Best of the Cities

The spiciest curry, the stiffest drink, the greenest dry cleaner, the hippest adult entertainment (it’s not what you think), and the movers and shakers who make the Twin Cities a better—and more interesting—place to live. They’re all right here, in our annual best-of-the-best guide.

FUN

Urban Retreat

The stunning transformation of Minneapolis’s art-deco wonder, the Foshay Tower, into the W Minneapolis will leave you wondering what city you’re in. The redo includes futuristic furnishings and sleek design, but it also pays homage to the best historical elements: Images of the iconic building are engraved on elevator doors and the marble in the arcade lobby has been restored. For a real kick, stay in the one of the black, white, and hot-pink luxury suites (the “Wow” suite, for example, features a deejay booth). There are plenty of nods to the hotel’s Roaring Twenties origins, including a hidden speakeasy off the lobby bar. Want a view with your hooch? Order a signature “Epiphany” cocktail with elderflower liqueur, pear vodka, and champagne and take in the view from the 30th floor observation deck. Is this really Mill City? 821 Marquette Ave., Minneapolis, 612-215-3700, whotels.com/minneapolis
 

Holiday Show

Like roasted chestnuts on street corners and créches outside the courthouse, Yuletide letters seem destined for extinction. (Even Granny’s on Facebook now.) But Tod Petersen puts a pile of his mother’s annual holiday missives to good use in Theater Latté Da’s A Christmas Carole Petersen, lampooning their folksy tone and breezy banality in song and story. His recollections of Christmases at the family home in Mankato run the gamut from gay-appareled to Grinchy, but in the end, the reason for season is starry-night clear: It’s about making your mother happy. November 28 to December 21. Ordway Center, 345 Washington St., St. Paul, 651-224-4222

Party Additions

Two local artists have been sharing their talents with the public by creating art in front of a crowd. Both Patrick Kemal Pryor and Drew Beson perform to music—Pryor usually paints cool abstracts to jazz-influenced pop, and Beson has collaborated with deejays, producing colorful, sometimes comical works to go with the tunes. The two have been popping up at fundraisers and events—and will often sell the art-in-progress on the spot. Don’t want to wait for the next nonprofit fete? Pryor hosts monthly “music sketch improvisations” at his studio in northeast Minneapolis, and Beson creates new performance videos each week, viewable on his website. patrickpryor.com, drewbesonart.com

Animal Attraction

Cold and remote, the eastern coast of Russia probably feels a lot like Minnesota most days. But Kamchatka is also populated with such beasts as wild boars, Amur leopards, sea otters, and grizzlies, creatures that haven’t
been sighted in the North Star State—until now. All four species are part of the Minnesota Zoo’s new exhibit, Russia’s Grizzly Coast, which treats visitors to a walk on the wild side that features not only animals, but also bubbling mud pots and lava tubes. Minnesota Zoo, 13000 Zoo Blvd., Apple Valley, 952-431-9200, mnzoo.com
 

Sunday Outing

The grass is always greener at Edina’s Centennial Lakes Park. The lawn is also lush, well-watered, and perfectly manicured, making it a magnet for some seriously competitive but oh-so-civilized croquet matches. Each summer, as part of the park’s summer-long tournament season, experienced mallet swingers stride the lawns in crisp white slacks and tall hats. But rank amateurs can rent courts, too, for $15 an hour. Just don’t leave any divots. Centennial Lakes, 7499 France Ave. S., Edina, 952-832-6789, centenniallakespark.com
 

Geeky Date

There’s no room for cynicism about your prospects at the 331 Club’s semi-monthly Grown Up Spelling Bee. On a recent Saturday night at the northeast Minneapolis bar, a fellow named Greg starts off with the letters “C-I-N,” before the hostess, “Jess the Spellbinder,” tosses him off the stage. It’s a silly, sloppy affair: For an $8 entry fee, contestants surrender their car keys and win a shot of Jameson or Stoli after each successful round. By the fourth round, a word like “inebriety” poses a stern challenge. 331 13th Ave. NE, Minneapolis, 612-331-1746, 331club.com

New Drink

Hemingway got it wrong when he described absinthe as “opaque, bitter, tongue-numbing, brain-warming, stomach-warming, idea-changing liquid.” It’s not opaque. It’s green, lurid green, so eye-catchingly beautifully sparkly “GO!” green that the color alone will make you understand its appeal to Baudelaire, Verlaine, Munch, Strindberg, Van Gogh, and others. An entire generation of artistes nearly drowned in a pool of the stuff before governments in Europe and America banned the licorice-flavored liquor. The hallucinations allegedly caused by the “green goddess” have since been disproved by science, and last year absinthe was approved for import by U.S. officials. So indulge your inner Bohemian: Order a shot at Nick and Eddie, dissolve a sugar cube into the glass (a process known as louching), pour it over ice, and sip slowly. The muse—at 124 proof—will arrive soon enough. Nick & Eddie, 1612 Harmon Pl., Minneapolis, 612-486-5800, nickandeddie.com

Biking Guide

Ever wish you had a historical-society tour guide with you on every bike trip? Road Biking Minnesota, an installment of the popular Falcon Guides, is that chirping know-it-all. Sample the 71- or 33-mile tour around Austin, for instance, where author M. Russ Lowthian reels off a history of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad; pays fitting tribute to the Rydjor Bike Shop and its old-time two-wheel wonders; and namechecks Chief Taopi, who aided whites in the Dakota War. Even the proudly ignorant will find information in these 41 routes that a GPS won’t provide. There are detailed landmark instructions, traffic hazard reports, and even restroom locations. falcon.com

Way to Reach Broadway

Let’s face it: The shower is no place to kick-start your singing career. The MacPhail Center for Music’s Singing Basics for Adults class probably isn’t either, but at least you’ll be able to practice your arpeggios without getting soap in your mouth. The program’s weekly sessions cover everything from what teacher Andrea Leap calls “an owner’s manual” for the voice, to repertoire preparation and issues like stage fright. As for experience, those piano lessons you took in the third grade will do: Small class sizes ensure that every student improves significantly, regardless of previous training. “Singing is just small-muscle athletics, with some artistry thrown in,” Leap says. “It’s like anything else: If you work at it, you get better.” 501 S. Second St., Minneapolis, 612-321-0100, macphail.org

Public Garden

The path to spiritual serenity is a long and treacherous one, but if you can withstand the throngs of screaming children and the humid chambers of Jurassic Park–style plants in Como Park’s conservatory, your destination—the Como Ordway Memorial Japanese Garden—will reward you. A gift from St. Paul’s sister city, Nagasaki, in 1978, the garden was designed in the chisen-kaiyu (strolling pond) style and is painstakingly naturalistic—great care is taken to create a sense of unplanned perfection. Plant yourself on a bench and watch the dragonflies skip lazily over the azalea-dotted pond. Revel in sunlight pouring through the Austrian pines pruned to a “windswept” aesthetic perfection. Achieving a Zen-like state is not so difficult after all. Como Park Conservatory and Zoo, 1225 Estabrook Dr., St. Paul, 651-487-8201, comozooconservatory.org

