June 18, 2024

AmericanHummus

Food & Travel Enthusiast

The 50 Best Restaurants in Minneapolis and St. Paul

Table of Contents

An East Coast chef came to town a few months ago to cook for a special dinner. I had coffee with him the following morning next to his hotel in downtown Minneapolis. He mentioned to me that he’d had a hard time finding things open after the dinner service when he’d gone out in search of a nightcap. He was telling me about the other cities he’d been visiting and how life had returned since the pandemic. I told him, “Well, we’ve been through more than most cities.”

I wouldn’t normally start out with such a melancholy tone, but it’s only because I’m so very optimistic and truly believe that we are heading in a good direction. This industry has weathered so much over the past few years, and I can honestly say that things have been learned; limits have been tested; and while we have lost, we have also gained.

I think this year’s MSP 50 rings with presence. There’s joy to be found in the restaurant food on this list, and we don’t take a crumb for granted. We find joy in breakfast sandwiches that you grab on your way back to work. We find it on a table full of Ethiopian tibs that have become part of your date-night tradition. It’s there in the Basque cheesecake that you save room for, in the gnocchi that you inhale post–hockey game, and in the tofu mozzarella that deliciously keeps you rooted on the path you have chosen. These are some of the best moments at the Best Restaurants in the Twin Cities, and the joy is yours if you know where to look. Just follow the Golden Fork.

S.M.

Scroll to the full list.


Restaurants That Changed the Way We Eat

If it were plates instead of stars on the First Avenue wall, these are the 50 names we would paint in homage. The following are restaurants—some long gone, others still here—that have made an impact on the Twin Cities dining scene. Read More >>



Knows How to Throw a Party

These spots have a reputation for hosting great events, and we love them for it.

Bungalow Club

If it’s not Wednesday Burger Club or a Txakolina Basque wine tasting party on the patio, you might find yourself gathering with the neighborhood at Sunday Night Pasta n’ Trap. That’s when toothy bucatini in the cacio e pepe style or cannelloni stuffed with smoked whitefish in a saffron butter play along with a hip-hop playlist as the specialties of the night. Andrew Kraft’s menus seem suited to passing plates among friends.

Hai Hai

Christina Nguyen is so dedicated to supporting good causes, it’s hard to find a charity event in the city that doesn’t have this chef handing out tasty samples of her Vietnamese cooking. But this summer, when she and her pals threw a giant chefs’ potluck for reproductive rights, the event not only sold out; it sold out wicked fast. On two separate weekends, big names in local food and drink served up a party that overflowed Hai Hai’s Northeast parking lot, proving again how powerful love and food can be.

Smack Shack

It should not be lost on anyone that the signature drink at the house of the seafood boil is the Hurricane. Not the Old Fashioned or a martini, but a long, tall, boozy toast to NOLA and all the fun that implies. If you have any doubt about the good times that buzz like background music through this place, you need only dip into the mudbug-sucking, finger-licking, all-you-can-eat late-summer North Loop block party that is Crayfest. No one plays harder.

The Lynhall

Did you know that Afternoon High Tea can be a hard ticket to book? With FOMO driving daily life, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that an invitation to slow down and elegantly sip is so coveted. Thank goodness The Lynhall in Edina does it with such panache. An antique tea cart allows for a tableside selection of leaves, along with a three-tiered service of small sandwiches, pastries, and desserts.


Kimchi Tofu House: Warming your heart and soul and stomach.

You really know that Kimchi Tofu House is like nowhere else when the little dishes of whole raw eggs land at your table. You crack them into the roiling boil of hot pot the spot is famed for. Most people get the tofu hot pot—it’s full of tender, fresh tofu, as different from grocery store tofu as fresh mozzarella is from cheddar. Then you crack and dump your egg, stir, watch it cook, and raise a spoon as you become transformed by the jolt of chili, the richness of egg, the tender cloud of tofu. After, you immediately start planning your return for another crack.


Boomin BBQ: Smoking up an actual storm.

