Jason Albus

Mucci's Italian

West 7th

Mucci’s nondescript brick building might not look like much from the outside, but step inside to find a homey Italian spot that serves fresh pasta and pizzas during the week and offers donut service on the weekends. Mucci’s opened in February and is owned by Tim Niver (half of the team behind other St. Paul hits Saint Dinette and The Strip Club Meat & Fish), who describes the food as “evocative like an old-school Italian eatery, but not cliched.”

There’s a lot to keep up with when it comes to food trends, but when did donuts became Italian? “Yes, while donuts aren’t Italian, we do make some of them Italian,” Niver laughs. “We’ve had a tiramisu donut and a locatelli pecorino romano glazed donut, for example. I think it was about us doing whatever we wanted. It’s our place, and if what people want is donuts, we will do donuts.”

So, that means chef/Mucci partner Chris Uhrich gets to show off his pastry street cred by day and pizza prowess by night. When it comes to dinner, you’ve gotta try the Camilia pizza, made with garlic butter, fried chicken, mozzarella, peppadew chilies, and agrodolce. No matter what time of day you stop in, and whether you eat Italian or donuts, Mucci’s multi-faceted concept works.

Next in 2017: Niver said Mucci’s will continue catering, and are in talks to bring their pizzas (frozen) to local grocery stores and co-ops.

Kat Peterson/Thrillist

Rose Street Patisserie

Linden Hills

Linden Hills got lucky in May when Rose Street patisserie, younger sister of Patisserie 46, opened. World-renowned pastry chef and owner John Kraus has created another neighborhood space where moms with toddlers in tow can stop in for a baguette. In addition to artisanal breads, Rose Street offers breakfast items such as an amazing avocado toast, a panna cotta parfait, and bacon breakfast pizza.

“We have some items that are available at both locations, but we have others unique to Rose Street, so it is a standalone experience,” said Kraus.

The open, European-inspired space currently sees a lot of traffic on weekends, but increasingly, weekdays are bringing in more clients for business meetings at the bakery. The standout bread is certainly the miche, a hearty old-world bread made with local grains from Lonesome Stone Milling.

Next in 2017: Rose Street will branch out and do more special events, including an upcoming sherry tasting paired with small bites or bread-and-chocolate dinners. The bakery also plans to start an afternoon tea service early next year.

Liz Gardner, Bodega, Ltd

Cafe Alma

Marcy Holms

Most of us know Alma as an evening prix fixe dining experience, but following the November opening of Cafe Alma just next door, owner Alex Roberts has also found a daytime audience. Like the restaurant, Cafe Alma features high-quality, seasonal cooking, but in a more simple, accessible manner.

“It’s a new adventure for us,” said Roberts. “We wanted the cooking and technique in the cafe to be the same as the restaurant, but presented in a more casual and approachable way, a la carte.”

The cafe offers walk-in service at a counter, table, or bar. Stop in for chef Matti Sprague’s sustainably-sourced menu; standouts include fresh juice and bone broth, tomato-bread soup, turkey burger with chili sauce, and mint pesto winter salad. Whether you’re craving a liquid fix, light snack, or hearty lunch during the daily grind, Cafe Alma’s got you covered.

Next in 2017: Continued synergy between the cafe, restaurant, and Roberts’ other new concept, Hotel Alma. Like the cafe, the seven-room boutique hotel also opened in the Alma building in November, so you can dine, drink, and sleep all in the same space.

Mercury Dining Room and Rail

Mercury Dining Room and Rail

Downtown Minneapolis

The Soo Line building at 5th and Marquette in Minneapolis is home to the Blue Plate Restaurant Co.’s newest concept, Mercury Dining Room and Rail, which opened in October. While downtown dwellers can stop in morning, noon and night, it’s clearly happy (or, as it’s called here, social) hour that brings in the after-work crowd. (The addition of the word “rail” to the restaurant’s name is a nod to both the behemoth of a bar and the Soo Line’s railroad roots.)

A few things elevate Mercury’s happy hour above the rest: locally brewed beer on tap from sister Blue Plate restaurant The Freehouse, creative cocktails like The Mercury Express (aperol, rosemary, bourbon, honey, and grapefruit), and the best bar snacks we’ve seen lately. Mercury does classic comfort food with unique twists, offering white truffle parmesan fries, kale three-cheese dip, and fresh-baked cheddar popovers.

