After a round of renovations, owners Mike, Al, and Jamie filled the shelves at Metro Wine and Spirits with libations for all tastes. Wines from such makers as Blufeld and Ecco Domani bring with them the flavors of Europe, while the popped cap of a Surly craft beer hisses "I didn't stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night_." Liquors by such favorite brands as UV stand ready for inclusion in cocktails. Visitors dropping by the shop may even find themselves swept up in a tasting or a contest to identify wines by cork texture alone.
Chef Dennis Lewis of Ursula's Wine Bar & Cafe draws from his cornucopia of seasonal produce, sourced from local farmers, to craft his monthly changing menu. It’s a menu that has earned OpenTable Diners' Choice Awards for "Best Food" and "Best Overall" experience. In the kitchen, Chef Lewis chops greens from local producers, including Twin Pine Farm, Grandmas Bakery, and Pine Tree Apple Orchard, to toss with blueberry-balsamic vinaigrettes and curried, creamy coconut dressings. His monthly updated menu has included appetizers such as goat-cheese gratin with sun-dried tomatoes and spicy red-pepper hummus with warm flatbread. The kitchen team also prepares entrees that are seasonally inspired, like reindeer lawn ornaments and air-conditioner window decorations. An example of this seasonal food is the pork loin rubbed with ancho-chipotle chili and served with pumpkin mashed potatoes and bacon brown butter. The dining area accommodates 39 guests, meaning there are more than three times as many varieties of domestic and imported wines—150 to be exact—as there are guests at any given time. There’s also an outdoor patio, where wine flights can be sipped while plane flights sip the sky overhead.
Scott Hansen's Comedy Gallery splits sides with stand-up comedy performances served up alongside full dinners. Take a seat at Welsch’s Big Ten Tavern at 8 p.m. to enjoy a quarter-chicken dinner, served with soup or salad, and the choice of a baked potato, au gratins, garlic mashed potatoes, wild rice, steamed vegetables, or a side of already-primed smiles. At 9 p.m., the laughs begin as that evening’s comic takes the stage. On September 9 and 10, veteran Minneapolis comic Jodie Maruska relates hilarious hijinks about life, family, and body acceptance. On September 16 and 17, Eugene Meaux presents a menagerie of relatable characters from daily life in a fun, friendly, and real performance. On September 24, laugh along with comedian Jim Wiggins, who has tickled audiences on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, in a performance that harkens back to the witty styles of comedians like George Carlin and Thomas Edison.
Though Little Venetian opened in 2002, the family behind the operation has been treating locals to Italian flavors since 1928, when Mama and Papa Vitale opened a modest vegetable stand. Now, decades later, diners can enjoy their fresh produce whipped up into hearty meals, made in accordance with Vitale family recipes. Pastas and pizzas come coated in slow-cooked marinara or alfredo sauces, and plates of chicken parmigiano and Italian sausage warm forks and souls with homemade flavor.
Acqua-Forest Lake's passionate clientele like to spread the word about their favorite eatery, and their word-of-mouth reviews culminated in three OpenTable Diners’ Choice Awards for best ambiance, Italian food, and view. Tucked into the northern shore of Forest Lake, this restaurant allows patrons to stare out at blue waters and lush tree lines punctuated by the occasional sasquatch as they feast on Executive Chef Chris Whalen’s upscale Italian cuisine. Whalen twirls spaghetti around sautéed tiger shrimp and pairs broiled cold-water-lobster tail with truffle risotto and clarified butter. His shareable dishes include pizza with Calabrese Italian Sausage and fresh mussels sautéed in garlic, parsley, and cream.
Steel Toe Brewery's founder was a home brewer, fermenting beer in his bedroom overnight, until the gurgling sounds of the carboy began to disturb his wife's sleep. Origin stories like these are just one of the attractions of Taproom Tours' brewery tours, which also explore the Belgian yeast of Boom Island Brewing, celebrate session ales at 612 Brew, and enable sud savoring in the wood-paneled taproom at Indeed Brewing Company. Visitors taste sample brews at each location, and, helped along by a knowledgeable guide, explore the breweries' inner workings until they have learned every yeast strain's first name and favorite sports team.