As the lights dim and twinkle, the snow falls softly on the frozen ground and we gather friends and family to mark the passing of another year. This is the time to cast an eye and grumbling stomach back over the year and remark upon the way the dining landscape has changed for the better.
This year has been filled with fantastic new food destinations, but these are the three I never want to leave.
Butcher & the Boar
1121 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis (612)238-8888
When I met with Chef Jack Riebel and Peter Botcher in the basement kitchen of what would soon be the Butcher & the Boar, it was clear there was no shortage of ideas. The two were busting out meats like an MC spits rhymes – fast, furious and tasty. They pulled out dishes from the cooler to try. Items like the pickled shrimp and turkey braunschweiger had me swooning. Then, they fired up the grill. You never forget your first Butcher & the Boar footlong.
As soon the doors swung open, they quickly became a hub of delicious activity. It’s my favorite place for meeting some of my rowdier friends for bourbon cocktails and a menu stacked with dishes that never miss.
Every inch from the penny laid floor to the meticulously curated beer, wine and booze lists were carefully plotted ahead of time and then quickly tweaked to best serve the downtown denizens.
The menu is filled with hearty fare that pleases just about any palate. Even vegetarians will be pleased with delicious items like their cheddar cheese stuffed grits, cedar planked mushrooms or any of the fish and shellfish dishes. If your people like food, they will find plenty to love at Butcher and the Boar.
One more thing to love was their Pride celebration this summer. I’ve definitely got a new homebase those mint juleps make a perfect summer day even better.
The Left Handed Cook
920 East Lake Street, Minneapolis (612) 208-0428
Thomas Kim and Kat Melgaard blew in from L.A. on a chilly breeze full of punk rock optimism. The two made the decision to flee the traffic fueled life for the more artistically supportive Minneapolis vibe. They found their restaurant space inside Midtown Global Market and immediately set about changing perceptions of what food from a modest space could be. Kat’s killer design aesthetic added elegance and burnished the rough edges into a hip, comfortable little spot with a small counter lit with a little chandelier.
The problem is that Midtown Global Market has always had a fabulous array of great food items. Now, I almost never get my old stand bys because the rotating specials on their board are too intriguing. Kim’s take on Brussels sprouts have simply ruined all others. A mixture of orange supremes, parmesan cheese, beautifully charred, flaky greens tossed in bacon vinaigrette are just as good as this humble little brassicaceae could be.
Then there is the fried chicken; the best in town. Tempura, crispy crust dashed with seasonings from around the globe that wind up tasting perfectly down home. The poutine quickly unseated my other favorite as the new big daddy beast of the best belly stretching food in town, fries topped with gravy, kimchee and an egg just for decadent good measure.
The name and address may have stayed the same, along with their commitment to sustainability; however this is not the staid little bistro that it once was. Everything from ownership to wall color, to a beautiful sign painted on the outside walls is new. Heck, they’re even taking reservations on their website! Corner Table might be a familiar name, but the new crew have remade this neighborhood sweet spot into a dining destination.
Nick and Chenny Rancone took ownership earlier this year and along with Chef Thomas Boemer have built their dream. Nick and Chenny have years of experience in the front of house, so they know how to care for their customers. In a setting this intimate, it’s easy to feel like newfound friends with the Rancone’s and their staff.
Chef Boemer’s European-influenced technique results in elegant executions of local ingredients in which he also shares a bit of his sense of humor. Dishes like bacon and eggs featured the best example of what a pork belly can be alongside some perfectly cooked eggs that looked like polenta, spread on toast like pate and tasted like a dream.
While Nick works out fantastic wine lists, he and Thomas will taste and build new menus – often daily. Each dish, each sip – everything building towards a perfectly, blissful bite. The greatest compliment they give is, “This makes me happy.” And isn’t that what we all want from a dining experience, or life from that matter? Corner Table is a welcome respite of comfort, exquisite flavors and welcoming camaraderie, a place to share a brief moment of pure happiness.
UNION is up and running. We’re very excited about this new venture inside the former Shinders in downtown Minneapolis. Expect to see more in these very pages, very soon. 731 Hennepin Ave, Mpls
World Street Kitchen, the fast-casual concept from the brothers Wadi (who also own Saffron) is open in Uptown. They took all that we love about the truck and then brought it indoors. If you can bear to tear yourself away from the Yum Yum Rice bowl, try the Moroccan spiced fried chicken. C’est YUM. 2743 Lyndale Ave S, Mpls
The King & I Thai has taken their final bow. We’re sad to see this date night favorite shutter their doors.
Pierre’s Bistro shut their doors in October, but the space won’t be dormant for long. Nearby Broder’s is expected to re-open as a wine bar. 221 West 50th St, Mpls