Cooking Class

Even the deftest Western cooks can find themselves in foreign territory when it comes to dishing up raw fish, but the Crash Course in Sushi at the Cooks of Crocus Hill can change that. Chef Jonathan Kaye relays the fundamentals of making maki (rolled sushi) with dried seaweed, vinegared rice, and the day’s catch. When that’s done, he’ll even show you how to prepare vegetable tempura with maple-soy dipping sauce. At the end of the three-hour class, you’ll have a mean spicy-tuna recipe to add to your dinner party repertoire. Or, at the very least, you’ll know how to order like a pro the next time you’re in Tokyo. 877 Grand Ave., St. Paul, 651-228-1333; 3925 50th St., Edina, 952-285-1903, cooksofcrocushill.com

Tour

Take a cue from the out-of-towners on this one: There’s more to the Guthrie Theater than even the regulars have seen. Luckily, the staff is willing to divulge, if you take 45 minutes of your morning for the backstage tour. After learning why the proscenium theater is so, well…red, you’ll go backstage and get the lowdown on the costume shop and gargantuan scene shop. The cheery, expert guides will keep you engaged: They throw out too many nuggets of information to even let you think about checking your watch. So, if the Guthrie’s skyway doesn’t lead to the parking ramp, where does it go? Just ask your guide. 10 a.m., Friday to Monday. Guthrie Theater, 818 S. Second St., Minneapolis, guthrietheater.org
 

View of Downtown Minneapolis

Tired of staring at your computer screen? Take a break and head to Water Power Park to find a sight for sore eyes, with no harsh fluorescence. You actually get two dynamic views in one place at the 1.4-acre park, which Xcel Energy opened across from St. Anthony Main in June 2007 as a condition of continuing its hydroelectric projects. First, marvel at the strikingly modern downtown skyline as you enter; then, meander along to the farthest platform for the definitive close-up of the historic St. Anthony Falls. The park’s fenced-in gravel paths aren’t the best for picnicking, but you can pick up tidbits about water-power history on panels scattered throughout. 206 Main St. SE, Minneapolis, waterpowerpark.com
 

Mini Golf

At Big Stone Mini Golf, even the putting greens feel somehow miniaturized, dwarfed by towering sunflowers and bizarre sculptures that loom overhead. Tucked away off County Road 110 near Minnetrista, Bruce Stillman’s eccentric course is more like an interactive art installation in the middle of a field than your typical kitschy, highway-side mini golf. After completing the course (not an easy feat—the sculptures seem to have a preternatural agency over golf balls), take a stroll through the surrounding sculpture garden, cook up some mini-golfer’s fare at the fire pit, or engage in a staring contest with the resident goats. Off County Rd. 110, Mound, 952-472-9292, bigstoneminigolf.com

Art Lessons for Kids

The remark “My kid could paint that!” may not go over so well in a gallery at the Walker, but at an Abrakadoodle class at Kiddywampus, your child really will be drawing inspiration from the masters of modern art: The lessons, specially developed for ages 20 months to 12 years, are structured around the techniques, styles, and mediums of famous artists. But don’t worry if your little Jackson Pollock gets carried away with the paint-throwing activity—the studio uses only washable, nontoxic, Crayola products. 4400 Excelsior Blvd., St. Louis Park, 952-926-7871, kiddywampus.com

Podcast

What do M&Ms and voting have in common? For Minnesota Public Radio’s Electionwise podcast co-hosts Molly Bloom and Curtis Gilbert, a handful of the colorful candies serves as a clever analogy for polling accuracy in estimating voter turnout on election day. This may seem like a rather lighthearted take on election issues, but that’s the point: Electionwise, which answers one audience-generated, election-related question per six-minute episode, is part of MPR’s Engaging Americans initiative. The podcast’s humorous edge, combined with comprehensive explanations about issues like candidates’ stances on abortion or immigration, promotes listener involvement in public broadcasting and the presidential race itself. Call in or e-mail your nagging campaign questions, and tune in to the podcast weekly for the answers. minnesota.publicradio.org/radio/podcasts/electionwise
 


Do-Gooder Gigs

VOLUNTEER ENDEAVORS THAT WILL KEEP YOU INVOLVED—AND INSPIRED

Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon
Whether you pass out water cups or finisher’s medals, there’s something spectacular about spending a beautiful fall morning helping more than 10,000 runners from around the world. You’ll be inspired by the men and women of all ages (and sizes) who put one foot in front of another to achieve a dream that’s exactly 26.2 miles long. 763-287-3888, mtcmarathon.org

Science Museum of Minnesota
The Science Museum of Minnesota offers plenty of incredible exhibits, but it’s the volunteers who bring them to life. Help kids (of all ages) understand everything from dinosaurs to static electricity. You don’t have to have a degree in the field—extensive training is provided. And the perks, including free tickets and store discounts, are a nice touch. 651-221-4703, smm.org

Gardening on the Greenway
Skyrocketing gas prices have made the Midtown Greenway a veritable freeway of cycling commuters. And most of them appreciate the dazzling displays of flowers and greenery that line the paths between Lake of the Isles and the Mississippi River. Help maintain these natural spaces by planting, weeding, and composting. 612-879-0106, midtowngreenway.org

American Hiking Society
If gardening is too tame, consider a volunteer vacation with the American Hiking Society. The organization helps maintain a network of trails in the Boundary Waters and regularly offers weeklong excursions that include trail work, canoeing, and fishing. Alliance organizations in Minnesota serve trails in other parts of the state. 800-972-8608, americanhiking.org
 


Work it Out

OUR TOP PICKS FOR GETTING FIT WITHOUT THE DRUDGERY. ENDORPHINS INCLUDED.