Dylan Boerboom and Garrison Sherwood are putting their whole beings behind Texas smoked barbecue. Late this summer, along with Animales BBQ, they fought with the City of Minneapolis to change outdated food truck laws that would essentially shut down outdoor smokers for food trucks and trailers. The edgy experimentation and joie de vivre with smoked meats that the truck offers up each short season would be sorely missed, as they’re still slowly rolling toward restaurant ownership but not quite there yet. Places like this, cooks like these, represent the fire that keeps our restaurant scene warm and bubbling, and the last thing we want is for wins like this to go cold and dark. See for yourself. Just try their beef cheek sandwich or the sliced picanha, which is a hard-to-find luscious cut of meat. If there are beef ribs on the menu, you need to jump on them. Let’s just let the kids cook, shall we?


The Grocer’s Table: Feeding your best life—and the one you actually live.

As a town that often sees itself as the Hamptons of the metro, Wayzata has plenty of places where you can flash a buck, drop a name, park a Maserati, and get all the attention. But instead of playing to the attitudes and bigwigs, The Grocer’s Table offers a different game. It’s created a humble and nourishing space that is all about hospitality and feeding your life instead of your ego. From pickup family-style meal packs to easygoing sandwiches and pizzas, the kitchen is focused on true quality instead of flashy trends. No wonder it’s packed.


Patios, Not Rooftops

Stay street level for a more intimate outdoor experience where the view is your food.

Tilia

Chef Steven Brown is the Gen X king of effortless cool. Whether you’re taking that Paris trip via a glass of champagne at St. Genevieve or doing the vaguely European train journey that Tilia evokes, Brown just tosses perfect delights your way. A seasonal delight not to miss: the newish Tilia back patio. It’s so marvelously pretty it feels like a film set, with brick walls covered with climbing vines and romantic planters filled with interesting flowers. This spot offers another remarkably cool Steven Brown experience, but one where you and your pals can be—and see—the stars.

Sidebar at Surdyk’s

There’s nothing better than walking your favorite pup over to Surdyk’s streetside patio and hunkering down to enjoy the best mac and cheese in town, made as it is with tangy Collier’s cheddar, sharp moliterno pecorino, and gooey Swiss raclette. Maybe you slip a cheesy noodle to your best bud, maybe you summon a glass of Northern Rhône Syrah from the people who know their way around the world’s vineyards? Whatever adventure you choose, it’s urban connoisseurship at its finest on one of Minneapolis’s most famed avenues.

Khâluna

Vacations are self-care. We’re all agreed on that, right? But we’re also forced to admit we’re pretty busy these days. So what now? Report to Ann Ahmed’s covered patio, get a chair beside a potted palm, and ask your server for a Balinese fruited tonic, fragrant with the scent of real jujube dates. If you’re really in the mood for a full-on girlfriends getaway, maybe reserve the Patio Lounge for your private group? Set out plenty of chicken samosas and pineapple noodles, and don’t worry about anyone overhearing any good gossip, because the space is all yours.

Heather’s

One of the good things to have come out of the pandemic is how it turned parking lots into backyards. Heather’s back lot has become a tent party like only the best backyards are able to achieve, with string lights, heaters, even a chandelier. Neighbors still mix and mingle under the tent, hopping from table to table while plates full of pleasing and affable fare land to call them back to their chairs. A bit of weather doesn’t scare the neighbors; they’ve got the canvas coverage they need and the Hale Burger they crave.


Churchill St.: Even the suburbs deserve great food.

Quietly, up in the northern suburbs, a restaurant molded out of a hardware store is cooking fantastic food. It’s true that there is some pedigree in the founding kitchen team, with Bachelor Farmer alums setting the tone for what the benchmarks could be. But it’s never the consultants that make a place in the long run; it’s the home team. Owner Carly Gatzlaff put her faith in chef Aaron Marthaler to run the kitchen, and it seems to have been the right move. From brunch to (finally) dinner, the kitchen sends out plate after plate of homespun dishes that have been created with an eye on technique. Blueberry pancakes are cooked in bacon fat, the chicken sandwich sports a buttermilk-soaked thigh, walleye catches a boost from sultanas, and it all gets elevated beyond what expectations might geographically assume. All this while paying attention to the other home team, the neighborhood, and never taking it for granted.


