2019 Kind-of-a-Big-Deal Readers’ Choice Award Winners

Photo via Red Cow Facebook

Burgers – Red Cow

Handmade daily using local, certified Angus beef, Red Cow’s burgers have become a rock for the metro area dining scene—beloved, reliable, and beefy as hell. Creative toppings (see the Barcelona Burger) and blends (see the 40% bacon patty) keep things lively and help make this burger spot a reader favorite.

Silver: Blue Door Pub

Bronze: The Nook

 

Photo via Pizza Luce Facebook

Pizza – Pizza Lucé

Repeat winner Pizza Lucé has won a massive following via its many neighborhood locations and by offering creative pizzas that diners can’t find elsewhere, and by including vegetarian- and gluten-free-friendly options that help to expand the potential of pizza.

Silver: Young Joni

Bronze: Black Sheep Coal Fired Pizza

Photo via Revival Facebook

Barbecue – Revival

Revival’s multiple locations continue to crush it with beautifully crafted renditions of dishes like fried chicken, shrimp and grits, and fried green tomatoes, helping in the process to define Minnesota’s new wave of quality barbecue fare.

Silver: Minnesota Barbecue Co.

Bronze: Animales Barbeque Co.

 

Photo via Brichwood Facebook

Vegan Restaurant – Birchwood Cafe

Year after year—and decade after decade—Birchwood Cafe satisfies regulars and wins new friends with its dedication to local and seasonally sourced ingredients and its soulful, unpretentious menu. Birchwood has long been ahead of the curve when it comes to plant-based fare, and it’s no surprise that it rose to the top of the pack for our readers’ picks.

Silver: The Herbivorous Butcher

Bronze: Fig + Farro

Photo via D-Spot Facebook

Wings – D-Spot

The nearly 100 different kinds of wings at repeat-winner D-Spot catch your attention, but that attention is held (and intensified!) by the way they’re made and served—chef Darin Koch has a solid command of spice, heat, and flavor that allows him to craft wings that range from the subtle and divine to the intense and terrifyingly spicy.

Silver: Northbound Smokehouse & Brewpub

Bronze: Runyon’s

 

Breakfast – Fat Nat’s Eggs

With its commanding Eggs Benedict and Omelette menus (backed up by all manner of classic American breakfast favorites), the area’s three Fat Nat’s locations have become go-to stops for that always-crucial first meal of the day.

Silver: Al’s Breakfast

Bronze: Good Day Cafe

 

Photo via Hell’s Kitchen Facebook

Brunch – Hell’s Kitchen

The sprawling, subterranean Hell’s Kitchen is a scene unto itself, and many of its brunch favorites (from Mahnomin Porridge to house-made peanut butter toast) have become locally legendary. These guys know their brunch.

Silver: Jax Cafe

Bronze: Martina

 

 

Sandwich Shop – Cecil’s Deli

As one of the great, classic Jewish delis of Minnesota, Cecil’s knows sandwiches, piled high with corned beef or pastrami and served on delicious house-made breads. Don’t forget to pick up some hamentashen for dessert!

Silver: Nelson Cheese and Deli

Bronze: Lu’s Sandwiches

Photo via El Taco Riendo Facebook

Mexican Restaurant – El Taco Riendo

One of our go-to taco places (and we know tacos—check out our collection of more than 50 taquerias, the Minnesota Taco Atlas), El Taco Riendo can be counted on to serve up dishes that have real heat, depth of flavor, and a classic sense of balance.

Silver: Pajarito

Bronze: Popol Vuh

 

 

Photo via Hola Arepa Facebook

Latin American Restaurant – Hola Arepa

Hola Arepa’s repeat win for best Latin American Restaurant comes in parallel with the continued success of its sister shop Hai Hai, and represents a payoff for the planning and talent of co-owners Christina Nguyen and Birk Grudem. Hola’s easy charm and fantastically popular brunch service have won it a horde of devotees in South Minneapolis, and a 2019 menu reboot has only added to its popularity.