Boxing

Located in a warehouse in north Minneapolis, Uppercut Boxing Gym offers classes that focus on different aspects of fitness and self-defense, including cardio conditioning, sparring, endurance and agility, and technical training. For those who think they’ve found their inner Million Dollar Baby, Uppercut provides opportunities to compete in amateur and professional rings. 1324 Quincy St. NE, Minneapolis, 612-822-1964, uppercutgym.com
 

G-Werx

Local fitness buff Phil Martens invented a workout machine and opened a successful gym devoted to using it. The G-Werx provides a full-body workout tailored to your individual fitness level. At 501FIT, small, 10-person G-Werx classes supervised by professional trainers promote accountability and motivation, while still maintaining workout autonomy. 501 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-767-4415, 501fit.com
 

Power Lifting

The bright yellow weight machines and adjoining tattoo parlor lend the Press Gym a power-fitness atmosphere that doesn’t bother with what staff member Dan calls “all that fancy stuff.” For those interested in more than showing off how much they can bench-press, the gym offers kettlebell and “butt and belly” classes, and hosts the Warriors Cove mixed martial arts studio. 2900 Rice St., Suite 150, Little Canada, 651-697-9002, thepressgym.com
 

Cycling

The open road may be exhilarating, but how often do you get to bike and sing karaoke when you’re outside? Pedal Studio’s devotion to stationary cycling just may convert you to the Great Indoors. No membership is required; register for single classes—ranging from strength-building and endurance to “Karaoke” and “Yoga”—or purchase multi-session or monthly passes. 21 Fifth St. NE, Minneapolis, 612-644-5900, pedalstudios.com
 

 

SHOPPING

Women’s Store

There’s more to Hot Mama than maternity wear. A lot more. In fact, the shopping dream is alive and well at this beloved local chain, which prides itself on helping women feel good in the skin—and clothes—they’re in. You’ll find stylish and flattering fashions, spacious dressing rooms, perfectly helpful staffers (who you’ll want to hate because they’re so cute, but won’t because they’re so darn nice), a kids play area, and—mark our words—a pair of perfectly fitting jeans. Four metro locations, shopmama.com
 

Home Accessories

Oddly enough, shelter store Roam will likely inspire you to nest, rather than do what the name implies. Those who favor contemporary décor will be right at home browsing an extensive collection of Minneapolis-designed Blu Dot furnishings, and an impressive collection of modern European offerings from Alessi and Kartell. There’s really is no place like Roam. 813 Glenwood Ave., Minneapolis, 612-377-6465

Swimsuits

At Nani Nalu, swimsuit shopping is a day at the beach. You’ll find elegant one-piece suits alongside teeny-weenie bikinis, flip-flops in every imaginable color, cover-ups cute enough to be dresses, wide-rimmed hats, and even roomy beach bags to stow it all in style. 3922 W. 50th St., Edina, 952-546-5598, naninaluswim.com
 

Lingerie

The vintage pin-up posters decorating the wall at Flirt Boutique sum it all up: This pastel-colored lingerie shop is a girly paradise. There are sweet lacy nighties, cool cotton PJs, coordinated bras and panties sets, and super-soft bamboo robes. To fully stock your fantasy boudoir, scoop up luxurious bath treats, retro makeup cases, and scented candles and drawer liners. 1330 Grand Ave., St. Paul, 651-698-3692

Yoga Clothes

Don’t let a little downward-facing dog dampen your style. The spacious, Zen-like boutique at CorePower Yoga in Edina carries local labels Foat Design, Julz Marie, and Universal pants, along with such big brand names in yoga wear such as Prana, Tonic, and Be Present. Jewelry with stones allegedly imbued with spiritual energy round out the sublime selection. It’s enough wardrobe inspiration to make you say ommmmm. 7495 France Ave. S., Edina, 952-835-9642, corepoweryoga.com/edina
 

Music Store

At American Guitar & Band, you’ll likely spot a professional musician trying out a vintage bass while an aspiring 7-year-old drummer looks for his first set. That’s the norm at this family-run business, owned by Cory Lake, a recording engineer, and his wife, Stephanie, who designed the space. Here you’ll find everything from a Hello Kitty Stratocaster to a guitar with a diamond-studded flatboard. There are also lesson rooms, a coffee lounge, and posters straight from the walls of First Ave. 13777 Grove Dr. N., Maple Grove, 763-424-4888, americanguitarandband.com

Place to Buy Gifts

A pen makes the perfect gift. It doesn’t require assembly. It always fits. A pen, when purchased at Ink, makes a statement. At this sleek shop, pens come in a range of price points and styles, from a fashionable, $10 ball-point for the babysitter to a precious Italian fountain pen for the jet-setting boss. By appointment only; IDS Center, Suite 4530, Minneapolis, 612-455-2600, penstore.biz

New Boutique

The men’s and women’s boutique that scores big with northeast Minneapolis residents is a must-shop for any Twin Citian looking for casual yet sophisticated clothing and accessories in a laid-back, urban setting. Parc Boutique’s eclectic mix includes trendy denim, flirty frocks, cozy sweaters, and colorful scarves—a must-have for fall. Stuff moves fast here, so shop often. 328 E. Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, 612-353-4966, parcboutique.com

Creative Outlet

Whether you’ve got a life-long passion for making hats and socks or a newfound interest in needlepoint, you’ll be inspired by Bella Lana’s rows of bright skeins and the recommended designer patterns paired with them. Knitters are welcome to bring in projects and ask for advice from one of the yarn-savvy owners. For more formal instruction, there are monthly classes for beginners taking their first stitches, and for experts looking to finish off projects. Felting, anyone? 21 Fourth St. SE, Minneapolis, 612-331-3330, bellalanaminneapolis.com
 

Shopping Site

The art of sending notes has found new life in the 21st century, thanks to RedStamp.com. The Minneapolis-based website was started by Erin Newkirk and Renée Walter, two moms with MBAs and a passion for pulp. Their paper site carries designers who express a distinctly modern sensibility, which means you’re sure to find a seriously stylish calling card or desk calendar that reflects your personality. The company recently introduced its first line of Red Stamp–branded products, including personalized stationery and a holiday collection. If you’re short on time or lack penmanship, try the website’s “send-for-you” service. We sincerely appreciate the help. redstamp.com
 

Deals & Steals

What began as a last-call destination for baby and maternity wear from the über Baby family of stores, has become a collaboration of local fashion heavyweights. At über Outlet you’ll find brand new, current styles (as in, not last season’s leggings) from Arafina, Bumbershute, Ivy, and Twill, to name a few—all for up to 80 percent off original retail prices. 6021 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-869-0930
 

St. Paul Shop

When Patina moved onto the corner of Selby and Snelling avenues, the drab and quiet neighborhood instantly perked up. The historic building that houses Patina got a complete facelift, exposing the beautiful red brick that had long been hidden. And inside? The treasures that Patina is known for—from quirky greeting cards to kitschy gifts and shabby-chic home décor. At night the store glows, its windows twinkling with goodies. Sometimes a new neighbor makes all the difference. 1581 Selby Ave., St. Paul, 651-644-5444, patinastores.com
 

Men’s Store

Even if you’re about as cool as your khaki collection—there’s hope. Ivy Men’s is stocked like a rock star’s dressing room: bad-ass Tom Ford sunglasses, steel and skull accessories, street-smart fedoras, and luxury casual wear that’s perfect for when you’re lounging on a white leather couch in the Hamptons—or not. 1220 Glenwood Ave., Minneapolis, 612-377-4319, shopivy.com
 

Wardrobe Advice for Men

After more than 21 years at Macy’s/Marshall Field’s/Dayton’s (and a dapper, devoted clientele to show for it), Keith Dorsett opened his own boutique, Elsworth, in downtown Minneapolis. A Yoda-like master of men’s wardrobes, Dorsett has a straightforward style mantra: simplicity without a lot of bling. His store is mannequin-free so that he can tailor advice to each customer—like how to effortlessly break up a suit and wear it five different ways. Elsworth, 811 LaSalle Ave., Minneapolis, 612-339-0763
 