Thriving, Not Just Surviving

They feared the worst, but a few came out finding their best.

Spoiler alert: Restaurants did not all disappear this year. It has been a dicey stretch these last couple of years, for sure. But instead of fearmongering about the collapsing supply chains or the bone-dry labor market, we are rather overjoyed to be able to pen some words of celebration. Because some restaurants are not only surviving; they’re thriving.

Call me the eternal optimist, but it feels like a number of restaurants that came out of the pandemic have a renewed sense of self. A few places had the room to really decide what was important and what should be brought back and what shouldn’t when the world opened again.

Meritage is the best example that I can think of. Russell and Desta Klein’s St. Paul French restaurant rings in 15 years old this year. In any timeline, that’s a significant number to hang on the wall. But the Meritage of today is much different than the one that closed in 2020. Open only for four days a week, Thursday through Sunday, the kitchen just cooks dinner. No lunch, no brunch. While they never say never, the Kleins don’t think those services are coming back anytime soon. Both the owners and the staff feel they have a new life-work balance and believe that increasing shifts would only stretch the workforce and stress the balance without adding a significant value to the whole system.

There’s something melodic in the way the place hums now because there’s more balance and less turnover. The dedicated team feels invested in their space. The bar crew of JR, Justin, and Alex work in concert to cover both the guests and the service team. Sitting at the zinc-topped rail you’ll find out-of-towners, single workers typing on a laptop, longtime regulars, and Alex’s retired father on Friday nights—all of whom get the same serious attention and leave with a piece of Meritage real estate in their hearts. Maybe that feels hard-won for downtown St. Paul, which empties out after 5 pm, but it’s the reason people drive from all over the metro to land there.

The other examples I think of, oddly enough, show up brightly in one neighborhood. It’s true that on Friday and Saturday nights North Loop feels like the nightlife heir apparent to the sadly defunct Uptown, but it actually holds on to more originals than the latter. Bar La Grassa, opened in 2009, has a loyal following that is still the envy of the Loop. Isaac Becker and Nancy St. Pierre haven’t actually changed much, and why should they? The Italian menu feels both timeless and exciting. When we asked industry workers back in August what they like to eat, BLG dishes like the calamarata with raw tuna and the smoked spaghetti alla chitarra with brown butter and lobster came tumbling out as luxuries they coveted not for the status but for the simple quality, originality, and ultimate feeling of satisfaction that comes from eating the best.

Try to find a 7 pm reservation at BLG, and you’ll have to look at least three weeks in advance. While new places pop up around it with shinier concepts luring fad diners away, the tables at BLG still fill again and again. Contrary to current conventional wisdom, Becker and St. Pierre did not install neon writing and a green wall for Instagrammable moments, and it hasn’t done a thing to shake their core diners. But they have joined Instagram, their first post landing on September 24, 2021, so maybe they did change one thing.

Just across the alley, Borough still might be considered the new kid in comparison to BLG. When 2013 shone bright and the neighborhood started to evolve into what it is today, Borough was the opening salvo from Jester Concepts. What’s crazy about this place is that it has seen almost nothing but change. The opening chefs (Nick O’Leary and Tyler Shipton) tried to install a collaborative kitchen like that of their former employers, Travail, but it didn’t really stick. Both chefs are long gone, as are many others who have stood at the pass. The basement bar, Parlour, an early entrant in the cocktail game, nearly eclipsed the upstairs restaurant by skyrocketing a smashy deluxe burger onto our scene. The question became, “Is there any food other than the Parlour burger at Borough?”

Through all of this, the company grew and stretched across the metro, opening and closing a few concepts, buying and refashioning the La Belle Vie space, hiring award-winning chef Mike DeCamp to oversee all culinary. All the while, Borough kept humming and weathering the change.

What we find today, just nine years later, is a solid neighborhood restaurant that anchors an area bent on change. It’s a worthy home base to the many apartment dwellers, who don’t seem to care about the name behind the stoves. They come in packs to push tables together for a communal dinner before a later night out; they work at the bar, chatting up their favorite bartender between emails and phone calls; they bring date after date to a space they know they can trust. Is it uncool for  a restaurant to be like a warm sweater that seems to go with every outfit? Or is it enviable?

