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City Pages - Best of 2011

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A couple head scratchers right off the bat...

1) Best service - Travail - Look, I love this place as much as anyone but when they get slammed, the whole chef/server thing really hampers the flow. The interaction is great and the guys are all a blast to talk to, but they inevitably get bogged down.

2) Best deli - Be'Wiched - I'm not saying this isn't the best deli in town (I've still never been), but regarding their cured meats, CP says Be'Wiched "can still compete, bite for bite, with any of the country's most noteworthy: Katz's in New York, Zingerman's in Ann Arbor, the Refuge in San Carlos." Something tells me that isn't the case.

I'd like any thoughts on this list, seeing as I haven't been to the VAST majority of restos listed.

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  1. One more, Best Thai = Nong's in Golden Valley?
    Seriously? The article goes on to praise Nong for cooking at the following fine establishments:
    Sawatdee, True Thai, and Taste of Thailand.
    Three places I would not ever even consider stepping into for Thai food. Of course Nong's is a heavy advertiser with CP, gosh wonder if there is any connection there?

    1. I feel like Citypages' Best Of is always a little internal contest they have with themselves to see if they can avoid repeating picks from year to year, or, alternatively, naming places no one goes to. It's become kind of ridiculous.

      Also, Green Mill is the best place to eat with your kids? Normally I'm not a chain snob, but Green Mill deserves no mention on any Best Of list. Ever.

      5 Replies
      1. re: gildeddawn

        I agree, gildeddawn. I was completely shocked that People's Organic got best vegetarian. It is mediocre, at best. I think it's got a "shiny" appeal because it's new...that's all.

        1. re: gildeddawn

          Green Mill was another mind boggler.

          Interesting that they are only doing a singular best restaurant. Is that new this year?

          1. re: BigE

            Shorty & Wag's for best soul good was a surprise for me. Used to love the place, but if memory serves, the menu has narrowed significantly over the last few years -- most significantly, they don't offer ribs anymore, I don't believe.

          2. re: gildeddawn

            We were just ranting about the Green Mill pick..... And discussing the fact that, between Brasa and Punch Pizza on Grand Ave. in St Paul, half of all St. Paul families with kids who are eating out on a given night are on that block. And I think anyone who's sane would be happier at either of those places than Green Mill. It just furthers the idea that once one has children, one can only eat at crappy chain-y restaurants.

            Punch Pizza
            3226 W Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55416

            1. re: mtullius

              Speaking of which: their selection for "Best Pizza" is an entry that should have been titled, "Best Pizza When You're Drunk After Closing Time."

              Overall, the list seems more fascinated with what's new and/or trendy than what's good.

          3. I think the Travail pick is simply being a bit too clever. Ditto Heid's as best new restaurant.

            Green Mill as best place to eat out with kids? As a chain, it's better than most, but come on. MGM anyone?

            I can't argue with Piccolo as best restaurant, though I have my own personal preferences.

            Happy to see them acknowledge Chimborazo, T's and Sole Cafe. These are all excellent choices to eat.

            Don't agree with Salsa a la Salsa as best Mexican. It's a throwback to an era when Mexican restaurants charged too much money for a little authenticity.

            I'm glad they didn't try to get clever in the cocktails category. Bradstreet is an easy choice.

            Be'Wiched is quite a bit different from Zingerman's, but the quality is there, IMO.

            I don't know that Barbette is all that romantic.

            Nong's Thai cuisine? I haven't been, but I'm skeptical.

            Best fries at Anchor? Hmmm... They're tasty, and a great accompaniment to the fish, but I don't know if I'd recommend them on their own.

            The horseradish vodka at MOTH is worthy of a shout out.

            Spasso has complimentary corkage AND car service? How does it make any money?

            3 Replies
            1. re: kevin47

              Abbreviations make me crazy. Are you saying the best place to eat with kids is at a liquor store or did you mean Midtown Global Market?

              What the heck is MOTH? Make Our Time Hurry? Man of the House? Made of Total Herbage? Oh, Moscow on the Hill.

              As for best Mexican, I think Salsa a la Salsa is a middle of the road choice.