Wardrobe Advice for Women

Ever wish that stylist would go into your closet and tell you what to wear? Lucky for us all, StyledLook owner Kevin Quinn and his team of wardrobe experts make house calls. In full- or half-day sessions, they’ll analyze your existing wardrobe and help you put together at least 10 new outfits. Guaranteed. Then, you’ll get a book with photos of all of the options—for those mornings when you can use the extra help. StyledLook, 612-746-5800, wardrobeexperts.com
 

Wardrobe Staple

The gaping button-front shirt. The wrap dress that won’t stay wrapped. The trouser hem that comes undone. For these and other wardrobe malfunctions we offer one simple solution: Hollywood Fashion Tape. Created by Minnesota gal pals Marni Bumsted and Jane Dailey, this three-inch piece of invisible, double-stick adhesive fixes fashion faux pas on the spot, keeping fabric in place and unmentionables safe. This ingenious product has made its way to into nearly every local boutique and our style editor’s handbag. We hear that most celebrities won’t hit the red carpet without it. Why should you? Hollywoodfashiontape.com
 


Second Acts

TWO LOCATIONS ARE BETTER THAN ONE FOR FOUR OF OUR FAVORITE BOUTIQUES

Denim

Just like pairs of premium denim, two Covered stores are definitely better than one. The new glossy Uptown location carries the same skinny, bootcut, and wide-leg styles, and all of the hot labels as the original Dinkytown spot, plus a selection of men’s denim and casual tops. Both shops, with their denim-savvy staffers, offer the same invaluable fit advice. 1201 Lagoon Ave., Minneapolis, 612-825-1610, shopcovered.com
 

Accessories

The owners of ultra-trendy Bluebird Boutique have spread their wings with Ladyslipper, a much-needed shoe and handbag outpost just down the street. Try on heels and flats while perched on a rosy pink ottoman or strutting the zebra-print carpet. Throw a Botiker handbag over your shoulder, slip a Kenneth Jay Lane cocktail ring on your finger, and you’re on your way. 4940 France Ave. S., Edina, 952-224-1900
 

Dresses

Stephanie Morrissey has duplicated her cosmopolitan St. Paul boutique across the river. Under her keen fashion-forward eye, the second Stephanie’s has a similar mix of designer labels, including Nicole Miller, Yoana Baraschi, Nougat London, and Tracy Reese. There are also plenty of casual day and cocktail dresses for west-metro shoppers to wisely invest their saved gas money. 5005 France Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-929-2087, stephaniesshop.com
 


Green Goods

SCOOP UP THE CITIES’ BEST EARTH-FRIENDLY FINDS—WITHOUT SACRIFICING STYLE

Beauty

Aveda founder Horst Rechelbacher reinvented beauty products (again) this summer with the launch of a certified USDA organic hair and body collection, Intelligent Nutrients. The purifying aromas, gentle hair care, and high-performance styling products are all made from only nontoxic, nutritious, and 100-percent edible, food-derived ingredients. 983 E. Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, 612-617-2003, intelligentnutrients.com
 

Clothing

Green is the new black at Birch Clothing. The cozy store is overflowing with fair-trade and environmentally conscious fashions: soft bamboo tees and dresses, organic-cotton denim, purses crafted from recycled candy wrappers, and biodegradable umbrellas. Lucky for the fashion-conscious, Birch’s eco-friendly options are far more chic than crunchy. 2309 W. 50th St., Minneapolis, 612-436-0776, birchclothing.com
 

Gifts

Twin Cities Green is like an environmentally friendly department store, complete with gift registries. Owners Ryan and Tina North have stocked it to encourage greener living. Organic linens, recycled glass pasta bowls, solar-
powered radios, and metal flowers made from reclaimed aluminum are just a few of the offerings at this eco-emporium. 2405 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-374-4581, greengiftsonline.com
 

Transit

Want to pimp your bike? Cool Planet Goods will help you transform it into an electric speed demon. Travel a lot? Try the collapsible bicycle, which folds up to fit overhead compartments on airplanes. If they don’t carry the form of alternative transportation you’re looking for, Cool Planet’s knowledgeable staff can tell you where to find it locally or online. 1023A Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-333-3341, coolplanetgoods.com
 

 

PEOPLE

Architect

He may be a descendant of the retail moguls, but you won’t find James Dayton selling shoes or suits: Since opening his architecture firm, James Dayton Designs in 1997, he’s envisioned and erected some of the area’s most unique structures. He spent five years under the wing of starchitect Frank Gehry before returning to the Twin Cities. Gehry’s influence is apparent in JDD works like the new MacPhail building, but Dayton retains an individual vision—and a certain Midwestern groundedness—that lay the foundation for his own claim to Dayton fame.
 

Good Guy

A couple of years ago, Officer Mark Klukow, a 13-year veteran of the Minneapolis police force, opened a lemonade stand on the North Side. It seemed crazy but it worked. His presence curbed crime while inviting friendly interaction—“policing through relationship-building,” as one fan puts it. Klukow, who serves as a board member on city councilman Don Samuels’s PEACE Foundation and often shoots hoops with neighborhood kids, is full of such unorthodox ideas, believing the best way for cops to turn lemons into lemonade is to cross the police tape and show they care.
 

Journalist

Edwin Okong’o emigrated from Kenya to California in 1995 and labored for 10 years in warehouses and flipping burgers—and as a stand-up comedian—before pursuing journalism. Soon he was consulting for PBS, the New York Times, and Al-Jazeera on the Kenyan elections. Last year, Okong’o moved to the Twin Cities to edit Mshale.com, a global news source for African immigrants in the United States. This fall, he returns to Kenya (where he’s twice been assaulted by police while reporting) as a correspondent for PBS’s Frontline/World, to cover the Obama phenomenon from an African perspective.
 

Philanthropist

Take Jackie Joyner-Kersee’s basketball skills, Bill Gates’s business chops, and Santa’s devotion to giving, and you’ll approximate the whirlwind that is Shelly Boyum-Breen. In 2006, the erstwhile Augsburg basketball coach started Foundation IX, a nonprofit helping Minnesota girls afford the equipment and registration they need to compete in sports. More than 350 applied for grants last year and Boyum-Breen could only help 68. Yet by securing major sponsors, she’s moving toward not only supplying more skates and uniforms for female athletes, but perhaps even college tuition.
 

Locavore

Alex Roberts is now selling 2,000 meals a week out of his tiny Nordeast kinda-barbecue, kinda-totally-original restaurant, Brasa. That means he’s the sole supporter of a single chicken farmer, takes the entire shoulder-cut production of a local grass-fed beef distributor, and is about to become the only restaurateur in the state to directly supply his kitchen with beans from Minnesota growers. And, as of this writing, he’s in talks to open a second location on Grand Avenue in St. Paul. He’s managed, in other words, to make locavores happy year-round—and that’s no small potatoes.
 