But as the neighborhood shifts again into its current high gear of change, we look to a place that was a catalyst for such motion. While you might guess that I’m speaking of Spoon and Stable, which has worn its own groove with local eaters, I’m really talking about Gavin Kaysen’s other restaurant: Demi. You see, Spoon, like the neighborhood, is more democratic. There’s no dress code other than “cool”; you can sit at the bar if you never intend to truly fine dine with full table service; and there’s a late-night menu that says, “Hey, roll in after a show, and you’ll be well fed.”

Demi, on the other hand, narrows the field a bit more. There are only seats for the 20 of those quick enough to score a ticketed meal. It serves only set-course tasting menus, not a choose-your-own-path kind of night. You can’t just pop in; there is no bar to post up at. And yet, Demi has regulars. While many people will consider it a special-occasion place, there are a few who have made it part of their monthly rotation. I personally know a pair of gents who have made it to a Demi dinner every month, and they eat all around town too. Given the excess of mainstream eating (the pizza, the burgers, etc.) that has blossomed over the last two years, it’s heartening and good that a refined restaurant dedicated to pushing the limits of cuisine is still going strong. It’s important that this kind of intensely personal and technique-driven restaurant won out over the ghost kitchens. And maybe it’s the proof of life that the neighborhood needed to set the next phase in motion.

Because the big guns are coming, and they’re coming in strong. Down the very same street that holds Spoon and Stable, we’ll soon see a two-level French cabaret extravaganza from David Fhima. The former Bachelor Farmer space will be a Daniel del Prado Argentinean steak house. The West Hotel is being built a few paces east with a Tim McKee restaurant that brings an homage to Basque cooking. And down the block, Josh Thoma is working on a tequila-based restaurant. All are supposed to debut in 2023, and none would be happening if they didn’t think that a winning streak like Meritage was still possible. Welcome back, dining. —S.M.


Basement Is Best

Doing great and refined food upstairs does not mean you can’t party underground.

Billy Sushi

Upstairs, while the well-heeled are enjoying their Silly Billy rolls or Wagyu nigiri, sometimes a sports-world notable or Hollywood icon strolls through, heading toward the back. Maybe they’re headed to the cavernous basement bar known as Billy After Dark (B.A.D.), with a wall of rare Japanese whiskey, a bartender’s bar with no rail, and plenty of dark corners soaked in ’90s hip-hop sound waves. Here’s the thing: It’s not just for out-of-town stars. If you treat the bartenders well, it’s for you, too.

Travail Kitchen

Remember when you would build elaborate forts and imaginary worlds in your basement rec room and play for days? Travail’s Basement Bar is like that, but with booze. Rotating concepts, the team is using the Basement Bar as a play space for visiting chefs and creatives to stretch and innovate. Tim McKee spent the summer making snacky Basque skewers, which the Travailians paired with cocktail flights that were equal in vision. The Haunted Basement Bar trip of autumn brought cheeky frights that challenged and entertained. Whatever’s next, you can bet that it won’t be boring.

Sooki and Mimi

The sublevel drinkers’ den beneath Uptown’s Sooki and Mimi reaches both backward and forward. The stacked midcentury-modern credenzas that form the walls and the analog vinyl collection that spins in the corner set a tone that may call up memories of Uptown’s heyday as a cool and irreverent arts district challenging the Cities’ status quo. Though it’s in a period of transition, this neighborhood still holds possibilities for the next generation who might be looking for quality beverages and unique gathering spots—ones that don’t require rooftop splash and a pack-’em-in mentality. This bar speaks to them.


Boludo: Crust that defies gravity.

Pizza crust is not generally praised for lightness, but the Boludo crust is light in ways that are hard to believe if you’ve never had it. Sort of like cotton candy caught between super-crisp crusts, but not sweet? Sort of like fry bread but not oily? It’s a unique crust, and somehow its buoyant lightness is able to hold up, even stand up to, toppings as intense as Gorgonzola and pears or chorizo, onions, and mushrooms. It’s like the relationship between the clouds and the earth, yet upside down—with the earth as the toppings and the cloud as the crust—but it’s even more exciting than that. Facundo DeFraia zips around, lending authentic Argentinean spirit and cool, and somehow inspires everyone to raise the question: Why not have another glass of the good Malbec or a fernet and Coke? If the pizza defies gravity, why can’t we all?


