Neighborhood cafes should be warm, welcoming, and filled with good coffee. Muffin Top Cafe raises that bar and does one better, throwing baked goods made from scratch into the equation. The cafe, founded by the former manager of Minneapolis hotspots Annie's Parlour and Bobino Cafe, boasts a large interior primed for leisurely afternoons of coffee sipping, writing, and contemplating writing about coffee sipping. The menu offers up namesake muffin tops baked in house along with croissants, cookies, and brownies, which all pair deliciously with the cafe's Milan-style espresso and dark French roast.
Great care is taken with each and every item on the menu at French Corner Bistro & Bakery. In the traditional European way, every dish is made from scratch, including the bread, which is baked fresh every morning. Even the coffee beans arrive at the cafe's doorstep just three days after being roasted in Saint Paul. Continental-style cane chairs ensconce diners as they choose from French-style plates such as croque monsieurs topped with bechamel. There are also savory crepes stuffed with chicken and garlic?the same breakfast fed to Napoleon when his aide-de-camp thought he was a vampire. Even sweet teeth attain satiation at this bistro after sinking into fresh pastries such as vanilla eclairs and berry tarts.
According to an old Dutch proverb, "Coffee has two virtues: it is wet and warm. Stop giggling." For $8, today's Groupon lets you enjoy the dark elixir's many virtues with four coffee drinks at Dunn Bros Coffee (an up to $18 value). Bring your Groupon to either the Loring Park or Lyndale Avenue locations and you'll receive a four-beverage punch card that you can use to stay alert until baseball season.
Though inspired by the northern California caf?s of the early 1980s, Espresso Royale fits right in with Michigan?s modern coffee drinkers?in 2014 readers of The Michigan Daily voted it Best Coffee Shop for the fifth year in a row. Their coffees include a house blend developed in 1987, which has since been joined by a seasonally appropriate autumn spice blend and a southern Italian-style espresso called Napoli. Royale's customers also clamor to the counter for favorites such as raspberry mochas, mint hot chocolates, and ginger dragon, a tea layered with fresh lemon and steeped ginger root that can be served iced or heated by a dragon named Ginger.
Creative dishes aim to turn the common meal into an artistic experience by adding international accents to classic country cooking. The Midwestern charm begins, as in any good farmhouse, with breakfast. Omelettes ($12) get a gourmet upgrade with options such as smoked salmon with brie and asparagus, or peppers with tomato, olives, and goat cheese. If your sweet tooth won't stop texting you, treat it to ricotta pancakes covered in raspberries and vanilla butter ($9) or irresistibly rich French toast with ginger cream, bananas, and walnuts ($10). Breakfast spills over into the lunch hour with the fried egg sandwich ($9), done up in its Sunday best with crispy bacon, sharp cheddar, and tomato jam. For something more traditionally lunchy, stick with the classic bacon cheeseburger ($13) or the spinach salad ($7), thoughtfully tossed with pear, spiced pecans, bleu cheese, and sweet onion. Dinner brings out the big guns to help heat your bodily furnace through the harsh Minnesota winter, with most dishes built around a single, classic staple (meat, fish, fowl, or pasta). The juicy Black Angus tenderloin ($37) is inventively accented with pickled mushrooms and bleu cheese, while the veal chop ($38) comes with mac 'n' cheese, mustard greens, and barbecue sauce.
Drawing on their love of tequila and Latin street fare, Ryan Burnet and Tim Rooney founded their first Barrio restaurant in 2008. The duo aimed to create a space where chefs pair gourmet Mexican small plates and entrees crafted from organic and local ingredients with more than 150 tequilas. By spring of 2010, Tim and Ryan were running two Barrio locations and the Barrio Taco Truck, which distributes its gourmet grub to summer festival attendees and adrenaline-addicted snowmen.
In fall 2010, Ryan and Tom opened Cocina del Barrio, or "Kitchen of the Neighborhood," which builds upon its sister restaurants' success with a new slate of large plates, salads, and ceviches. Its dining room is adorned in bull-themed artwork and accommodates guests for brunches, lunches, and dinner. A cozier event space comes equipped with a flat-panel television and iPod connection and treats up to 18 visitors with a custom menu of Barrio favorites.