TV Reporter

Mary Lahammer has been wonking out for Twin Cities Public Television viewers on Friday nights for a good 10 years now. If you didn’t know that, give the Smirnoff Ice a rest and check out Almanac, the local politics show Lahammer reports for, or her blog, Mary’s Page, where she surveys the legislative landscape with breathless incisiveness. In exploits like following Jesse Ventura around the world, to appearing in Rake magazine’s recent “Most Beautiful People at the Capitol” story, the Emmy-winning newscaster not only knows her politics but how to make it interesting.
 

Host

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman naturally would’ve preferred to host his own party’s convention this fall. But you’d hardly have known it. He set a good-natured tone when he joked that the event’s economic impact might actually be greater than if the Democrats had decamped here, suggesting Republicans have more money to spend (to which Governor Pawlenty replied, “We don’t spend it.”). Then, Coleman rolled out the red carpet for the GOP, helping muster convention volunteers and focusing his partisan energies on boosting Barack Obama rather than bashing John McCain.
 

Mogul

If you don’t think a pickled bull’s head belongs in a hotel lobby, take it up with Ralph Burnet. The Coldwell Banker Burnet chairman (pictured with wife, Peggy), combined his two callings—as art patron and hotel tycoon—with his Chambers Luxury Art Hotel. But Damien Hirst’s work of bovine taxidermy is old news. After buying the Foshay tower for $16 million in 2006, Burnet revamped the skyscraper into a W Hotel. The renovations are meant to restore the art-deco masterpiece to its original splendor. But, in typical Burnet style, the W likely surpasses Wilbur Foshay’s most lavish dreams.
 

Trendsetter

The Walker Art Center’s senior performing arts curator, Philip Bither, books plenty of big names (Merce Cunningham, Meredith Monk). But in his 11 years with the museum, Bither has also introduced Minnesotans to remarkable new talents, traveling the world to find the next great band, dance troupe, or theater artists. Lately, the journalism-grad-turned-tastemaker has banked hipster credentials by convincing indie-pop band the Magnetic Fields and art-folk singer Will Oldham to make rare concert appearances in Minneapolis, demonstrating his—and the Walker’s—clout.
 

Impressario

Lilly Schwartz wants you to rock out—in Orchestra Hall. Since becoming the Minnesota Orchestra’s director of pops and special projects two years ago, essentially booking all the non-classical music at the hall, the outspoken Philadelphia transplant has launched the hall’s first jazz series, hired star New Orleans trumpeter Irvin Mayfield as its first artistic director of jazz, brought in Elvis Costello, and generally shaken up the orchestra’s image as an elite curator of dead dudes’ tunes. Now she’s day-dreaming of naming Harry Connick Jr. the new pops conductor—let the swooning begin.
 

 

SERVICE

Veterinarian

It’s rare to find a vet that uses standard and advanced practices alongside holistic medicine—and at a price that doesn’t bust the billfold. Pomeroy’s Animal Hospital is far from modern (there’s no computer; notes from your visit are taken on 5-by-7 index cards), but a visit with Fred Pomeroy is like seeing the small-town doctor. The clinic is a family business (Fred’s uncle Ben, who practiced for 72 years, also worked there before he passed away in 2004), and they treat your pet like one of their own. Pomeroy can calm the most anxious pooch, and will give you a fair and honest assessment of their care. There’s no up sell, no unneccessary tests, only what’s best for your pet. Just what the doctor ordered. 185 E. Seventh St., St. Paul, 651-224-4815
 

Hairstylist

It seems like everyone’s stylist is the person to see, but what makes Alan Gauvain special is how he communicates with you.Sit in Gauvain’s chair and discuss your strands, but really, really talk about it. It’s hair therapy and Gauvain is the ultimate counselor. He massages your shoulders and temples, then closes his eyes and channels your scalp’s master plan (Can it be curly? Which way does your part truly go?). After Gauvain left his previous job to come to Lili, one of his clients contacted the department of commerce for a list of new salons, then called each of them to find Gauvain (stylists typically have non-competes that forbid them from informing clients of resignation). Take a seat in Gauvain’s chair and you’ll understand their loyalty: It’s not just your hair that he’s changed for the better. Lili: A William & Friends Salon, 5757 Sanibel Dr., Minnetonka, 952-935-5000, salonlili.com
 

Personal Concierge

If you need an extra set of hands, Nook & Cranny has them. Owners Rhoda Mehl and Clare Riordan will do practically anything on your to-do list. Clean the house? Check. Walk the dog? Check. Pick up dry cleaning? Check. Grocery shopping? Check. Send out holiday cards? Check. Get a caterer or a contractor? Check. Wrap presents? Check. Time for you to read the latest best-seller? Check. And ahhhhh. 1023 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-823-2018, nookcranny.com
 

Shoe Repair

Name your shoe issue, and Randall Reichstadt, owner of the basement shoe-repair shop at Macy’s in downtown Minneapolis, will do his darnedest to fix it. He has been saving soles at this footwear clinic for 29 years. Reichstadt and his team will tackle any shoe problem—from cleaning Uggs to punching extra holes in straps to replacing women’s high heels and men’s half-soles. Now that’s a step in the right direction. 700 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, 612-375-2922
 

Tailor

If the shoe fits, wear it. If the dress, jacket, or trousers doesn’t, visit Glamour Tailors. For more than 20 years, its elegant proprietress, Bich Trinh, has served a loyal clientele who rely on her for custom design, European hems, and wedding-gown alterations. Trinh wants what’s best for you and your favorite frock. If that means modifying it, you’re in skilled hands. But if nipping in the waist of a 1980s shoulder-padded blazer isn’t going to do you—or your figure—justice, Trinh will break it to you gently. 3515 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-825-2085
 

Wine Guy

Most days, you can saunter into Sam’s Wine Shop with a highlighted copy of Wine Spectator and walk out with what you came for. More fun, however, is to engage proprietor Sam Haislet in a conversation about his 1,000-bottle North Loop store and try what you never expected. Ask him about the quirky characteristics of Chile’s carmenere grape, or chat about why Minnesota’s “Frontenac” grape produces such a high-alcohol content. Think talk is cheap? Then take a look at the shelves. Haislet prices many of his bottles around $15—that is, for seekers, not just confirmed wine snobs. 218 Washington Ave. N., Minneapolis, 612-455-1045, samswineshop.com
 

Pest Control

People don’t like to talk about bugs in the home, but it happens to the best of us. If it happens to you, please know that the extremely nice and customer service–oriented Glenn Buggs of—you guessed it—Buggs Pest Control, gets rid of bugs the Minnesota way: Nicely, cheaply, and permanently. buggspestcontrol.com
 