Pagoda: Dumplings on wheels.

We’ve had a pretty stable dim sum situation in the Twin Cities for a while. People head to St. Louis Park’s Yangtze for a homey take with sturdy, lovely dumplings, to Mandarin Kitchen in Bloomington for the crowds, or to the various Tea Houses for their many specialties. Pagoda, now in Roseville, is the friendly dim sum place, and that’s what always gives it a special spot in our hearts. In a big bright yellow room, families and friends join tables for the communal feast. Find bottomless mimosas for your girlfriend’s birthday, and opt for the all-you-can-eat option when you’re super dumpling-hungry. Most importantly: You can get dim sum almost every day, for those who work on the weekends. So, grab a table, and let the feast roll in!


Reverie Cafe and Bar: A celebration of eating plants.

Plant-based food fascination has hit an all-time hotness and shows no signs of cooling. When this kind of new flame glimmers in the eyes of the moneymakers, we get a slew of packaged goods and fast, techy innovations to make things that aren’t meat act like meat. That’s all fine and good for the movement, but perhaps it leaves the actual eaters a little cold. Thankfully, we have Reverie Cafe, which celebrates the ingredients and not just the act of a plant-based diet. Without the dullery of comparison, a poppy seed bagel with house-made cashew cream cheese and smoked beet “lox” is a fresh way to start any day. The burger patties are made in-house, not in a lab, and the Grilled Kimcheese Sandwich with tofu mozzarella, smoked Gouda sauce, and kimchi–Brussels sprout slaw with tempeh bacon is a maxed-out umami bomb of a lunch. All of this comes together in a space that feels welcoming and authentically itself. Bottom line: Reverie appreciates your commitment but respects your palate while working hard to earn your love.


Sandwich Days

The humble sandwich is as much a canvas for a city’s eating scene as any snooty dish.

Mi-Sant: Banh Mi

Let’s just start the petition for this to be the state sandwich of Minnesota. Crusty bread, perfectly bright spice—it’s the world in your hands.

Alma Provisions: Egg Sandwich

Never underestimate the power of a breakfast sandwich. Especially one that’s been smartly swathed with pimento cheese.

Mr. Paul’s Supper Club: Po’boys

There’s a lovefest with this Louisiana sandwich, and not just because it comes from downriver. Maybe it’s a kinship with fried fish that has us smitten.

Pancho’s: Quesabirria

Is a taco a sandwich? Go ahead and fight about it; we’ll be over here dipping these cheese-laden beauties into the broth.

Uncle Franky’s: Chicago Beef

If a TV show can lionize a sandwich, we’re happy to crown our local best version. Overflowing with beef, riddled with sport peppers—you’ll want a fork.

Honey and Rye: Ham Sandwich

Not enough has been written about the simple allure of a well-built ham and cheese (or better yet, butter) sandwich. This one is tops.

My Burger: Double Cali

A fast burger, but make it local, make it perfectly seasoned, make it hot and saucy with fries on the side to make it a meal. This hometown chain beats all others.

El Cubano: Classic Cubano

A tiny neighborhood restaurant at the top of St. Paul cranks out namesake sandwiches that are toasty, meaty, and bright with just the right amount of mustard.

Chip’s Clubhouse: Pork Tenderloin

Why is it so hard to find a pork tenderloin sandwich that overflows its bun and reaches as long as your forearm? While the rest of you catch up, we’ll be eating the current king on Snelling.


Bolé Ethiopian Cuisine: Bringing that bright sizzle.

Burned to the ground during the George Floyd uprising, this little spot reopened in a new building to bring us all a message about resilience and seriously amazing tibs. Tibs, that Ethiopian feast dish that’s something halfway between sizzle-plate fajitas and a stew, are a specialty of chef/owner Rekik Abaineh, who grew up in Ethiopia. She makes tibs of all kinds, including chicken, fish, and lamb, though she’s particularly famous for her Zil Zil beef tibs with berbere spice. They’re so very tender and fragrantly smoke up at you from the sizzle platter. Sizzle, of every sort, is Abaineh’s strength: She doesn’t just fold injera flatbread and serve it in a basket; she cuts it into pretty rolls. She isn’t content with all-earth-tone veggie dishes and instead brightens up her platters with red roast beets with turmeric. Plus, she makes the best Ethiopian cheesecake in town.


