Along with the end of Prohibition, 1933 brought sweeping changes across the country. It definitely changed the building at 1928 University Avenue NE in Minneapolis, which had been functioning as a hardware and furniture store for nearly a quarter-century. Proprietor Stanley Kozlak immediately went out and obtained a liquor license, transforming his retail shop into a bar and restaurant.
It would prove to be a smart decision?more than 80 years and two generations of Kozlaks later, Jax Cafe stands as a Minneapolis institution whose reputation has spread throughout the Midwest. This is thanks in part to singular touches such as reserved tables set with personalized matchbooks for expected guests and a stream on the lush covered patio from which diners can net their own rainbow trout for dinner. It?s no wonder Travel Channel foodie Andrew Zimmern has gushed that this restaurant is ?dripping with character.?
Part of that character comes from a certain adherence to traditions. Jax is furnished with patterned carpet, white linens, a grand piano, and a phone booth?yes, a phone booth?and the menu has the classic supper-club meals to match. Fresh Maine lobsters are kept in a saltwater tank said to be the first of its kind in the state, and the selection of award-winning Angus beef includes an 8-ounce filet the restaurant calls ?the steak that made Jax famous.? That?s not to say Jax is stuffy or old-fashioned?the menu also includes beer-can chicken, kids' meals, and craft beers served fresh from the tap, bottle, or keg-sized water balloon.
At Sushi X, a talented team of chefs is split between two delicious specialties?sushi and hibachi. Each day, they perform a culinary spectacle for guests, transforming fresh seafood into maki and sashimi at the sushi bar or searing meats and veggies tableside at hibachi grills. Their gourmet repertoire also includes traditional Japanese entrees such as teriyaki, tempura, and noodle dishes.
At Osaka Sushi and Hibachi Steakhouse, teppanyaki chefs preside over sweltering tableside hibachi grills, entertaining diners as they slice and dice succulent cuts of filet mignon, chicken, and swordfish. A customer can wrap a partner's lips around the hibachi lover's dinner for two, which lets scallops, shrimp, lobster, and filet mignon rendezvous on a romantically arranged platter that is perpetually serenaded by a thumb-size accordion player. Alternatively, a slate of dishes that comes to life away from the hibachi grill includes proteins slathered in teriyaki sauce, hidden in tempura batter, or mixed with stir-fried noodles. Special sushi rolls—such as the Dancing roll with tuna, salmon, and yellowtail—also cha-cha from table to mouth.
Warm light and modern décor greet diners at Sawa Japan, and hibachi chefs dazzle diners with adroit teppanyaki-cooking showmanship. Lobster tail and filet mignon pirouette through the air and gently alight on an open hibachi grill. At the opposite end of the cooking spectrum, sushi chefs arrange raw morsels into dozens of à la carte sushi and signature-roll selections. Artful sushi presentations match the modern ambiance of the sushi bar, which extends into the dining area where soft music and large, airy windows evoke a peaceful climate.
The hibachi and sushi chefs at Murasaki Sushi Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar concoct specialty rolls, tempura, and hibachi-style dishes such as the calamari steak dinner. While enjoying teppanyaki with groups of friends or new acquaintances made while trapped inside a speeding bus, diners can drink sake martinis and cocktails such as the Lotus Blossom, a mix of cold sake, lychee, and lime juice with a sugar-coated rim. Murasaki Steakhouse is only open during dinner hours.
The culinary team at Common Roots Cafe believes that the best way to create a welcoming restaurant is to fully embrace local flavor in every sense of the word. Even the interior speaks to this mission?reclaimed barn wood makes up the dining room's floorboards and tabletops, the counter is composed of recycled cardboard, and the air is one-hundred percent Minnesotan. The overall effect is one of casual warmth, an atmosphere that makes the cafe an ideal spot for guests to chew on eclectic, yet accessible, cuisine and relax with a choice of 10 local craft beers.
The menu itself also bursts with hometown pride, highlighting local organic and sustainable ingredients. As much as half of the restaurant's food comes from farms located within 250 miles of Minneapolis, while some produce is picked right outside the door at the cafe's urban garden. And since the selection of ingredients alters with the seasons, the chefs adapt their dishes each month to showcase their fresh flavors. Previous offerings have included redfish tacos with jicama slaw, mac 'n' cheese with local cheddar, and house-made tagliatelle pasta topped with a hearty bison bolognese sauce. Bites are complemented with sips from a drink list featuring wines?many made from organic grapes?and local beers. And, in the unlikely event that diners leave any food on their plates, the scraps are carefully composted to continue the cafe's green production cycle.