Friday, April 18, 2008

Top Ten Fridays - Restaurants

It’s about time I revisit the Twin Cities Top Ten Restaurants. Instead of ranking, I’ll pull a City Pages and rock this action categorically.

Most Romantic Restaurant: The Duplex

Heavy on the “awwww…” factor, this Uptown joint took over the egregious Pandora’s coffee shop a couple of years back. Splitting the bar and dining establishments by floor is genius, and the whole place screams “let’s have sex very soon”. Oh, and it’s pretty cheap, with entrees ranging from $12-17 and wine starting at $3 per glass. The best part, and I’ll say this until my face is blue, is the great selection of pasta dishes. This restaurant understand women the way old men understand Helen Hunt.

Best Asian Restaurant for White People: Gangchen

The owners of Gangchen play it smart, offering pan-asian dishes that actually possess a personality. Beyond that, I am tempted to name the cranberry curry the best dish in the whole damn city, earning it’s sweet-salty niche without resorting to gimmickry. Oh, and $10 gets you an appetizer and a martini the size of your head. At last, we are seeing life on the butt end of Eat Street.

Best Asian Restaurant: Jun Bo

This place seats like 600 people. It’s absurd. To top it off, each person could order a different dish and nobody would have the same thing. That is not an exaggeration. Plus, they have a special menu for whites, which features lo mein, battered chicken and all that garbage.

Best South of the Border Restaurant: Salsa a la Salsa

Can I take this time to ask a question? Why the hell is soup so expensive? The last soup I had cost me $6. Even Perkins charges a pretty penny for a hearty bowl. SALS, on the other hand, charges $5 for a quart of their incomparable pozole, complete with tortillas. Don’t let the Gringo-appeasing name fool you, the two locations (one on Eat Street, the other in Midtown Global market) are more than happy to serve you cactus with all the fixings. But you can also enjoy a chicken burrito. It’s your call. This place put Taco Morelos (not that bad in itself) out of business.

Best South of the Border Restaurant to Freak out White People: Los Andes

Just for fun, take your favorite Burnsville-residing acquaintance to Los Andes. The are itself will cause fits. Dirty buildings, projects, even a K-Mart. They should be openly weeping by the time they walk into this décor-free hole-in-the-wall, which inexplicably features numerous flat screen TVs (no volume, no captioning) all set to Spanish-language music videos. Be sure to point out the goat stew option on the menu. Never fear. The restaurant has a $2 wine feature, the best appetizer in the city (cheese or meat empanadas drizzled with sugar), and there are plenty of options that are literally meat and potatoes. And they can go back south of the river and tell all their friends about this restaurant run by strange dark people that serves goat.

Best Neighborhood Restaurant: Erte

Café Zander died before I even had a chance to see if it lived up to the hype. With that, I admonish you not to ignore Erte, which delivers on all cylinders at astonishingly low prices. Recently, I ordered a duck breast ensemble for $20. Any restaurant could have simply thrown one duck breast in a heap of syrupy malaise and called it a day. Hell, I probably would have smiled. Erte throws two duck breasts in an effervescent sauce on top of some tasty mashed potatoes. I took it as a love note. Oh, and the dry-aged steaks are impossibly cheap in addition to being delicious.

Best Cheap Eats: Wasabi

I am convinced that Wasabi is simply a front for drug trade, given that the fish seems to be sold at cost, and delivered by a wait-staff that is as likely to spill your drink on your crotch as in your cup. But hey, take it while you can. $10 for a sushi lunch in a city where it is not at all difficult to drop $100? Enjoy it while it lasts. I assure you it won’t.

Best bar: Sandy’s Tavern

Remember when you were in high school, and you had the one friend with a really cool basement, so you hung out in that basement a lot? That’s Sandy’s, one of the last working-class burger bars in the city. Nothing ironic about this dive-bar. You even have to come in the back door. Tucked between a Brueggers and, well, nothing, this Penn Ave. joint reminds us that Richfield is a step above it’s banal suburban brethren. And find me another place that serves an olive burger and cheese curds?

Best Restaurant I haven’t been to: La Belle Vie

It’s true. As a food snob, I have yet to partake of what everyone knows is the best restaurant in Minneapolis. At this point, it’s like the hot girl in school. Maybe it’s just better to love her from afar. Or maybe I just haven’t done a good enough job convincing my wife that spending $150 on dinner is what life is about.

Best Restaurant Nobody knows about: Walkin Dog

Did you know Minneapolis has an honest-to-goodness hot dog stand? If you work downtown, you owe it to yourself to hit up the hot dog joint where the owner himself is happy to serve you.

Best restaurant that seems to be failing: Bahn Thai

I will continue to be an evangelist here. If you happen to live near New Hope (specifically, 169 & Rockford) you owe it to yourself to visit and enjoy the best Thai food in town. You won’t find $13 Pad Thai that tastes like crayon here. Neither, sadly, will you find a packed house. But when it comes to the good stuff, Bahn delivers in spades. The currys are rich and intoxicating, the Thom Kha Kai aloof and glorious, and the noodle dishes are an astounding guilty pleasure. The hell with the posers, Bahn Thai Cuisine is the real deal.

Best Restaurant: Ristorante Luci

There is nothing on their menu that is anything short of divine. This restaurant could win any number of categories. How can a woman not feel like a classy dame downing top-tier pasta in a candle-lit setting? The modest portions will terrify an obese white person, who is accustomed to sucking pasta by the gallon at Applebees. It has all the hominess and familiarity of the (albeit affluent) neighborhood in which it resides. But it wins simply by virtue of having phenomenal food. A knockout.

Other awards

Best Pizza- Pizza Luce
Best ironic dive bar - Psycho Suzi's
Best restaurant in a hotel - Chez Daniel
Best Happy Hour - Rudolphs
Best Man joint - Buffalo Wild Wings
Best Italian - Giuseppes
Best restaurant with terrible parking -Quang


Anonymous b-nut said...

I just bookmarked this page. At my current rate it will take years for me to sample these restaurants. Have you eaten at the India Cafe in Bloomington (and the hole-in-wall place right next door which I can't remember the name of)? It is a Suburban Strip Mall worth driving to...and I hate Bloomington.

4:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Save up for dinner at La Belle Vie, I went with a cousin who previously worked with the head chef so we sampled many different dishes. Totally worth it. I loved the Foie Gras and I belive we had tenderloin that was amazing. I beleive this also came with marrow still in the bone. Oh, and the drinks wetre tasty too.

It was beautiful.

1:39 PM  

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