              The Anchor may have the best fries but as a vegetarian I'll never know since they're fried in tallow. I am not denigrating the pick, just sayin'.

              Finding out that Udupi's former chef is back in the kitchen, means I'll have to make my way to Amu's Madras Café. So, yay!

              I agree that they do tend to try and make different picks every year. That's not altogether a bad thing since it points out places I might not have thought about.

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

              1. re: kevin47

                "Nong's Thai cuisine? I haven't been, but I'm skeptical."

                Be very skeptical and sit on your wallet. The original purveyor of "how much sugar" can I add to your Thai food before your teeth fall out."



              2. The biggest surprise is Scusi for best wine list? I get the Italian theme but they don't have much quality offerings. Also not putting down the vintage of the wine should never allow one to win best wine list and their sparkling category needs serious help.

                1. I wanna try the Anchor fries now..

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Warehouse

                    I haven't had the Anchor fries in some time, but at a recent visit my wife and I agreed that the Town Hall Tap's fries were killer.

                    1. re: parkermsp

                      I want to try the Town Hall Tap's fries now. I gave Anchor two tries with the Fish and Chips. And both times I could easily sum up my experience by saying "greasy and soggy" to the Chips... AND the Fish. Considering the buzz that was going around this place it was a big disappointment. Never again.

                      Udupi's former chef is back in the kitchen at Amu's Madras Café? Count me in. I have had good luck at Dosa King for veg Indian, but it's too far out there to get to regular like. Thanks for the tip. I'd rather read about the CP Best Of here, I gave up on that rag decades ago. And, I think, with good reason. Sweet Potato, now THERE was a local scene paper.

                      1. re: sandylc

                        Yup! VIncent's fries are something special.

                    2. I would hardly call B'Wiched a deli. It's a lunch-time sandwich shop and no more, or less. The pastrami is pretty good, but it's not superb, and the whole place lends itself to a certain feeling of rip-offedness. I've never felt fully satisfied after going there. My initial idea of their sandwiches always strikes me as having been far better than the actual sandwiches.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: parkermsp

                        Everyone is different, of course, and places that click with me don't always work for others. But I need to say that I LOVE Be'Wiched. Yes, it's expensive, but the quality is superb and the food is creative and a bit unusual. And they have my vote for the best best soups in town.

                        Me, I prefer smaller portions, and I don't mind paying for top quality food. But that's me. My friend the big eater would be less pleased with it - except that he (like me) loves the pastrami. It's not exactly like NYC pastrami, which could be why the detractors don't like it, but it's delicious stuff. My friend gets a whole sandwich and soup - for me, a half sandwich and cup of soup is the right amount for lunch.

                        I agree that it's not a classic deli; putting it in that category is confusing, at best. But I'm glad they made the "Best of 2011" list.


                        P.S. They're open for breakfast and early dinners, too.

                        1. re: AnneInMpls

                          Here here Anne! An excellent value in our estimation and I'm at a loss the think of whom Be'Wiched is ripping off. We've certainly had some misses with the soup and salad specials, but also some of their biggest hits (the smoked ribeye with St Petes for instance).

                          Perhaps some should stick to shitting all over wine lists instead of menus. ;)

                          1. re: AnneInMpls

                            +1 all around. Keep in mind the giant sandwiches at Zingermans et al... run you about $16-20. If throw $20 at Be'Wiched at a slow hour, they'll put together a pretty outstanding plate of food. Just ask.

                            Between the cheap Surly taps and the excellent food, I've always felt like I've been ripping them off. When we get a great true deli scene here, let's compare and contrast. But if my only other choice is to go to Ann Arbor, wait 45 minutes in line, and pay twice as much to eat amongst the touristy hordes, I'll take Be'Wiched.

                            1. re: kevin47

                              Your other choices for decent deli in the Twin Cities include:

                              Cecil's, Brother's and Mort's.

                              I prefer Cecil's simply because it is closer to home and the parking is easy. I order the 1/2 lb Corned Beef on rye with brown mustard with slaw. Brother's might be a bit better, I can't remember because I'm not often in the skyway. The last time I ate there, I remember liking it. Mort's I don't like so much, the meat was dry on my last visit.

