Thanks to the fine recommendations on this board, I had a fantastic time eating my way through Minneapolis. I thought I'd report back my findings...
unbelievable. The best meal i've had since 11 Madison Park. I got there around 4:45 on a Saturday, and there was a line down the block. The restaurant filled up with 20 people ahead of me and I resigned myself to a looong wait, but as luck would have it there was a single stool open at the end of the bar, so I was able to get seated right away. I got the 8 course prix fixe option. I thought this would be excessive as it is billed as a meal for two. However, it turns out to be perhaps a bit small for 2, so while it's still a bit large for 1, it's not ridiculously so. Anyway, I had:
-an astoundingly creative and delicious carrot 4 ways prep
-beef tartare w/fingerlings - their take on "meat and potatoes"
-smoked corn, popcorn & jalapeno soup
-agnolotti w/soft scrambled egg and a cheesy broth
-chicken, chicken sausage, sous-vide egg, cheesy grits
-churros, caramel, ice cream, walnuts
and a range of small tastes, which included:
-orzo w/horseradish & pickled turnips
-roasted mushrooms (soft texture riffed on by being served with a gerber baby spoon)
-tempura fried something or another on a sliver of quail egg w/chives
-lime frozen yogurt/pop rocks "palate cleanser"
-pre-dessert of s'mores w/house-made marshmallow, macaroons w/pumpkin filling, small cookies
I knew going in that the place was casual, but what I didn't realize is that it's essentially eating an exceptionally fine and precisely done meal in what amounts to a college town bar. There was lots of toasting and yelling, and passing steins of beer around the bar. I thought it was great -- they get the cooking right and otherwise just have fun. I had a pretty good view into the kitchen, and it was pretty damn amazing. The level of cooking FAR exceeds anything I've had in Toronto and is at the very least on par with, and possibly better, than anything I've eaten in Boston. This place clearly has a national reputation and it really deserves it. What a gem.
another highlight. I had a kougin aman and an espresso, and got a pain au chocolate and danish for later. This is, again, a bakery on par with the best i've had anywhere, no exceptions. The breads (I sampled one) seemed extraordinary, and the fact that they take their coffee very seriously, and have a quiet space for enjoying your pastry & coffee while reading the paper is icing on the cake, so to speak. I would so dearly love to have a bakery like this at home.
I also stopped by the Blue Ox cafe to pick up a couple pounds of Counter Culture (not available in Canada) -- lovely quiet cafe, very conducive to getting work done; stopped by the Salty Tart bakery for a cookie & a rustic peach tart. I later returned to the Midtown Global Market for lunch -- a very nicely done Oaxacan tamale from La Loma Tamales.
The only real miss, I thought, was Hell's Kitchen -- was looking forward to their rosti, but in the end it didn't do a whole lot for me. Reminded me mostly of a Waffle House, if Waffle House spent 80% of their budget on kitschy decor.
Thanks again for the recommendations -- I had a spectacular time eating my way through Minneapolis, and look forward to a repeat visit, hopefully soon!