Chorizo, chihuahua cheese, lemongrass, and bamboo shoots are equally at home in Señor Wong’s kitchen, where executive chef Cody Monson fills the menu with Asian Mexican fusion plates. Tacos topped with barbacoa or smoky black beans join entrees such as szechwan steak stir-fry served with jasmine rice. Señor Wong also pairs more traditional bar bites, such as what the Star Tribune thinks “might be the best sweet potato fries in town,” with 18 draft craft beers from breweries such as Surly Brewing Co. and Summit Brewing Company. Weekly special events such as trivia and karaoke further foster the laid-back pub vibe, as patrons can sample sakes or sing lullabies to the Yuzo Sour Baby cocktail, which mixes rye whiskey, sour mix, egg whites, and lemon-peel essence.
Mario and Nina Pelagalli use recipes passed down from family members from Rome and Naples as the blueprints for Casa Nostra Pizzeria & Ristorante's Italian cuisine. As the owners revealed to Sun Thisweek, Nina's mother creates the restaurant's sauces from scratch to ensure they carry on the family tradition of culinary excellence. Her concoctions blanket the 25 pastas on Casa Nostra's dinner menu, which also includes pizzas, paninis, and veal and chicken entrees. Having recently taken over a neighboring bar, the Pelagallis' restaurant now accommodates even more guests with roomier dining quarters and an expanded liquor stock. Evening entertainment includes Frank Sinatra tributes that pay homage to the crooner's singing ability and talent for intermittently firing blue lasers from his eyes.
To keep up with Calhoun Square's much-needed revitalization after being squashed by Mothra, Aura has revamped itself from the inside out. Along with a new interior comes a new chef with an entirely re-invented menu that features American cuisine with numerous international twists. Aura's vast selection of original pasta dishes are its centerpiece with such notables as: asparagus truffle pasta ($8.95), tequila chicken pasta ($9.95), beef-tip gorgonzola ($12.95), and avocado pasta ($10.95). Traveling tongues, meanwhile, can take a stroll around the parts of America that are in Europe with entrees such as baked Bulgarian feta ($8.95), mustard thyme-glazed salmon ($12.95), and shrimp and mushroom risotto ($12.95). Aura's small plates are all under $7, but do not skimp on delectable originality or syllables. Passing around a few plates of tabasco-dipped calamari ($6.95) and goat-cheese chicken quesadilla ($6.95) will ensure that your conversation suffers no uncomfortable lulls no matter how often your friend brings up his rash.
The Independent is a locally owned dining and cocktail destination boasting one of the happiest happy hours around. From 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. each day, city dwellers gather in the restaurant's chic yet casual confines to mingle over impressive daily specials, including $5 select appetizers, $5 specialty martinis, and $3 select draft beers and house wines. Pair a frothy Bells’ Two Hearted Ale tap brew ($3) with a classic Margherita pizza ($5), or wash down a chipotle-tinged plate of onion rings ($5) with a glass of crisp chardonnay ($3).