The Regulars

Neighborhood haunts have become all too important in the last few years.

Gus Gus

St. Paul has two sides. There’s the public-facing side that tells of a regular world-class city with great museums. Then there’s the secret side that can point out Grandma’s dollar bill pinned to The Nook’s basement bar ceiling. Gus Gus is the restaurant for those who love and live both sides; all are welcome in the street-level bar and restaurant below an old apartment building. Chef Kevin Manley and his wife/heart-of-it-all, Anna Morgan, provide the best fries in town; au courant Jell-O shots; and sturdy, lush gnocchi.

All Saints

When All Saints opened in the former Bardo space, the Northeast neighbors wondered, Will this place continue to have lighting that makes everyone look like a movie star and food you could eat weekly and be surprised, delighted, or comforted depending on the needs of your day? Answer: Yes and yes. Kim Tong brings the cocktails and hospitality that make neighbors feel like they’re part of a very martini-forward community, while chef Denny Leaf-Smith sets out homemade pappardelle tender as the thoughts you have about your beloved when you both have a highball and look like movie stars.

Little Tijuana

Four restaurant pros took the late-night legend across from MCAD and turned it into the leading Gen Z art bar of the moment with a vibe that’s a little trolling, a little if-you-know-you-know. Don’t think the unaltered awning means you can still get those OG burritos; they’re gone. Chef Dan Manosack cooked at Portland’s famed Le Pigeon, and you taste it in every bite of his cozy little trembles of homemade curried pelmeni, but equally so in the drinker’s choice of a chopped cheese sandwich. And then there’s a Sazerac, but it’s not what you expect. Hit the bar menu by co-owner Bennett Johnson for sips capturing the essence of artsy, multicultural Whittier today.

Saint Dinette

Lowertown St. Paul is one of our most fiercely tasteful of neighborhoods. Locals shop at their crown jewel of a farmers’ market, bike along the beautiful newly built-out Mississippi riverside, and use world-class spaces like the Union Depot for their daily coffee. So what’s Lowertowners’ supremely tasteful meeting place? Saint Dinette, where owner Tim Niver carries on noble neighborhood traditions such as a gorgeous brunch omelet made decadent with a beurre blanc, that cult cheeseburger, and pastas and enchiladas made with the best of the farmers’ market, summoned from just outside the stylish door.

StepChld

There may not be a more active condo-building neighborhood in town than Old Town. With all those apartment dwellers stacked on top of each other, there’s no doubt of the need for a space to escape to that feels both expansively worldly and warmly like home. StepChld was built to deliver simple but soulful dishes laced with international flavors to anyone who needed it­—lone diners at the bar, every-night eaters who hate to cook, daters dating, or just the hungry.


Graze Food Hall: Organically an incubator of good tastes.

Graze offers a valuable service: something for everyone, from toddlers to the most extreme food-name-droppers. For the kiddies and the avocado-obsessed, Avocadish! For supporters of veterans and BBQ-heads, The Fabled Rooster slings a mean pulled pork. Lu’s Sandwiches runs Viva Taco and sells Vietnamese tacos and bowls. For the food tourists, Soul Bowl is the base of operations for chef Gerard Klass, a leader in the new Northern Soul movement. Try his grilled chicken thighs with a jerk pineapple sauce. And Union Hmong Kitchen is where you find America’s most celebrated Hmong chef, Yia Vang. Will your favorite be the pork lemongrass sausage plate, made with Vang’s dad’s family recipe? Or are you in more of a marinated-tofu kind of mood? Much of Graze’s success is due to the fact that it is the something-for-everyone place with two bars, a rooftop, and a lawn to boot.


Beyond Cake

It’s not so much about dessert; it’s about finishing strong and sweet.