Silver: Victor’s 1959 Cafe

Bronze: Chimborazo

 

Photo via Hai Hai Facebook

Vietnamese Restaurant – Hai Hai

There are many reasons to dig the food and atmosphere of the wildly popular Hai Hai, but one of its key strengths is its connection to Southeast Asia in general (and Vietnam specifically) thanks to the heritage and travels of co-founder Christina Nguyen. Hai Hai’s flavors are bold, bright, earthy, and funky, and capture some of the deep appeal of Vietnamese cuisine.

Silver: Quang

Bronze: Que Viet Village House

 

African Restaurant – Afro Deli

A new Minneapolis skyway location in the Baker Center has extended the reach of Afro Deli, now in three locations and one of the metro’s best-known and best-loved African-inspired restaurants. African noodles, gyros, curry, and grilled chicken dominate its menu, which also showcases the much-enjoyed cheesy Chicken Fantastic.

Silver: Fasika

Bronze: Dilla

Photo via Masu Sushi and Robata Facebook

Japanese Restaurant – Masu Sushi and Robata

Masu Sushi and Robata has been going strong for years in Northeast Minneapolis, and an upcoming expansion (to serve Japanese interpretations of American fare) will mark a new highpoint for an ambitious, trendsetting Japanese eatery that has steadily built on years of success.

Silver: Zen Box Izakaya

Bronze: Kyatchi

 

Photo via Sawatdee Facebook

Thai Restaurant – Sawatdee

The longstanding and well-loved repeat winner Sawatdee has been turning out Thai favorites with care since 1983. Its enduring popularity and numerous locations are a testament to decades of hard work and rich flavors.

Silver: Lemon Grass Thai Cuisine

Bronze: Sen Yai Sen Lek

 

 

Photo via India Palace Facebook

Indian or Nepalese Restaurant – India Palace

With five locations and a sprawling menu including 10 kinds of bread, Balti specialties, seafood, and both northern and southern Indian cuisine, India Palace is that rare restaurant that truly offers something for any diner.

Silver: Everest on Grand

Bronze: Gorkha Palace

 

Italian Restaurant – Bar La Grassa

Still as chic and relevant as the day it debuted in 2009, the North Loop’s Bar La Grassa remains a pace-setter when it comes to fresh pasta and convivial, on-trend atmosphere.

Silver: Broders’ Pasta Bar

Bronze: Mucci’s

Photo by Domini Brown

Photo by Domini Brown

French Restaurant – Meritage

Whether you’re seeking a burger and frites at the bar, top-notch oysters flown in from either (or both!) coasts, or luxurious, scratch-made interpretations of French classics, Meritage has what you’re looking for. Even better—it’s all wrapped up in an appealing package of skilled service and a warm, classic atmosphere.

Silver: Bellecour

Bronze: Barbette

 

Photo via Holy Land Facebook

Middle Eastern or Mediterranean Restaurant – Holy Land

Repeat winner Holy Land does it all—from rotisserie chicken to hummus to shawarma, it’s a powerhouse of Middle Eastern fare that has no real rivals in terms of reach. And as both a market and a restaurant, it’s a unique cradle and launching pad for the cuisine that it serves and promotes.

Silver: Ansari’s Mediterranean Grill & Lounge

Bronze: Emily’s Lebanese Deli

Chinese Restaurant – Tea House

From atmosphere (cheerfully busy!) to food (delicious and nuanced!) to portions (plentiful!), Tea House has the attributes our readers were seeking when it comes to a great Chinese-American restaurant experience.

Silver: Rainbow Chinese

Bronze: David Fong’s

Photo by Tj Turner

Photo by Tj Turner

Butcher Shop – Lowry Hill Meats

Lowry Hill Meats is very much the real deal—if you want help making a complex dish or working with a new cut of meat, their butchers can set you up with skill and care. Beyond the meat counter, Lowry Hill has also made a reputation for itself as a place to eat (don’t miss the burger) and a hub for pop-ups and food entrepreneurs who are changing the face of Minnesota dining.

