Restaurants & Bars 16

Best meals of 2010

kevin47 | Jan 3, 2011 08:24 PM

Here are mine, what were yours? (full disclosure: this is edited from a post on my own blog)


When, I arrived, the host immediately wished me a happy birthday, and “Happy Birthday Kevin” was printed on my menu. Cheesy? Birthdays are cheesy.

More important was the food. Lamb brains and steak for me. Beet salad and chicken with eggplant lavosh for the wife. All four were simply outstanding. Chef Wadi has such an extraordinary command of such broad range of flavors that you find yourself fishing for analogies far cheesier than the “happy birthday” bit.

Cave Vin

I think the words criminally underrated are in order. We popped by during restaurant week at my wife’s discretion. We were both thrilled with the result.

I had escargot, mussels and braised short rib. If you are going to ingest 8,000 calories in a meal (not an exaggeration), this is the way to do it. Nothing revolutionary, just fantastic technique on display in a subtly romantic room. I will remember that balsamic reduction for, well, until I eat their short rib again.

The Strip Club

I’m not a steak joint kind of guy. In Minnesota, we have access to great cuts of meat, and I know how to prepare them. Throwing down $60 for 26 oz. of meat and hash browns isn’t my idea of a good night.

Enter The Strip Club. First of all, they use grass fed cuts of meat, which feature a higher degree of difficulty. Second, my rib eye clocked in under $30.

Third, instead of 8 lbs. of cheesy potatoes on the side, TSC offers a remarkable array of small plates. The Devils eggs earn every accolade they have received, and the poutine is decadent fun.

Throw in great service, and one of the coolest spaces in the cities, and this is a steakhouse I can get behind.

Victory 44

Yes, it’s my neighborhood place. I’ve been there 44 times. I’m their mayor on Foursquare. I’ve been with it through it’s various iterations, including their time with the now Travail chefs at the helm.
What has impressed me is the consistency. Regardless of format, or chefs at the helm, the food has always been interesting and affordable.

Of late, the place has caught fire, culminating in a New Years Eve tasting menu presented by chef Erick Harcey. Highlights: Pork belly with pops of jalapeno balancing ribbons of apricot gel. A dessert made with foie gras, and black cod fused with prosciutto.

Note: V-44 is planning to do this every weekend. Well worth the trip.

Black Sheep

Tradition holds that restaurants do their worst work during Valentines Day and New Years. And yet, one entry on this list was our NYE meal, and the other is Black Sheep, where I spent V-day with my lovely bride.

A crock of olives and such was needlessly hot, but tasty, but that is some pizza to get hot over. Black Sheep nails everything, from crust, to ingredients, to reheating instructions. At the same time, it’s an exercise in elegant simplicity. Just like love.

La Sirena Gorda

The kid in candy store metaphor is overused, but it rings pretty true when I enter Midtown Global Market. That said, I find myself going back to La Sirena Gorda, in spite of the wonders around me.

The octopus tacos are simply one of the best plates you can find in the cities. That they clock in under $10 is every reason for you to go get them, and a testament to a chef who can make great food out of affordable ingredients.

Corner Table

Handpicked for our anniversary dinner, Corner Table delivered on every score.

The nosh plate was lovely and innovative, and I say that as someone who hates the word “nosh” (it’s the first syllable of the word ‘nauseous’, and pretentious besides). But, having taken half a dozen stabs at gazpacho myself, I am extra-appreciative of how hard that is too pull off.

I’ll also note that this place has made me a fan of the “eggs for dinner” movement. Poached and perched perfectly on poultry. That’s the way to do it.

Sole Café

Simply two great chefs making the best Korean food in the cities. The spicy pork stir-fry is lovingly prepared (and the chef will come out to make sure you love it), but it’s the Korean accoutrements that got to me.

To be honest, I have never understood why Korean restaurants feel compelled to serve patrons a salad bar of goodies. Thanks to Sole Café, I’ve gotten religion in that regard. All I can say is, go try.


Unapologetically fussy. Not as perfect as it needs to be. Still, it was a lot of fun to dine here. The service was near flawless, the wines represent a remarkable value, and the food…

A couple of the courses needed work. But the hits were electric. The octopus was the best thing I’ve ate this year, and our cheesecake dessert was astonishing as well.

At present, this place is a bit overrated. But it’s hard to fault the critics for being excited about the potential. Just be prepared for the price point, and the portion size. It’s a different philosophy, and one that Americans would do well to embrace.

I Nonni

On the opposite end of the philosophy, I Nonni offers a three-course all-you-can-eat menu on Tuesdays. The three courses were delicious, the all-you-can-eat redundant. Three courses are plenty.

This is the best Italian in Lilydale, naturally, but also the Twin Cities. You cannot leave without eating the Veal Osso Buco. I’ll put it this way: there is more the Italian than pasta.

Midtown Global Market
920 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55407

La Sirena Gorda
920 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55407

Corner Table
4257 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55409

Cave Vin
5555 Xerxes Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55410

I Nonni
981 sibley memorial hwy, Lilydale, MN 55118

The Strip Club
378 Maria Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55106

Victory 44
2203 44th Ave N, Minneapolis, MN

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