Bebe Zito

Ben Spangler takes his supremely cheffy skills and deploys them in shocking but delicious ice cream ways—in a torched, semi-melted crème brûlée ice cream, for instance, or an ultra-premium scary Halloween ice cream with ghost pepper chocolate ganache mix-ins. No wonder Spangler and his marketing-whiz wife, Gabby Grant, are taking the city by storm. Bebe Zito is already in Uptown and Malcolm Yards, and all local dessert watchers are waiting, with spoons atremble, to see what it does in the new Eat Street Crossing spot.

Café Cerés

Shawn McKenzie is one of the great pastry talents of our current era. She rose to prominence as the sweets superhero at the side of Daniel del Prado, and more recently took over as top toque at legendary Rustica. But for pure McKenzie heart and smarts, get to Café Cerés. That chocolate babka with orange! Ridiculously difficult to make, with twisting intense chocolate and rich eggy dough each maintaining their own flavors, rising to new heights, dotted with the surprise of candied orange, insanely easy to eat, making morning coffee fancy or serving as a savory dinner-party dessert with ice cream.

Petite León

Chef Jorge Guzmán, recent James Beard Award nominee, is giving his all at his Kingfield eatery, which keeps stacking up national acclaim. One taste of his supremely intense and smoky lamb birria, and you’ll know why his cooking makes the savory fans swoon. That said, check out the tiny sweets menu for a glimpse of how the entirety of the restaurant excels. Caramelized and rich, the Basque cheesecake is novel for the cheesecake hounds, intriguing for the savory seekers, and a terrific tequila pair for the spirits connoisseurs (no, seriously).


Colita: Look to the tostada to see the future.

Daniel del Prado is the reigning champ of opening ultra-hot restaurants over the last five years. First, Martina in Linden Hills, then Colita; Rosalia; Josefina; Cardamom; Sanjusan (a collaboration with Japanese chef Shigeyuki Furukawa); Macanda; and, most recently, Bar Rufus, Miaou Miaou, and Blondette in the historic Rand Tower Hotel. Upon receiving news that del Prado’s team had purchased the former Bachelor Farmer building for a 2023 Argentinean steak concept, all of foodie Minneapolis was like, Whoa, this chef is taking over! If you want to understand why, Colita is probably the best example. When considering his lobster tostada, for instance, you can pick out points of light and ocean (for the lobster), spice (guajillo chilies and Fresno chilies), salt (fish roe), sweet (sweet corn), richness (beurre blanc and a separate rémoulade), and fresh herbs. Between those points, he builds in space so that you can taste every one of the emphasized points. When you’re eating del Prado dishes, you just feel like you suddenly got your first pair of eyeglasses, but for food. Everything is so much clearer than it ever was before! Add in some sexy cocktails and the buzzy sense of style and drama, and you just want to be where del Prado is. So, he keeps opening new doors, literally, to allow it to happen.


Farmers Kitchen and Bar: It makes sense that farmers own a restaurant.

Lots of restaurants claim a farm-to-table ethos, but only one in downtown Minneapolis is actually owned and operated by actual farmers via the Minnesota Farmers Union, which advocates for the interests of local farmers. This menu is supplied by local farmers at every level. Chef Kris Koch, a true restaurant old hand, knows all the old-school French-derived ways but uses his skills to make all-American classics just seem better than you would imagine they could be. His Garden Melt of fresh veggies united by tomato jam and fresh Alemar cheese has to be the best veggie sandwich in town. If you recently got to know the Farmers Union for its State Fair–winning new food this year, please know that the pork schnitzel sandwich is now on the menu at Farmers Kitchen, and it’s a spectacular rich and golden triumph, a fitting tribute to the farmers of our great state.


Rethinking the Game

Proving the rule that this industry makes room for creatives and innovators.

Myriel

When everyone was running toward pizza places and taco joints with streamlined tech ordering, Karyn Tomlinson said, What about highly special and sorta French? Small and intimate, Myriel is simple elegance made edible with foraged ingredients, Grandma’s pie crust, and the giddy touch of a chef comfortable in her own space. You don’t scroll through a menu online; you trust her kitchen and sign up for a tasting menu that might include braised duck legs on lentils or a brightly vivacious yet humble carrot salad served on nostalgic plates that have a clear and solid place in 2022 and beyond.