Masseuse

Forget everything you think you know about massage. At Spot Spa, all you need to know is that Nell Rueckl is going to find every muscle knot in your tired/sore/stressed bod. Then, she is going to employ a variety of massage methods to soften them: hot stone, knee-walking, deep-tissue, and lomi lomi, a soothing Hawaiian technique. Rueckl calls it bodywork, but you can just think of it as a fancy word for the most healing, relaxing, and rejuvenating massage you’ll ever receive. 401 E. Hennepin Ave. NE, Minneapolis, 612-331-4182, spotspas.com

Free Service

Some people prefer bon bons or bubble baths. When we want to indulge in one of life’s little luxuries, we take our knives to a Lunds/Byerly’s grocery store. Here, the friendly butchers behind the meat counter sharpen them—for free. Next time you pop in for a New York strip, simply drop off three of your dullest blades (no scissors or serrated knives) and in just 24 hours, they’ll be sharp as a you-know-what. lundsandbyerlys.com
 

Meals to Go

Swamped at work? After-school activities keeping you so busy that you can’t even think about dinner? Sociale is here to help. For the past four years, their gourmet takeout meals have saved families from dining disasters and fast-food overdoses. Led by a Le Cordon Bleu–trained chef, the Sociale employees develop a unique menu each month, using the ingredients and sauces made from scratch in their on-site kitchen. Your sanity is saved. No reservation required. 750 Cleveland Ave. S., St. Paul, 651-698-6100, plus three other Minnesota locations, socialegourmet.com
 

Pedal Pampering

If bicycles are the new cars, then it was only a matter of time before someone dreamed up this Minneapolis truck stop for two-wheelers. Modeled after a similar operation in Chicago, the Freewheel Midtown Bike Center opened this past spring on the Midtown Greenway bicycle thoroughfare and includes—for a small charge—showers for you and your bike, as well as valets to secure your ride while you browse the nearby Midtown Global Market. If your bike needs repairs or adjustments, Freewheel’s staff can fix ’er up while you sip a coffee in the café. Midtown Greenway, between Chicago and 10th Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-238-4447, freewheelbike.com
 


Party People

LET THESE LOCAL EXPERTS SWEAT THE NOT-SO-SMALL STUFF FOR YOUR NEXT SOIREE

Rentals

For more than 20 years, Après party and tent rental has provided premier supplies—luxe linens, dramatic lighting, lounge furniture—to weddings, corporate events, and private parties. The family-owned business is a top pick for local country clubs, and has set the stage for Twins Fest and the party for last year’s visit to Minnetonka by ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Addition. 7625 Cahill Rd., Edina, 952-942-5118, apres-party.com
 

Invitations

Before you plan the menu, mix the music, and light the candles, set the tone for your party with paper invitations. Trust us—there’s nothing old fashioned (or fill-in-the-blank) about the designs you’ll find at Letterbox, Kimberley Yurkiewicz and Zach Barocas’s sunny shop. The design-savvy duo will even create custom invitations lickety-split, leaving you no excuse to Evite. Ever. 2741 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis, 612-870-4529, letterboxcreative.com
 

Catering

Philip Dorwart has started a handful of hot eateries in the Twin Cities, including Table of Contents. For his latest venture, Create Catering & Consulting, Dorwart and his wife, Desiree, whip up fully customized, multi-course meals for intimate Minnesota events. Much of the bounty comes from their 35-acre farm, thus making good on a commitment to local, sustainable deliciousness. 1121 Jackson St. NE, Minneapolis, 612-331-3310, createcaters.com
 

Flowers

In the world of Bastian + Skoog, there is no flower that can’t be transformed into a blossoming work of avant-garde art. The clever design duo of Liz Bastian and Heidi Skoog enjoys a challenge: Simply suggest a color or a bloom and they’ll produce a truly effervescent arrangement. Not planning an event any time soon? Pick up a less-pricey bouquet at Surdyk’s. 310 N. Second St., Minneapolis, 612-333-6450, bastianskoog.com
 


Going Green

LOCAL SERVICES THAT MAKE IT EASY TO REDUCE, REUSE, AND RECYCLE

Resource Guide

Finally, a good old-fashioned green movement anyone and everyone can get behind—and not feel pressured to buy, buy, buy into. Thanks to the Do It Green! organization’s Internet database (with categories like food, energy, and gardening), printed publication, and workshops, going green can be about the industry of individuals. 2405 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-345-7973, doitgreen.org
 

Dry Cleaner

Family-owned and unpretentiously operated since 1987, Uptown Cleaners rids all inconvenience from “Dry Clean Only” and ensures an environmentally safe process along the way. The first in Minnesota to utilize GreenEarth’s dry cleaning system, they’ve long since ditched any carbon-based solvents in favor of a nontoxic, odor-free liquid silicone. 1614 W. Lake St., Minneapolis, 612-822-6855, mngreenclean.com
 

Solar-panel Installation

When incorporating alternative energy sources into your home, let Sunny Day Earth Solutions be your guide. Owner Ramy Selim, the state’s only certified assessor, will perform a no-pressure analysis of your dwelling’s potential for solar power. Then he’ll install everything from panels to attic fans to create a more energy-efficient home. 1000 26th Ave. SE, Minneapolis, 612-455-1355, sunnydayearthsolutions.com
 

Pet Groomer

For all of those walks in the park, Fido cares about the Earth, too. Include him in your green lifestyle by taking him to Clean as a Whisker. This St. Louis Park–based groomer uses all-natural and organic products. Owner Jennifer Hall and her staff keep records of each pet’s care, noting special instructions to make every visit a treat. Now who’s a good boy? 3007 Utah Ave. S., St. Louis Park, 952-935-9114, cleanasawhisker.net
 

 

FOOD

Takeout

Life is hard. But when the jerk your sister brought home steals the knobs from your stove for scrap metal, it’s good to know Lucia Watson has your back. With Lucia’s Take-Home salads, like just-from-the-farm arugula tossed with white beans dressed in a zesty, rosemary-touched vinaigrette. Of course, man doesn’t live on greens alone. There must be an entrée, like strawberry-colored, rare-roasted Creekstone farms beef tenderloin, served cold with a green peppercorn aioli on the side. That’s takeout! Round out your shopping bag with a loaf of Lucia’s famous cracked wheat bread, a minted fruit salad, and a classic dessert, such as the Budapest Bundt cake, and you’re eating like a customer in a five-star restaurant—except you can do it while surfing the Internet looking for new knobs for your stove. 1432 W. 31st St., Minneapolis, 612-825-1572, lucias.com
 