“We want downtown dwellers and those who work nearby to see Mercury as their second kitchen, a place they can unwind with friends or co-workers,” said Owner Stephanie Shimp.

Next in 2017: Mercury just opened an event space next door called Shindig. It fits about 150 people and has rooftop patio access, so we bet it’ll book fast this spring and summer.

Tullibee

North Loop

Only weeks old, Tullibee is already all over your foodie friends’ Insta feeds. The Nordic-inspired spot is housed in the also-brand-new Hewing Hotel, a completely transformed North Loop brick warehouse. The space itself is amazing with floor-to-ceiling hewn timber with leather and wool accents that will make you think of a cozy mountain ski lodge until you see the city lights shining in.

The Scandanavian dinner menu from chef Grae Nonas is dubbed an up-North experience with “lakes and woods” cuisine: sturgeon, duck, and elk are prominently featured (event the restaurant’s name is a type of whitefish).  Foraging, butchery, and fermentation techniques also inform Nonas’ cooking, which will utilize the restaurant’s wood-burning oven. Early favorites have been the potato flatbread with herring roe, bison bone marrow with fermented peppers, and Norwegian cod with parsnips. Wash everything down with an appropriately-woodsy spruce tonic, and you’ll see why Tullibee has nailed after-dark dining, Minnesota-style.

Next in 2017: An enclosed rooftop bar is set to open soon, along with a sauna and spa-sized pool that will convert to a hot tub in the winter for Hewing Hotel guests.

Kat Peterson/Thrillist

Milkjam Creamery

Whittier

When you need an afternoon or after-dinner treat, there isn’t another ice cream spot like Milkjam Creamery. That may sound like an exaggeration, but flavors like Ridin’ Duuurty, Uma Thurman, Hard Knock Life, and the shop’s namesake, Milkjam, are pretty unique. Sameh Wadi, formerly of Saffron and currently of World Street Kitchen, opened the shop in January and we knew it was good when people were lining up in the winter for ice cream.

The “super-premium” wacky/gourmet flavor combos and feature ingredients like rose meringue, extra virgin vanilla, and goat cheese. If that isn’t enough to satisfy your sweet tooth, you can (a) get the specialty Jam Bun, Milkjam ice cream sandwiched between a local Glam Doll donut or (b) order the “All of Them” sundae, a sampler of one scoop of each flavor available that day. If that’s not a sugar rush, we don’t know what is.

Next in 2017: We haven’t heard anything yet, but who knows? With the recent closing of Wadi’s Saffron, he has said, “we are not yet done dreaming.”

SPOKE612 Productions

Wyn 65

Various

The food truck trend is still alive and well in Minneapolis, and this year’s hottest newcomer was a purple-and-orange Winnebago that rolled up in May. Wyn 65 is the brainchild of the team behind Lyn 65, the fried chicken eatery in suburban Richfield. Wyn brought a smorgasbord of Lyn favorites to downtown this year, including fried chicken (sold by the piece,) collard greens, pimento mac and cheese, and doughy biscuits.

While many brick-and-mortar restaurants have spawned food trucks, Wyn 65 does a nice job of staying true to Lyn 65’s southern roots while also bringing a few new things to the table like the fried green tomato BLT. The result is a complementary extension of Lyn 65, rather than a duplication on wheels.

Next in 2017: Wyn 65 will offer mobile catering for events ranging from “casual to classy” -- including weddings.

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The Twin Cities' Best New Restaurants of 2017

Published On 11/13/2017
T he last few years have marked a shift for the Twin Cities dining scene. Several cornerstones of our culinary heritage have closed, among them La Belle Vie, Vincent’s, Piccolo, Saffron, and Haute Dish... but let's focus on the future. A host of ambitious newcomers have created outstanding food inspired by cuisines spanning the world, and it's all at your fingertips. Understated, elegant Japanese food? Check. Perfectly executed Southern barbecue, exploding with flavor? Check. Better happy hour deals and multi-course tasting menus? Check. Here are the best restaurants to grace Minneapolis and St. Paul in 2017, and here's hoping they stay forever.
Walker Art Center

