2018 Kind-of-a-Big-Deal Readers’ Choice Award Winners

FOOD

Photo by Kevin Kramer

Fine Dining – Spoon and Stable 

Delivering impeccable food, professional service, and a wine list that ranks among the most intriguing in the region, Spoon and Stable has pushed culinary boundaries on at least a half dozen fronts, from cocktails to dessert.

Silver: Manny’s Steakhouse

Bronze: Restaurant Alma

 

Photo via Bar La Grassa Website

Photo via Bar La Grassa Website

Restaurant (Single Location) – Bar La Grassa

Bar La Grassa has capitalized on a prime North Loop location by layering in elements that are irresistible to diners: a busy, buzzy dining room, delicious fresh pastas, and killer cocktails. It’s a perennial “it” spot that never lost its initial sheen.

Silver: Young Joni

Bronze: Red Rabbit

 

Photo via Red Cow Website

Restaurant (Local Chain or Group) – Red Cow

Red Cow does something most restaurants would like to emulate but few can: it presents creative, savory interpretations of American comfort food backed up by attentive, professional service and an atmosphere that brings people together over warm conversation and cold beer. 

Silver: Blue Door Pub

Bronze: Blue Plate Restaurant Group

 

Photo by Aaron Davidson

Photo by Aaron Davidson

Brewery Kitchen – Northbound Smokehouse & Brewpub

Smoke infuses much of the fare (edible and drinkable) at Northbound Smokehouse & Brewpub, but it’s always done with a light touch to enhance the appetite. This neighborhood brewpub has become a beloved institution

Silver: Surly Pizza Upstairs

Bronze: Lakeville Brewing

 

Photo via Hai Hai Facebook

Photo via Hai Hai Facebook

New Restaurant – Hai Hai

Hai Hai is a bustling, bubbly, convivial spot that serves up deep flavors. Its menu can’t be found anywhere else,  and these strengths aren’t lost on diners (or Kind-of-a-Big-Deal voters)—it has quickly amassed a loyal clientele.

Silver: Pearl & Thief

Bronze: Martina

 

Photo via Young Joni Website

Photo via Young Joni Website

Chef of the Year – Ann Kim

Chef Ann Kim has built an empire of well-regarded spots, culminating in the rightfully celebrated Young Joni. She’s started from a foundation of pizza and built outward and upward to cook all manner of fire-kissed dishes encompassing numerous global culinary traditions.

Silver: Gavin Kaysen

Bronze: Jamie Malone

 

Photo by Aaron Davidson

Photo by Aaron Davidson

Outdoor Dining – Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge

For sheer spectacle—the view! the drinks! the tiki vibe!—it’s impossible to beat Psycho Suzi’s, a reigning titan of patio partying in Northeast Minneapolis for 15 years. 

Silver: Sea Salt Eatery

Bronze: W.A. Frost

 

Photo via The Anchor Fish & Chips Facebook

Photo via The Anchor Fish & Chips Facebook

Food Truck or Cart – The Anchor Fish & Chips

There’s a reason that fish and chips are the heart of pub fare in the British Isles: the dish is infinitely comforting, and actually remarkably hard to carry off to perfection. The Anchor Fish & Chips proves you don’t need to be in the U.K. to ace this classic working-class delicacy.

Silver: Butcher Salt

Bronze: Curious Goat

 

Photo via Manny's Steakhouse Facebook

Photo via Manny’s Steakhouse Facebook

Service – Manny’s Steakhouse

Few restaurants have a true service culture—but at Manny’s, it’s fair to say that rather than the restaurant having the culture, the culture has the restaurant. Its uber-competent servers are what let this steakhouse command the loyalty of the state’s high rollers and visiting titans of industry alike.

Silver: Red Cow

Bronze: Spoon and Stable

 

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Photo by Jonathunder

Photo by Jonathunder

Burgers – Matt’s Bar

If you were to search for a single, iconic “Minnesota” food, the classic Jucy Lucy at Matt’s Bar in South Minneapolis would be a likely candidate. Cooked up on a venerable flat top grill and consumed by the likes of presidents and rock stars, it’s a true taste of the Upper Midwest.