New Restaurant

Have you wondered why you can never get into Heidi’s, the south Minneapolis restaurant by star chef Stewart Woodman and his wife, Heidi? After all, the restaurant has been open for almost a year, and you’d think the opening buzz would have died down. Well, the opening buzz has died down, but all those first-timers have been replaced by a whole lot of regulars with standing reservations, people who tell Heidi: “We’ll be here every Thursday at 6:30, table 34, in perpetuity.” It’s turning into something like the legendary Rao’s in New York—and you can’t compete with that. But you’ve got to hand it to Woodman. He said he would be happy with nothing but a 10-burner stove and a touchy oven, and he has been, as he sends out dishes like a $13 entrée of cherry tomato “lasagna” with creamed spinach and “Parmesan air,” or sautéed Australian sea bass with parsley purée, sweet parsnips, and creamy mussel foam. Plan well and you’ll get in, and when you do, you’ll experience one of the best restaurants Minnesota has ever had: cozy as a jewel box, tasty as a fantasy. 819 W. 50th St., Minneapolis, 612-354-3512, heidismpls.com
 

Butcher Shop

Walk into Clancey’s these days and you’re likely to find a sous chef from Solera behind the counter offering tastes of his latest creations: pork paté with apricots and pine nuts, a duck rillettes paté, a simple chicken liver paté, or a pork paté with herbes de Provence. That’s a lot of paté for a butcher shop, but that’s what’s happening here. Clancey’s became popular because all the meat is locally sourced, but now the place has become something of a hot spot for young chefs looking to understand butchery. As they work, they come up with all kinds of good ideas: trendy fennel pollen bratwurst; skirt steaks pre-dressed with a restaurant-worthy spice rub of coffee, cinnamon, and ancho chili pepper; take-and-grill burgers made with gouda and ground bacon. Clancey’s is not just a butcher shop anymore. It’s a professional, four-star restaurant kitchen—where you get to be the head chef. 4307 Upton Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-926-0222
 

Gourmet Market

A lot of critics carped when Midtown Global Market opened: There’s nowhere to buy olive oil! There’s nowhere to buy bread! There’s still nowhere in Minnesota to shop like you can in Paris! Or at least Seattle! That was then. The MGM has changed mightily: First, there were the expansions. Farm in the Market, a wonderful source of local, restaurant-caliber pork, beef, fresh chicken, eggs, and dairy expanded, and now provides one of the greatest selections of local artisan cheeses you can find in the state. The Produce Exchange expanded to offer more fruits and vegetables than ever before. Jakeeno’s also substantially expanded, and now offers a whole world of imported Italian cheeses, olive oils, breads, pasta, olives, salami, prosciutto, and other charcuterie. The final big expansion was the Holy Land, which now has a large butcher shop stocked with things like whole legs of lamb, and special house-made seasoned lamb shish kabobs. Finally, this summer saw the arrival of the Salty Tart. Opened by Michelle Gayer, the current pastry chef for restaurants La Belle Vie and Solera, this bakery offers showpiece desserts like a cherry almond tart shaped like a flower, simple treats like vanilla bean cupcakes, and fresh baked bread. Lake Street and 10th Ave., Minneapolis, 612-872-4041, midtownglobalmarket.org
 

Vietnamese

It took a bit for Jasmine 26, the chic and stylish little sister of the beloved Eat Street noodle shop Jasmine Deli, to hit its stride. Now that it has, the Twin Cities should rejoice. Where to start? How about with an alcoholic bubble tea, the little tapioca pearls zoom up your straw, taking some of their high-octane green-tea cocktail with them: It’s sweet, it’s silly, and it’s grassy in that green-tea way. How fun. On to the food: The flash-fried tofu cubes are half potato-chip crisp, half custard creamy, and completely devourable. The tamarind hot pot is gloriously tangy, and the lettuce rolls are sprightly, light, and delicious. Spend a few evenings here and suddenly you’ll realize: This is a Vietnamese restaurant; everything else is just a noodle shop. Jasmine 26, 8 E. 26th St., Minneapolis, 612-870-3800, jasmine26.net

Business Lunch

Chef Jack Riebel is probably the most underrated cook in town. He shouldn’t be. He came from a glittering background, including longtime stints at Goodfellow’s and La Belle Vie before taking over the Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant several years ago. Ever since, he has been crafting a menu of impeccably sourced local and sustainable foods prepared with lively flair: His lunch offering one day of a Caribbean take on American non-dragnet harvested shrimp was extraordinary—perfectly grilled lobster-sweet shrimp paired with a local sweet corn relish, all of it given sharp counterpoint by a fiery coconut cream sauce. And his Cobb-salad burger is nine kinds of perfect. If the food wasn’t draw enough—and it is—the Dakota is on the skyway, it’s priced to be competitive, the service staff is professional and quick, and the menu has a something-for-everyone friendliness. 1010 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, 612-332-1010, dakotacooks.com
 

Brunch

At night at Café Maude, the must-order dish is the house-cut fries with cheese fondue. If you sit in the back, you can watch orders of the golden-brown beauties fly through the kitchen doors. So here’s some hot news: You don’t have to wait for the sun to go down to get these spud-made gems. You can get them at Café Maude’s estimable brunch. Served Tuesday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and weekends from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Café Maude’s brunch has more than just those potatoes. It has another killer potato application: fried, crispy discs of new potatoes served with chives and grated Parmesan. There’s also a guaranteed hangover killer: chorizo crumbles sautéed with scallions, then piled onto potatoes with a fried egg as a sort of deconstructed hash. Add a Bloody Mary, a strawberry-spiked Tom Collins, or a non-alcoholic ginger mojito and you’ve got a brunch to make your hard-fought week seem well worth it. If potatoes six ways are not your bag, know that Maude has healthy offerings, too, like steel-cut oatmeal or salads. Of course, if you know buzzy, sexy Café Maude, you know you’re probably going to wait to get in. But let’s look for the silver lining: Bring a newspaper and time will soon see you both well-informed and well-fed. 5411 Penn Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-822-5411, cafemaude.com
 

Thai

The phrase “á la minute” in cooking refers to the practice of making things at the last second, usually because to make the food in question any earlier would lead to a degradation of flavor. Of course, cooking á la minute is a hassle, which is why so many restaurants don’t really cook á la minute. They boil noodles in advance, chop cilantro in the afternoon, and so on. Not so at Naviya’s Thai Kitchen, the unlikely Thai restaurant next to the water tower in Richfield that uses every possible last minute technique. The result: Herbs in the Thai grilled-beef salad (Yum Nue) dance in their dressing of just-squeezed lime juice as if they were plucked from the garden moments ago; or a pad Thai that’s a beauty of buoyant, just-cooked noodles, earthy, fresh-toasted peanuts and lots of fresh lime juice. If you’ve got a minute, this á la minute kitchen will win your heart. 6345 Penn Ave. S., Richfield, 612-861-2491, naviyasthaikitchen.biz
 