Silver: Hackenmueller’s Meats

Bronze: The Herbivorous Butcher

Photo by Kevin Kramer

Cheese Shop – Surdyk’s Liquor & Cheese Shop

Repeat winner Surdyk’s may pack more flavor per square foot than any other culinary establishment in the state—it overflows with cheeses from all around the world, olives, jams, jellies, spreads, chocolates, and ready-to-eat foods. Knowledgeable cheesemongers can guide you through your purchases, and if you’re looking to pair your cheese with wine, you need only step next door.

Silver: France 44 Cheese Shop

Bronze: Nelson Cheese & Deli

Photo via Patisserie 46 Instagram

Patisserie – Patisserie 46

Founded by internationally respected baker John Kraus, Patisserie 46 has been setting the standard for fine, French-inspired baked goods for years since its founding in 2010. Kraus’s new businesses, the Rose Street Patisseries, are continuing the original shop’s reputation for carefully crafted baked goods.

Silver: Cossetta Pasticceria

Bronze: Salty Tart

 

Photo via Rustica Facebook

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: Aki’s Breadhaus

Bronze: Honey and Rye Bakehouse

 

Photo via Glam Doll Facebook

Donut Shop – Glam Doll Donuts

Repeat winners Glam Doll Donuts have gone from doughnut underdogs to overlords by deploying gonzo retro styling and offering late-night hours. The company 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 Five Watt Coffee Facebook

Coffee Shop – Five Watt Coffee

From its pioneering work with canned cold press coffee to its hands-on, lovingly contemporary atmosphere and drinks menu, Five Watt Coffee has made a reputation for itself by interfacing with its customers in a knowledgeable, flavor-first way. 

Silver: Nina’s Coffee Cafe 

Bronze: Groundswell

 

Photo by Tj Turner

Local Coffee Roaster – Peace Coffee

The mission-driven nature of Peace Coffee, which is dedicated to fair wages and the sustainable production of coffee, is reason enough to mention them when it comes to talking about great Minnesota-roasted coffee. But it’s the careful, thoughtful roasting of their beans and the loveliness of their in-shop coffee drinks that have built them the loyal following that catapulted them to the top of our list in 2019.

Silver: Dunn Brothers

Bronze: Dogwood Coffee Co.

Photo via The Wedge Facebook

Grocer or Co-op – The Wedge

It’s no mystery why our readers love The Wedge—the co-op’s dedication to local, seasonal sourcing, its clean, easily navigable stores, and its overriding focus on food that tastes really, really good has made it many friends in the local food community. Like many local co-ops, it has proved that being mission-driven and striving for happy customers can be completely complementary ideals.

Silver: Mississippi Market

Bronze: Seward Community Co-op

 

Photo via Minneapolis Farmers Market Facebook

Farmers Market – Minneapolis Farmers Market

The sprawling, lively, always-evolving Minneapolis Farmers Market manages to capture what makes these markets so loved by our readers and the community at large—it’s a direct channel to some of the state and region’s most passionate and skillful farmers, and a reflection of the seasonal heartbeat that drives menus and home-cookery all year round. 

Silver: St. Paul Farmers Market

Bronze: Mill City Farmers Market

Photo via Holy Land Facebook

Local Retail Food Brand – Holy Land

Wherever you look for Middle Eastern staples on store shelves and at local markets—everything from hummus to pita to falafel—you’re likely to find Holy Land, a local company that has made its way to prominence through strong branding and a diverse array of food products.

Silver: Cry Baby Craig’s

Bronze: Pearson’s Candy

Photo via Spoon and Stable Facebook

Service – Spoon and Stable

Done wrong, service at fine dining restaurants could easily be stuffy or intimidating, but the servers at Spoon and Stable are as warm, gracious, and approachable as they are knowledgeable, and their ability to truly welcome and entertain their guests is what has landed this spot on the top of our readers’ lists.