Silver: Blue Door Pub

Bronze: Red Cow

 

Photo via Pizza Lucé Facebook

Photo via Pizza Lucé Facebook

Pizza – Pizza Lucé

Pizza Lucé may be ubiquitous in Minnesota—a sprawling archipelago of slice-slinging locations from Richfield to Duluth—but that doesn’t mean its fans take it for granted. The chain has won a massive following by offering creative pizzas, including  its vegetarian and gluten-free-friendly options.

Silver: Black Sheep Coal Fired Pizza

Bronze: Young Joni

 

Photo via Revival Facebook

Photo via Revival Facebook

Barbecue – Revival

If any restaurant deserves credit for bringing barbecue out of its homespun context and putting it into the world of contemporary upscale dining, it’s Revival, whose three locations serve up beautifully crafted renditions of dishes like fried chicken, shrimp and grits, and fried green tomatoes.

Silver: OMC Smokehouse

Bronze: Ted Cook’s 19th Hole BBQ

 

Photo via French Meadow Bakery Restaurant Facebook

Photo via French Meadow Bakery Restaurant Facebook

Vegan Restaurant – French Meadow Bakery & Cafe

As one of the O.G.s of the Minnesota farm-to-table food movement, it’s no surprise that French Meadow has leaned on local produce and seasonal inspiration to create meat-free fare that enchants and satisfies.

Silver: Fig + Farro

Bronze: J. Selby’s

 

Photo via D-Spot Wings Facebook

Photo via D-Spot Wings Facebook

Wings – D-Spot

D-Spot offers nearly 100 different kinds of wings, and the variety is no mere stunt—chef Darin Koch has a serious command of spice, heat, and flavor that allows him to craft wings that range from subtle and divine to intense and terrifyingly spicy.

Silver: Blue Door Pub

Bronze: Northbound Smokehouse & Brewpub

 

Photo via Izzy's Ice Cream Facebook

Photo via Izzy’s Ice Cream Facebook

Ice Cream Shop – Izzy’s Ice Cream

Bold, fresh flavors and the prominent use of the miniature bonus “Izzy scoop” helped to position the Izzy’s shops as the best in the region. Ice cream is supposed to be fun, and Izzy’s manages that without missing any of the food’s real culinary potential in the process.

Silver: Grand Ole Creamery

Bronze: Milkjam Creamery

 

Photo via Colossal Cafe Facebook

Breakfast – Colossal Cafe

Colossal Cafe has made its mark by doing simple breakfast favorites with skill and consistency—and making some of the best-loved pancakes in a part of the world that has quite a few winners in that category.

Silver: Al’s Breakfast

Bronze: Fat Nat’s Eggs

 

Photo via Colossal Cafe Facebook

Photo via Colossal Cafe Facebook

Brunch – Colossal Cafe

Colossal Cafe also takes the prize for brunch by offering menu items that go beyond the daily and embrace the realm of cozy, indulgent, and sophisticated that define the world of weekend relaxation and celebration.

Silver: Red Cow

Bronze: Cook St. Paul

 

Photo via Nelson Cheese & Deli Facebook

Photo via Nelson Cheese & Deli Facebook

Sandwich Shop – Nelson Cheese & Deli

Bare-bones it may be for a restaurant—there’s no dining in at Nelson Cheese—but the shop has won a rabid following by doing a booming business in boxed lunches, take-out sandwiches, party trays, and great Upper Midwestern cheese. 

Silver: France 44 Cheese Shop

Bronze: Cecil’s Deli

 

Photo via Pho 79 Facebook

Photo via Pho 79 Facebook

Vietnamese Restaurant – Pho 79

Thanks to an influx of Southeast Asian immigrants in the 1970s and ’80s, pho has become soul food around here, and few shops make it with more pride or skill than Pho 79. Diners craving banh mi or rice plates will find a lot to like at this unpretentious but skillful outpost of Vietnamese fare.

