures, not the restaurants. Oh well. If you love something set it free. If it comes back to you, it’s yours. If not, we’ll just all have to get plane tickets to get the best lobster rolls in the history of Minneapolis street-life.

Smack Shack
Located at the corner of north First Avenue and Fourth Street.
smack-shack.com
 

8. Cake Eatery

People outside the food industry are mystified: Where did all these new cupcake bakeries come from? The answer is obvious to anyone with a subscription to Martha Stewart Weddings: Cupcakes have been busy the past decade. They started their time in the sun as a chic wedding-cake replacement for the most cutting-edge brides, then got a boost from pop-culture vehicles like Sex in the City, after which people realized they were less expensive than traditional wedding cake. And there you are: Chic plus cool plus cheap equals cupcake explosion!

Take Cake Eater, for instance: How can a business survive on the income of coffee and cupcakes from a scant dozen tables? The answer: Cake Eater supplies as many as half a dozen weddings a week, the real engine here is the thousand cupcakes they’re making for the people not at the tables, but waiting at the chapel.

But, happy you if you’re at the tables. Beeline for the more creative or more whimsical options, like the princess pancake cupcake, a maple-bacon cake topped with a maple cream-cheese frosting. Or savory, funky options, like blueberry–goat’s cheese scones or cheddar-chipotle muffins. Nail down your bragging rights now: “The TV show Cupcake Wars asked us for an audition tape,” says Sheela Namakkal, one of Cake Eater’s co-owners. “We sent it in. Haven’t heard anything yet.” But if you see princess pancake on a magazine cover or starring in its own television show sometime soon, don’t be mystified; a lot of hidden forces are behind that sweet treat.

Cake Eater Bakery
2929 E. 25th St., Mpls.
612-354-7178
cakeeaterbakery.com
 

 

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.

9. Barbette

Barbette isn’t technically a new restaurant. But of all the chef changes in Minnesota over the past few years, the one here is the most dramatic and noteworthy. Why? Because the uptown stalwart is now helmed by three-year French Laundry veteran Kevin Kathman. He’s a chef with a big commitment and interest in all things vegetarian—so if you’re a vegetarian, this is the big restaurant news of the year that you need to know about. Dinner is when Kathman really pulls out the stops, especially on Monday nights, when he offers a four-course meal for $32 or so.

One late-summer meal of Kathman’s started with a bowl of ivory-pale lobster broth in which a dozen edible flowers floated, their purple and yellow petals bobbing in cream seas. The profoundly creamy lobster soup was a good example of what’s great about Kathman’s cooking. It was intensely flavored, and yet, to the palate, read as, above all, easy—like the difference between a loose bouquet of wildflowers and a rigid hothouse construction. This graceful intensity was created by roasting lobsters and then making a traditional stock by deglazing the lobster pan with brandy and amplifying it with armfuls of tarragon and lots of cream and butter. Into this pale richness were floated many crunchy, slightly peppery flowers (they tasted like very thin, mild radishes), the whole thing combining in such a way that it seemed charming, romantic, and as amusing as a giggle—flower soup, how silly! Another light and playful must-order: whipped Brie with truffles. This recipe, which Kathman learned at French Laundry and has further developed on his own, involves taking the creamy centers from wheels of Brie and paddling air into them until the cheese is smoother than pudding, then adding wee bits of black Italian truffles until the resulting creation is earthy, sensuous, and truly nothing short of sexy. (It goes particularly well with champagne, and Barbette has one of the best sparkling-wine lists in Minnesota, for those of you looking to make a vegetarian swoon.)

Vegans, please know Kathman relishes your requests. “Vegetables are profound from beginning to end—the aromas, the incredible difference in the end product you get from different cooking techniques,” he says. “Sometimes people come in and request a vegan tasting menu, and I’m like, ‘Bring it on!’ We Iron Chef it out.” Some dishes that have evolved from that Iron Chef-ing: sweet-corn falafel; hand-rolled tagliatelle with Hen of the Woods mushrooms; roast-garlic-and-braised-parsnip risotto; and a variation on Kathman’s signature butternut-squash ravioli, made with tissue-thin, just-made pasta sheets, candied pecans, and sage crisped in butter. At first glance, Minnesota didn’t get any newsworthy vegetarian restaurants this year, but if you take a second look, you may see that it really did.

Barbette
1600 W. Lake St., Mpls.
612-827-5710
barbette.com
 

10. Forum

In a just and perfect world, the recently re-opened Forum would have the same prominence for Minneapolis tourists that the Empire State Building has for New York City tourists. Tour buses would pull up, and a guide would lead the group through the space, pointing out the important art-historical details that make Forum such a significant art-deco landmark: First opened in 1929! The mirrored walls with their scenes of north woods and mythical Viking grandeur evoke the glamour of the silver screen! Then everyone would snap pictures of one another, sit down, order a fascinating period cocktail, and tuck into chef Christian Ticarro’s flawlessly classic wild-rice soup or his sumptuous lobster macaroni and cheese. Now back on the tour bus, we’re off to Mary Tyler Moore’s house and the state capitol. Think about it: We don’t have another restaurant like that, and the fact that we now do is worth celebrating, so grab your next out-of-town guest and raise a glass to the fact that Minneapolis has been reunited with one of its great monuments.

Forum Restaurant
40 Seventh St. S., Mpls.
612-354-2017
forumrestaurantmn.ringorestaurants.com

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