                              I think it is silly to compare any of the local places to Zingerman's or Katz's.

                        2. Be'Wiched Deli=Katz's Deli in New York.

                          Obviously, no one at City Pages has eaten at Katz's deli in New York city.

                          Best Fries - 2011: Anchor Fish & Chips
                          They're big and.......wet. The curry fries are fairly interesting though.

                          I'm glad that Town Hall brewery is considered the best brewery. I'm not sure if it's won before, but their brew is excellent.

                          And I have to try out this Chimborazo. I drive by it all the time. The place looks like a dive.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: alpa chino

                            chimborazo is. . . a hole in the wall, not a great location. it isn't a dive. the chef/owner has done a ton of work and recently repainted the whole interior in several stages. the hood vents (visible from parts of the dining room) are sparkling clean-- they obviously get scrubbed every day. it's easy to see that there was not a big bank loan on this place, but the people take a lot of pride. there are usually even little flower arrangements on the table. most importantly, the food is very good and carefully prepared, generally by the chef-owner himself. it's even super-cheap! the whole menu is quite solid. give 'em a chance.

                            1. re: soupkitten

                              I will definitely be doing that now, after reading your convincing post. Thanks.

                              1. re: alpa chino

                                Head for lunch and get the llapingachos, empanada, and soup/sandwich special. For about $15, you'll have a feast of joy.

                              2. re: soupkitten

                                I can't praise Chimborazo enough, we go as often as we can (and we live in St. Paul so going to Mpls requires a lot of incentive). It's my favorite restaurant, I want to live there or marry the chef or something (but my husband would object). I say for lunch have the roast pork sandwich - it is a buttered and toasted chewy roll with their to-die-for roast pork, plantains, and aji criollo (cilantro sauce). And you get soup with it, either peanut broth with meat stuffed plantain dumplings or the soup of the day. I have started cooking Ecuadorean food at home, that's how much I love it. It's like all my favorite flavors - cilantro, coconut, peanut, avocado, lime.

                                1. re: sarahcooks

                                  We had dinner there tonight, and loved it! We'll definitely be going back. Folks, do give it a try if you haven't been there. The portions are modest, so you can have two or three courses and not feel stuffed afterwards. They have several different vegetarian selections, which is nice.

                                  1. re: sarahcooks

                                    Well, I checked it out also last night. The restaurant is very small and it isn't a dive at all. It is however, very quaint--so don't be fooled by the exterior like I was. But the food was very interesting. They served a special easter 12 legume (for the 12 apostles)/fish soup. There were a ton of interesting flavors inside the soup--plaintains, corn, potatoes, cod fish, peanuts. I thought it was really good. I also tried the llapingachos entree with chorizo. They serve these things with a side of rice, an egg over-easy, small side salad, and a green cilantro sauce. It was a great mix of flavors and a great introduction to ecuadorian food. Thumbs up.

                              3. The Travail pick really disappointed me. Not because I have a problem with the service there; I actually haven't been there, though I've been to Victory 44 and experienced this service style, and it was mostly fine.

                                But it seems to me that there isn't an overabundance of great servers in the Twin Cities, it would be nice to give some public recognition to the ones there are. In fact it might help. And giving a service award to a group of non-servers - well, it seems a little like giving the "best restaurant" award to somebody who gives really great dinner parties.

                                Victory 44
                                2203 44th Ave N, Minneapolis, MN

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: LiaM

                                  Like I said, when they have the time to chat with you (which is never), the service is a blast. The guys are fun, friendly, and extremely passionate and proud of what they're making, but when the place is busting (all the time), the chef/server deal can get in its own way.

                                  Not a shot on the restaurant as a whole, because I love it, but I agree that this award should have gone to someone else.

                                  1. re: BigE

                                    Travail for weekend lunch: awesome service.

                                    Travail for weekend dinner: who is my server?

                                    Love, love, love Travail, but this pick did puzzle me. I think they are totally deserving of Nerighborhood spot, however.

                                  2. re: LiaM

                                    I will give recognition to Jay (if still there) at I Nonni.

                                    I Nonni
                                    981 sibley memorial hwy, Lilydale, MN 55118