Esker Grove

Lowry Hill

Fresh, artfully arranged food to enjoy at the art museum
Minneapolis master chef Doug Flicker may have closed his beloved restaurant Piccolo last year, but he's back with this gorgeous new restaurant at the famed Walker Art Museum. The recently revitalized space overlooks the stunning new sculpture garden and features an expanded patio that is as stylish as the world-class museum it adjoins. Flicker carries that stylishness over to his impeccably arranged, Instagram-worthy small plates, and Esker Grove’s menu has everything from breakfast boudin noir to chestnut soup, all made by sourcing impeccable ingredients and letting them sing with few accoutrements. Whether it’s an artfully arranged herb and seaweed salad, a coconut and squid ink-bathed tuna crudo, or a dashi-tinged pumpkin, you’re guaranteed to receive it impeccably cooked at peak freshness. No wonder Anthony Bourdain loves this Flicker's work.

Mercy

Downtown Minneapolis

Downtown's best party spot runs on booze, decadent food, and a wood-burning oven
Mercy, the latest iteration of Le Méridien Hotel's mercurial restaurant space, is one of the best places to pick for groups. In addition to twice-daily happy hours and incredible food, Mercy has not one but two liquor-strong punch bowl options -- perfect for group dates and long chats. It’s easy to stay put a while since the old space feels fresh again with the addition of handsome dark wood finishes, warm globe lighting, and a windows that have been swathed in plants. Food-wise, do not skip the crab-stuffed grilled cheese on brioche with a side of red pepper soup for dipping; it's just as luxurious as it sounds. Order the beer can chicken and you’ll get a boozy chaser with your entrée, free of charge. And the happy hours are no slouch either, featuring discounts on a range of seafood items and an appealing list of extravagant cocktails.

Eliesa Johnson Photography

Hi-Lo Diner

Longfellow

Boozy milkshakes, twice-daily happy hour, and a helluva history
Not many places in Minneapolis or anywhere else can claim an origin story like Hi-Lo's. It's a beautifully restored, art deco 1957 Fodero Diner that was shipped piece by piece from a field in Gibsonia, Pennsylvania, and it's become an instant hit with the Minneapolis foodie community. All the standard diner fare can be found on its menu, but not without a twist to elevate it from ho-hum to, well, high-low. Minnesota-sourced ingredients like crawfish, tart apples, cheese curds. and juniper inflect the menu with a truly local flavor. Hi-Lo serves comfort food in abundance alongside healthy options to suit every dietary need, and even the pickiest eaters should have no problem finding something they like. The time-capsule facility is parked only a few blocks away from the gorgeous Mississippi river, and any trip to Hi-Lo requires that you accompany your meal with a short stroll by the water.

Courtesy of Bellecour

Bellecour

Wayzata

A French bistro with a great bakery and not a shred of pretension
Since the day his plane landed from NYC, chef Gavin Kaysen has kept his pedal firmly pressed to the culinary metal, most recently opening Bellecour, an accessible French bistro with everything from snails to rabbit sausage to roasted cauliflower. What could be a stiff and formal experience is infused with approachable warmth through every facet of Bellecour’s existence, bringing French dining into the modern era. It's so approachable, that -- if you want -- special chef’s tables are available in the kitchen for the most avid culinary voyeurs to feel a part of the process. As for the menu items, try the black truffle country pâté; or the roasted bone marrow with gremolata, or the warm foie gras gingerbread. The best part: Those are just the appetizers. Of the explosion of new French restaurants in the Twin Cities this is easily one of the best. Kaysen has smartly designed every aspect of the experience to evoke a tasteful fantasy of French life, right down to a bakery that allows diners to bring home freshly minted breads and pastries post-meal. (Which you have to do. Duh.)

Kado no Mise

North Loop

A traditional Japanese restaurant with an amazing omakase tasting menu
More than most other restaurants that opened this year, Kado no Mise is fancy and particularly focused on its elegant, minimalist aesthetic. Every detail in this multi-story gem is considered -- down to the delicately patterned plates -- and you are sure to leave with at least a few Instagram-worthy snapshots by the end of your meal. It helps that Kado no Mise is a truly great traditional Japanese restaurant. Along with simple and impeccably crafted Japanese staples from agedashi tofu to seasonal miso soup, this place has the freshest nigiri on this side of Lake Superior. Like the décor, the food's flavors feel traditionally Japanese: clean, understated, and extremely fresh. The locally based Tattersall Distillery anchors the cocktail menu with intriguing mixers like grapefruit crema and lemongrass, but Kado no Mise also carries an extensive list of sakes or, better yet, Japanese whiskys. Pro tip: It’s expensive, but spring for the traditional omakase tasting menu. You won't regret it.