Silver: Hai Hai

Bronze: Quang

 

Photo via El Loro Mexican Website

Photo via El Loro Mexican Website

Mexican Restaurant – El Loro

Whether you’re craving gooey queso fundido, hearty burritos, or sizzling fajitas, El Loro’s five festive locations have something to offer any fan of classic Tex-Mex fare. 

Silver: Burrito Mercado

Bronze: Maya Cuisine

 

Photo via Afro Deli Facebook

Photo via Afro Deli Facebook

African Restaurant – Afro Deli

African noodles, gyros, curry, and grilled chicken dominate the menu at Afro Deli, a spot that has won hearts by offering flavorful, accessible African fare (plus the locally famous Chicken Fantastic).

Silver: Dilla’s

Bronze: Fasika

 

Photo via Sakura Facebook

Photo via Sakura Facebook

Japanese Restaurant – Sakura

As one of the founders of Japanese fare in Minnesota, Sakura has built up decades of goodwill by dispensing
carefully made bento box set meals, tempura, sake, and delectable sushi for grateful customers.

Silver: Masu

Bronze: Zen Box Izakaya

 

Photo via Sawatdee Facebook

Photo via Sawatdee Facebook

Thai Restaurant – Sawatdee

If there’s a reigning godfather (or godmother) of Thai food in Minnesota, it’s the magisterial Sawatdee, which has been turning out favorites with care since 1983. Its enduring popularity is a testament to decades of hard work and rich flavors.

Silver: On’s Thai

Bronze: Sen Yai Sen Lek

 

Photo via Everest on Grand Facebook

Photo via Everest on Grand Facebook

Indian or Nepalese Restaurant – Everest on Grand

The soothing, warming flavors of north Indian and Nepalese food are the keys to Everest on Grand, a shop that brings deep spice and warm service to the heart of St. Paul.

Silver: India Palace

Bronze: Gandhi Mahal

 

Photo via Holy Land Facebook

Photo via Holy Land Facebook

Middle Eastern or Mediterranean Restaurant – Holy Land

From rotisserie chicken to hummus to shawarma, Holy Land is a powerhouse of Middle Eastern fare that has no real rivals in terms of reach or consistency. And as both a market and a restaurant, it’s a unique cradle and launching pad.

Silver: Emily’s Lebanese Deli

Bronze: Naughty Greek

 

Photo by Michael Hicks, via Flickr

Photo by Michael Hicks, via Flickr

Italian Restaurant – Cossetta Alimentari

From the high-end fare at Louis Ristorante to casual, beloved classics like pizza and meatball subs; from cannoli to cookies to coffee; from bread to dried pastas, there’s just about nothing under the Italian sun that the Cossetta empire doesn’t offer. 

Silver: Bar La Grassa

Bronze: Mucci’s Italian

 

Photo by Dan Murphy

Photo by Dan Murphy

Latin American Restaurant – Hola Arepa

Hola Arepa’s win for best Latin American Restaurant represents the planning and talent of co-owners Christina Nguyen and Birk Grudem. Hola’s easy charm and fantastically popular brunch service has won it a horde of devotees in South Minneapolis.

Silver: Brasa

Bronze: Victor’s 1959 Cafe

 

Photo via Bellecour French Restaurant Facebook

Photo via Bellecour French Restaurant Facebook

French Restaurant – Bellecour

As the Wayzata expression of chef Gavin Kaysen’s vision, Bellecour has a lot to live up to—Spoon and Stable sets a high standard. Bellecour does it with panache to spare, bringing a sophisticated menu, remarkable service, and world-class baked goods to the western part of the metro.

Silver: Meritage

Bronze: Barbette

 

Photo via Little Szechuan Facebook

Photo via Little Szechuan Facebook

Chinese Restaurant – Little Szechuan

The hot (and sometimes numbing) cuisine of Szechuan is one of the most compelling parts of one of the world’s greatest pantheons of food, and Minnesotans consider themselves fortunate to have Little Szechuan at which to enjoy it in all its fabulously flavorful glory.