Nixta

It’s hard to admit we grew Chi-Chi’s into the empire it became, allowing it to teach us what a tortilla should be. Thank goodness we are slowly unlearning things due to Gustavo Romero’s mission to bring heirloom corn and nixtamalized tortillas to the far reaches of the metro. His family’s Nixta is doing this by meeting us where we are: by selling the tortillas in grocery stores, by offering take-home meals that you eat how you like, and by bringing his skills and flavors to other restaurants and pop-ups to hammer home what is good and beautiful about a real tortilla.

Revival Smoked Meats

The long-standing archetype of barbecue joints is that there must be a cartoon pig and walls overly adorned with street signs and memorabilia in order to, perhaps, transport us to a mythical smoked meat shack in the South? Not needed. Revival adorns its Kingfield shop with real smoke from its massive smoker, and Thomas Boemer’s intensely honed recipes bring the credibility. The space intentionally throws off shacky convention as a breezy, keenly designed smoked meat palace that doesn’t need a roll of paper towels on the table to prove anything to anyone.

Paris Dining Club

Jamie Malone has taken the restaurant experience back. With all the noise that social media can cause and all the expectation that comes with national accolades, Malone has chosen to pull back and focus on the small things that deliver big: style, hospitality, refinement. In her private space, the Paris Dining Club is available for your small gatherings so that you may enjoy focused attention in a singular room. At home, the drop-off catering boxes give your own space the same warm shine with an expertly planned meal and glamorous touches like playlists and rentable stemware, along with her peerless cuisine, which is at once elevated, rooted, and nourishing.

Owamni

Much more than the best new restaurant in the country, according to the James Beard Foundation, Owamni is a movement more than a moment. Sean Sherman and Dana Thompson plan to change the way you know food and how it can taste without the addition of colonist ingredients like sugar, flour, or butter. While your first instinct is to compare this menu to others you have eaten, if you are open to it, you soon experience the warm embrace of Indigenous foods and their subtle flavors, their unique complexities, on their own. This restaurant asks us to imagine our eating lives as rich and intensely satisfying in ways that could reset the national palate.

Kaiseki Furukawa

Steeped in a tradition that evolved from 16th-century Buddhist tea ceremonies, kaiseki dining and food have more in common with a poem or an opera than a typical meal. This is important to know as the chef guides you through his vision and insights about the meaning, and joys, of your moment in time. Obviously, not many people, on any given day, are willing to pause, think, consider, and feel through the art of food, but in Minneapolis, chef Shigey Furukawa makes a point of it and takes you on a journey. Trained in Kyoto by traditional kaiseki masters, he creates 10-or-so-course meals that are part poetry and part absolute razzle-dazzle, sensuous body-mind-and-soul food. In October, you might find imported ayu (sweetfish) paired with salmon caviar, roast chestnuts, a chrysanthemum daikon pickle, homemade salted mullet roe with trumpet mushrooms, and Japanese squash, with a maple chip. It’s a quiet little poem about autumn and the sea, and it speaks to you through your senses in a way you can’t access by mere words. Beyond good, Kaiseki Furukawa is a way of noticing and loving our precious world.


Centro: Keep evolving and spreading your crunchy wings.

Jami Olson and José Alarcon are betting on big things. Taking over the former Wedge Table, the team from Quincy Street has launched a multi-concept eatery that feels a bit like a micro food hall. Centro tacos and crunch wraps that are not Crunchwraps come from one counter. Cereal bars and breakfast cemita sandwiches come from the Vivir counter. And fresh new eats, like the spicy pepper–kicked burger and radish-loaded tots, come from the new Everywhen counter. Order by QR code when sitting at a table, or order from a human at the bar while you get your marg on. With more than 8,000 square feet, including the commissary kitchen and facilities, this site will help provide stability for a wholesale business, catering, and the expansion they are planning: a new St. Paul location for Centro. The concepts may travel afield together, or alone if the right space shows up. This is what working toward the future looks like.


The MSP 50

The 50 best restaurants of 2022, all in one list.