Professionals in the film industry have the Academy Awards. The music industry has the Grammys. Chefs and restaurateurs, cookbook authors and food journalists have the James Beard Awards. Those awards—at the national level—are prestigious and well-deserved and honorable, but sometimes it’s nice to celebrate on the local stage, too.
Local thespians have the Ivey Awards. Local musicians have the Minnesota Music Awards. But what about the independent restaurants in the Twin Cities community? How do we—as Minnesotans—recognize this amazing pool of talent?
Enter the inaugural Charlie Awards, the brainchild of Minnesota’s own James Beard Award-Winning food journalist (and Minnesota Monthly’s “Omnivore” columnist) Sue Zelickson. Named after the legendary Charlie’s Café Exceptional restaurant, the “Charlies” were created to honor and pay tribute to our local, independent culinary and hospitality industry.
One of the new award categories is best food item per neighborhood (Minneapolis Downtown, Minneapolis South, Minneapolis, Northeast, Twin Cities West & St. Paul Area). Over 100 independent restaurants registered to participate, submitting a menu item they believed best represented their establishment. The restaurants were put to a public online vote, and—drum roll, please—the top 10 finalists are: Caribe Caribbean Bistro (Creole lobster-stuffed mofongo), Crave – Mall of America (Mexican roll – sushi), Doolittles Woodfire Grille (two locations, both for the woodfired rotisserie chicken), Gold Nugget Tavern and Grill (stadium burger), Modern Café (pot roast), Porter Creek Hardwood Grill (salmon with roasted corn sauce), Smack Shack (lobster roll), Solera (meat and fish paella), and Zen Box Izakaya (spicy kimchi ramen).
A panel of local food enthusiasts have been visiting the restaurants and trying the dishes, and will announce the winner at the awards ceremony this Sunday, Nov. 20, at the Pantages Theatre in downtown Minneapolis. In addition, the ceremony will honor individuals and businesses—as determined by peer vote—in the categories of Lifetime Achievement; Community Hero; Chef; Emerging Chef; Wait Staff; Pastry Chef; Restaurant; and Restaurant Design.
The audience is sure to be a “who’s who” of the Twin Cities dining community—hardworking, modest individuals responsible for raising the local dining scene bar in recent years.
Tickets to the noon VIP brunch Nov. 20—held at the Walker Room in LaSalle Plaza—are $65 each. The menu for the VIP brunch and after-party will be prepared by culinary students from Le Cordon Bleu, The St. Paul College, Art Institutes International, and Hennepin Technical College. A portion of the proceeds from the brunch will benefit Second Harvest Heartland.
Tickets for the main awards show, sponsored by Minnesota Monthly, are $35 each. The ticket fee includes an after-party in the IDS Crystal Court. For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit charliesexceptionale.com.
*Leave a comment below naming your favorite dish at your favorite Twin Cities restaurant to be entered into a drawing for a pair of tickets to this exciting inaugural event! Comments accepted until 4 p.m. Nov. 17. Winners will be notified via email.