Silver: Tea House

Bronze: Rainbow Chinese

 

Photo via Von Hanson's Meats Facebook

Photo via Von Hanson’s Meats Facebook

Butcher Shop – Von Hanson’s Meats

A true butcher shop is more than a place to buy meat; it’s a community hub and gathering place, and that describes the various locations of Von Hanson’s to a T. It’s a place that processes wild game, dispenses fantastic bratwurst and other sausages, and provides customers with old-fashioned personal service.

Silver: Lowry Hill Meats

Bronze: Hackenmueller’s Meats

 

Photo via Dogwood Coffee Co Website

Local Coffee Roaster – Dogwood Coffee Co.

If you love coffee—real coffee, coffee that’s been lovingly and thoughtfully handled from bean to mug—you probably love Dogwood Coffee Co. Dogwood has made its name in the community by careful curation, roasting, and packaging of its product, and it pops up in many leading restaurants and cafes.

Silver: Peace Coffee

Bronze: Duluth Coffee Co.

 

Photo via Spyhouse Coffee Facebook

Photo via Spyhouse Coffee Facebook

Coffee Shop – Spyhouse Coffee Roasters

Sometimes it helps to have a point of view. Spyhouse certainly does—its gorgeous cafes are a local byword for “cool;” their manicured, inviting interiors an ideal launching point for their carefully crafted beverages and baked goods. 

Silver: Dunn Brothers Coffee

Bronze: Five Watt Coffee

 

Photo by Kevin Kramer

Photo by Kevin Kramer

Cheese Shop – Surdyk’s Liquor & Cheese Shop

The Surdyk’s cheese shop may pack more flavor per square foot than any other culinary establishment in the state—it overflows with cheeses from around the world, olives, jams, jellies, spreads, chocolates, and ready-to-eat foods.

Silver: Nelson Cheese & Deli

Bronze: France 44 Cheese Shop

 

Photo via Rustica Bakery Website

Photo via Rustica Bakery Website

Bread Bakery – Rustica Bakery

Rustica’s baguettes are the standard by which bread is measured around here, and the bakery’s sweet and savory offerings are both painstakingly crafted and widely distributed, making them a powerhouse of grain and yeast.

Silver: Wuollet Bakery

Bronze: Brake Bread

 

Photo via Cossetta's Website

Photo via Cossetta’s Website

Patisserie – Cossetta Pasticceria

Cossetta’s Pasticceria is a magical place—a mesmerizing glass case of delicacies supported by a traditional Italian-style cafe for those who like their cannoli with a side of cappuccino. And don’t forget the gelato.

Silver: Patisserie 46

Bronze: Salty Tart

 

Photo via Glam Doll Donuts Facebook

Photo via Glam Doll Donuts Facebook

Donut Shop – Glam Doll Donuts

With their donuts’ gonzo retro styling and their shops’ late-night hours, Glam Doll has blasted past the old paradigm of donuts as workmanlike breakfast food and breathed new life into the form.

Silver: A Baker’s Wife

Bronze: Bogart’s Doughnut Co.

 

Photo via Mississippi Market Natural Foods Co-op Website

Photo via Mississippi Market Natural Foods Co-op Website

Grocer or Co-op – Mississippi Market Natural Foods Co-op

Minnesota is one of the nation’s hot spots for community food retailing. Mississippi Market stands out even among a forest of beloved peers, offering food that is deeply connected to the local land and people, and supported by modern service and shopping aesthetics.

Silver: Lakewinds Food Co-op

Bronze: Seward Community Co-op

 

Photo by Tim Olsen

Photo by Tim Olsen

Farmers Market – St. Paul Farmers Market

For Minnesotans seeking a classic, old-school farmers market experience, the St. Paul Farmers Market literally can’t be beat. It’s an awe-inspiring collection of local produce that avoids a glut of pre-prepared food stands and trucked-in veggies in favor of a just-the-basics spread of Upper Midwestern agricultural bounty.

Silver: Minneapolis Farmers’ Market

Bronze: Northeast Minneapolis Farmers’ Market

 

More 2018 Kind-of-a-Big-Deal Winners

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