Courtesy of Bardo

Bardo

Northeast Minneapolis

Maniacal attention-to-detail in an otherwise-calm dining room
Bardo serves modern New American food in a calm, blue and white dining room, and its name "bardo" is defined as "the state of the soul between death and rebirth" -- which on the outside seems to be as serene and meditative a restaurant concept as ever existed. Just wait until you taste the food. It's clear chef Remy Pettus has infused time, care, and personal attention to every aspect of his dining experience -- from hand-made sauces to herbed dusts and powders that finish every dish. Everything is taken just a little bit further than it needs to be into an over-the-top success. When is the last time you had salted cucumbers and yogurt in your cocktails? Or a rich rye whiskey blended with, among other things, peaches, thyme, and egg whites? Why stick with scalloped potatoes when you can make an aligot potato with fresh chevre? It all works marvelously, of course; Bardo's food is staggeringly good. And when the weather warms up again, the restaurant boasts one of the most luxurious off-street patio spaces in the Twin Cities.

Delicata

Como Park

The best pizza brunch -- yes, pizza brunch -- in town
Thank God Delicata came to St. Paul. The space is filled with warm woods, cheery hues, and bright lights, practically guaranteeing you will stay for hours. The friendly aura extends to the staff and servers, all of whom are ready to ply you with pizza and a wink and a smile. Delicata's menu is anchored with a thoughtful mélange of pizzas, with classics like pepperoni nestled alongside more exotic offerings like shrimp and pesto; artichoke and feta; and delicata squash and prosciutto pizzas. If you are one of the many who prefer pizza in the morning, you’re in luck here too. Delicata serves a slam-dunk brunch that mercifully skips old faithfuls like eggs Benedict for more creative options like a breakfast pizza smothered in either maple butter, bacon, fontina, agrodolce, and apples; or a Southwestern take with eggs, roasted chili sauce, chicken, onions, queso, sour cream and cilantro. Cap off your day with a trip to the Como Zoo and a scoop of Delicata's hand-made gelato.

Lora Marie Hlavsa

Gray Duck Tavern

Downtown St. Paul

A casual bar in the Lowry Hotel with excellent food options
More isn’t always better, of course. When you need somewhere to get filling, straightforward dishes executed with panache and passion while wearing your comfiest jeans-and-sweater combo, Gray Duck is the spot. Gray Duck’s approachable pricing fills a long-vacant void in downtown St. Paul’s dining options: an appealing medium between overpriced fine dining and dirty dive bars. It only gets better during happy hour, when diners can find deals on noshes like East African samosas, tamarind chili wings, and Calabrian chili-laced chong qing chicken. If you stay through dinner, you can savor creative dishes like duck schnitzel; a casserole filled with ground brisket, strozzapreti pasta, and a plethora of cheeses; or fresh carved meats that rival those of Fogo de Chão. That knack for fusion and creativity applies to the tightly curated cocktail menu as well, which includes oddities like paprika-laced mezcal alongside rum and salted caramel options. Minnesota Wild fans in particular will appreciate Gray Duck Tavern’s free ride program, guaranteeing safe passage from their doors to the game.

Dalton & Wade Whiskey Common

North Loop

A whiskey bar and restaurant with Southern roots and decor
For the Twin Cities’ most thoughtful whiskey experience, look no further than Dalton & Wade Whiskey Common. Diners can find classy takes on down-home soul food like smoked bologna sandwiches, pan-fried lake trout, pimento cheese Texas toast, and that beloved foundation of Minnesota winter meals, a bourbon mushroom cream-infused hot dish. If you’re feeling extra, dive into a perfect barbecue spread of brisket and hickory-smoked pork shoulder with a side of rye biscuits, sorghum butter, corn pudding, and fried apples. The restaurant is lined with cozy booths tucked right next to floor-to-ceiling windows that provide a bright view of Minneapolis’ trendy North Loop. All of this -- and the very Southern chandelier made of leather belts -- makes Dalton & Wade feel as comfy as a well-worn flannel shirt, and one of the best new spots to toss back a few.