French Restaurant

A French brasserie is a restaurant with rules, much like a sonnet is a poem with rules. There must be raw oysters, there must be sparkling glasses of French wine to wash down said oysters. There must be brasserie classics like pork rillettes, steak au poivre, choucroute garnie, and profiteroles. There must be bustle and hustle and big-city style. St. Paul’s Meritage has all of this and more. Like proudly Midwestern farm-driven offerings such as bright-green new-pea pancakes, Wisconsin rabbit with spring vegetables, and Iowa lamb. Like waiters who are good, busy, friendly, efficient—but never too cozy. Chef and owner Russell Klein is proud of his restaurant’s connection to those French rules: “One of the things I love about working in a brasserie is the connection as a chef you have to the past,” he says. “When I look at the French restaurants I worked at in New York, like La Caravelle, I can trace my culinary lineage all the way to Escoffier.” 410 St. Peter St., St. Paul, 651-222-5670, meritage-stpaul.com

Dining Experience

La Belle Vie has been the best restaurant in Minneapolis for a few years now, which leads a lot of people to assume that there isn’t anything new about it, or that they can ignore the place, since they’ve already been. Actually, those assumptions are untrue. If anything, La Belle Vie is now better than it was when it opened. It has a senior team of employees who have been working there so long that they’re doing what they do in a sort of elemental, effortless, utterly confident way. Consider Mark Roberts, for instance, who is arguably the best server in the Twin Cities. He greets each table with a manner half suave, half getting-things-done, with a deep knowledge of everything on the menu, and everyone in the room. Brett Stickerz, the man who brings each dish to the table and announces its ingredients, has, over time, evolved a unique style: He combines a sort of “let’s get ready to rumble” enunciation with a just-the-facts brevity, which allows for the least possible amount of interruption to a diner’s conversation. Recognizing that people in La Belle Vie’s main room have come to do some serious dining, sommelier Bill Summerville has introduced a “sommelier’s wine flight,” which, though only $15 more than the ordinary wine flight, brings in a wealth of rarities such as micro-estate champagne. It also introduces some historically driven pairings that most diners would never think to try on their own, such as dry Amontillado sherry paired with a Spanish-inspired soup of clams, chorizo foam, and white asparagus garnished with smoked char roe. Of course, the professionalism on display in the front of the house would mean little if the food didn’t dazzle. It does. A recent visit revealed, on the tasting menu, a poussin quarter with skin as crisp as a potato chip and meat as tender as flan, combined with an eggplant purée as silky as satin mist—the meat and silk of the main ingredients giving counterpoint and strength by smoky cubes of house-cured pork belly and bitter broccoli raab. It was a composition in perfect balance, with each element staking out a far point equal in opposition to its counterpoint, like some kind of star. Although the guiding force at La Belle Vie has always been chef and owner Tim McKee, the person leading the kitchen most of the time these days is Mike DeCamp, whom everyone calls “Young Chef.” Young Chef’s style tends to present McKee’s dishes in a slightly more understated way than McKee does, which makes the food feel more comfortable and tilts the experience a little more toward the diner, where it should be. A lot of people tend to think that restaurants are eternal things, like rock monuments: They open, and forever so they shall be. Nothing could be farther from the truth. They’re actually more like sports teams, made up of people with various strengths and weaknesses. They have high points, good seasons, periods about which one can look back in retrospect and say: That was when it was at its best. You should have been there. That is the moment La Belle Vie is having now. 510 Groveland Ave., Minneapolis, 612-874-6440, labellevie.us
 


Chocolate

COCOA BEANS THAT DON’T GROW HERE, BUT THAT DOESN’T PREVENT A THRIVING CHOCOLATE SCENE

Chocolate Bar

Colin Gasko of Rogue Chocolatier is one of a handful of independent chocolate manufacturers in the United States. He sources beans from places such as Madagascar and the Dominican Republic, and, using machines he has either made from scratch or modified from their original purpose, he turns them into single-estate chocolate bars that have as much character as fine wines. Available at Surdyk’s

Chocolate Truffles

Turning chocolate into truffles is a real skill, and no one understands artful exteriors and flavorful interiors like BT McElrath, a former chef at the New French Café whose truffle assortment offers an astonishing array of sophisticated flavors. The passion-fruit truffle is tart and bright, the kaffir lime is dusky and haunting, and the chile-limon is like a firework, all sizzle and charm. Available at Kowalski’s
 

Chocolate Cookie

A chocolate cookie for dark-chocolate lovers, the dark-as-night “Bittersweet” cookie from Rustica Bakery is made with lots of deep dark French cocoa and chocolate-bar worthy chocolate chips. It’s as potent as coffee, and more chocolatey than a brownie. Tuck one into your sweetheart’s lunch box and they’ll know you love them. 816 W. 46th St., Minneapolis, 612-822-1119, rusticabakery.com
 

Chocolate Sauce

Good chocolate sauce is one of the most brilliant things you can keep in your pantry—it turns even orange slices into dessert. River Chocolate Company makes what may be the country’s best, combining chocolates from Venezuela, Belgium, and lots of other places with premium ingredients, such as Vietnamese cinnamon and organic Wisconsin cream. Available at Whole Foods
 


Curry

HOT, SPICY, TART, AND TANGY—THE MOST UNIQUE AND AUTHENTIC VERSIONS IN TOWN

Rendang

Rendang is a dry curry made with belacan, a Malaysian shrimp paste that gives a winey, unidentifiable depth to meat. Try the beef rendang at Peninsula Malaysian and you’ll receive a plate of beef cubes that look a little like they’ve been dipped in sauce and left to dry, each one is tender and echoes with potent, jerky-like depths. 2608 Nicollet Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-871-8282, peninsulamalaysiancuisine.com
 

Caribbean

Harry Singh descends from Indians who settled on the island of Trinidad, and both his lamb curry and his chickpea and potato curry are weighty, savory complexities that echo with Caribbean influences. Try the roti dhalpouri, which is served in pigeon-pea stuffed flatbread. Add a little hot sauce and a little cooling anchar, and you’ve got a meal that changes with every bite. 2653 Nicollet Ave. S., Minneapolis, 612-729-6181, harrysinghs.com
 

Laksa

Laksa is a sort of curry soup that reflects the unique trade-route-crossroad that is Singapore. At Satay at 2 Go, it incorporates turmeric, from India, lemongrass (popular in southeast Asia), Malaysian coconut milk, and many more elements into a whole that is so vibrantly perfumed, so graceful, so yummy that you’ll want to guzzle your takeout soup straight from the container. 6670 150th St. W., Apple Valley, 952-891-8551, satay2go.com
 

Vegetarian

One secret to judging the quality of Indian curries: Can you see any whole mustard seeds? Good Indian cooks often cook whole mustard seeds in a bit of oil as they begin a dish, just as Western cooks sauté a bit of garlic. You see plenty of mustard seeds in Bombay 2 Go’s painstakingly handmade, vibrantly flavored, and unbelieveably cheap vegetable curries. 840 Central Ave. NE, Minneapolis, 612-788-4571, bombay2deli.com

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