Nuevo Wave

Picosa dishes up flavors from south of the border on the Minneapolis riverfront

THOSE IN SEARCH of the most nuevo of Nuevo Latino cuisine need look no further than St. Anthony Main. Picosa now occupies the site of the former Sophia jazz club, a space still known for its clubby dance floor and picturesque outdoor seating.

The restaurant has an ambitious charter: It dips deeply into Central and South American pantries while tailoring aspects of the menu for local palates. The wide-ranging aspiration pays dividends, but not without a price; for every gem on the menu, there’s a dish that could use revision.

Chef/owner Lindell Mendoza kicks off meals with panache, serving baskets of warm fry bread, the deep-fried leavened dough that is a staple of Southwestern American Indian cuisine. Each piece resembles a large, savory, spiced beignet, its pillowy center complemented by a crisp, lightly seasoned exterior. Combined with tomatillo salsa verde, it’s culinary dynamite. It was unfortunate, then, that servers plunked the fry bread down at the table without explanation or ceremony. Such indifference was pervasive, giving the impression that Picosa’s wait staff didn’t know the menu as well as it should have.

On the food front, there were also rocky moments. The shrimp-and-avocado shooters, a creative take on the oyster version, were chunky and meek. The chicken-and-chorizo pupusas swam in a mild-to-a-fault salsa that drowned whatever spice the chorizo brought to the party.

But there were hits, too. A mahi-mahi entrée served with roasted-pineapple relish was delicious; the fish was tender and the pineapple’s flavor practically glowed. The octopus salad, three tiny whole grilled octopi, had light, fresh flavors—though it suffered from its macabre plating.

With more staff training and fine-tuning of the menu, Picosa should live up to its potential. For now, your best bet is to take a seat on the patio, order an intensely minty mojito, and enjoy the river view.

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Where to find Minnesota’s signature apple breeds

The five millionth Honeycrisp tree was planted last year—global kudos for the delectable apple, which was introduced to the public by University of Minnesota researchers in 1991. U researchers followed with the Zestar apple, which came to market in the early 2000s. While Zestar doesn’t have the explosively crisp texture as Honecrisp, it’s a comparably juicy apple with excellent sweet-tart flavor. An early ripener, Minnesota-grown Zestars are available in late August, while local Honeycrisps are available beginning in late September. Here’s where to find ‘em:

» Retail

Honeycrisp apples are widely available at local grocery stores, co-ops, and farmers’ markets. Find Zestar apples at Lunds and Byerly’s (various locations), the Wedge in Minneapolis (2105 Lyndale Ave. S., 612-871-3993), Mississippi Markets in St. Paul (622 Selby Ave., 651-310-9499; 1810 Randolph Ave., 651-690-0507), the Minneapolis Farmers Market (312 E. Lyndale Ave. N. and Nicollet Mall, 612-333-1718), the St. Paul Farmers’ Market (290 E. Fifth St., 651-227-8101), and the Arboretum SummerHouse in Chanhassen (1 mile west of the Arboretum on Highway 5, 952-443-1409).

» Pick-your-own

Apple Jack Orchards

, 4875 37th St. SE, Delano, 763-972-6673
Carlson’s Orchard Bakery and Restaurant, 11893 Montgomery Ave. SW, Winsted, 320-485-3704
Homestead Orchard, 1080 Co. Rd. 92, Maple Plain, 763-479-3186
Minnetonka Orchards, 6530 Co. Rd. 26, Minnetrista, 763-479-6530
Thompson’s Hillcrest Orchard, 6271 E. 250th St., Elko, 952-461-2055