Silver: Travail Kitchen and Amusements

Bronze: Saint Dinette

 

Photo via Mannys Steakhouse Facebook

Hotel Restaurant – Manny’s Steakhouse

Still going strong in its 32nd year of operation, Manny’s is one of the state’s truly bulletproof restaurants—for the consistency of its big, beefy, beautifully aged meat and the sterling quality of its service, it has few real competitors. 

Silver: Alma

Bronze: St. Paul Grill

 

Photo via Animales Facebook

Food Truck or Cart – Animales Barbeque Co.

The Minnesota barbecue scene has advanced by leaps and bounds in recent years, and the Able Seedhouse + Brewery-based Animales Barbeque Company is a key player in that story. Chef Jon Wipfli’s nuanced, soulful, remarkably consistent offerings bring meat together with a real sense of smoke and soul. 

Silver: Potter’s Pasties

Bronze: Butcher Salt

 

Photo via Surly Facebook

Brewery Kitchen – Surly Pizza Upstairs

It turns out that beer and pizza go together like… well, beer and pizza. Surly’s spin on New Haven–style pizza has quickly won converts and fans since its opening in 2018, and it has become one of the state’s favorite ways to pair up quality beer with artisan-made slices of saucy, cheesy heaven.

Silver: Pig Ate My Pizza

Bronze: Northbound Smokehouse & Brewpub

Photo via MN BBQ Facebook

New Restaurant – Minnesota Barbecue Co.

A dedication to making real barbecue fresh daily—with some cuts, such as brisket, taking 12 hours of attention—has helped the Northeast Minneapolis–based Minnesota Barbecue Co. push toward the front of the pack of new Minnesota barbecue spots. Its roots in the Travail mini-empire of new-school eats have served it well—creativity and a dedication to craft rule the roost.

Silver: Colita

Bronze: Lat14 Asian Eatery

Photo by Brian Kaufenberg

Outdoor Dining – Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge

Returning winner Psycho Suzi’s is a classic for a reason—sheer spectacle! Between the view, the drinks, and the tiki vibe, the restaurant has been the reigning titan of patio partying in Northeast Minneapolis for 15 years. 

Silver: Sea Salt Eatery

Bronze: W.A. Frost

 

Photo via Spoon and Stable Facebook

Fine Dining – Spoon and Stable 

Spoon and Stable may be entering what for many restaurants counts as a comfortable middle age, but it hasn’t lost a step. With polished hospitality, impeccable food, and a killer wine list, the restaurant perches proudly at the top of our readers’ go-to lists as a place to celebrate in style.

Silver: Bar La Grassa

Bronze: Travail

 

Photo via Red Cow Facebook

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: Pizza Lucé

Bronze: Revival

 

Photo via Hai Hai Facebook

Restaurant (Single Location) – Hai Hai

Hai Hai serves up bold, bright, deep flavors at a location that is as cheerful and warm as its servers and bartenders. Despite Hai Hai’s relative youth, it’s already built a dedicated group of fans who come for dishes that can’t be found elsewhere.

Silver: Pig Ate My Pizza

Bronze: Smack Shack

 

 

Photo by Matt Lien

Chef of the Year – Ann Kim

Increasingly the recipient of national attention for the creative flair and rock-solid consistency that define her restaurants, Ann Kim is on a roll—Young Joni has rocketed from newcomer to beloved Northeast staple, Pizzeria Lola and Hello Pizza are still going strong, and there’s more on the horizon. Now poised to open the fresh tortilla-driven Sooki & Mimi in Uptown, Minneapolis, Kim is ready to take her restaurant group to the next level.

Silver: Travail Collective Chefs

Bronze: Justin Sutherland

 

More 2019 Kind-of-a-Big-Deal Winners

■ Culture

Wine & Spirits

■ Beer

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