“You feel like you’re in a museum, or some other metropolis hotspot,” a reporter for the Minnesota Monthly said after a visit to My Burger. The article went on to praise the menu, applauding “beefy, thin burgers with good, sweet, fresh buns.” Each quarter-pound burger is prepared fresh to order, with standard toppings as well more adventurous options such as Cajun bacon. Amid crackling décor infused with pop-art influences, patrons also swap in patties made of fish, chicken, turkey, or veggies like the best friend of a lonely chef.
The staff also claims they have their french-fry process down to a science, which may be true: they were listed in Citypages’ Top 10 French Fries in the Twin Cities in 2012. Robin’s-egg-blue stand mixers churn out fresh malts in chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry, and glasses click together at the small bar, spilling rivulets of wine, hard ciders, and draft Surly.
At Faces Mears Park, Chef David Fhima's use of local, sustainable ingredients puts a contemporary spin on traditional bistro cuisine. His chefs seek out grass-fed beef for their steaks, hand-make pastas with organic whole wheat, and stock the wine cellar with as many organic and biodynamically produced bottles as possible. This approach results in fresh renditions of classic American and Mediterranean comfort foods, such as an Asian-style tuna melt on house-made sourdough and lamb tagine with a cinnamon and onion marmalade. Even the pizzas manage to incorporate some more inventive toppings, including options with everything from Sicilian andouille sausage and a fried egg to salmon, kale, and chevre.
The bistro's dining room shares a similarly casual, yet modern aesthetic. Large plate-glass windows line the front walls of the atrium section and allow plenty of natural light to flood the space during the day. The mixture of hardwood and gray-tiled floors complements the rich earth tones of the tan walls and sturdy columns. At the same time, the restaurant gets a contemporary, industrial vibe from its gleaming metal tables and Charlie-Chaplin-manned pizza assembly line.
Housed in a charming red-brick building, Bilotti's Italian Village churns out a menu of American favorites and old country specialties to silence grousing stomachs. Nestled cozily within casual environs, diners can oil rusty jaw hinges with starters such as the fried clams ($5.99 for a small order) and Italian pasta's archenemy, Italian antipasta ($10.99 per two-person platter). Sink saucy incisors into a smattering of entrees, including the chicken italianne ($10.99), featuring fettuccini pasta fraught with chicken, marinara, mushrooms, green peppers, and onions, or the amphibious Sea & Shore ($16.99), which marries a 6-ounce fillet of walleye pike and a 7-ounce tenderloin steak to form a delightful duo, like a silent, edible Sonny and Cher. Meanwhile, the pizza oven fires up dough disks, including the Bilotti's Ultimate ($21.24 for a 14-inch pie), on which a righteous triumvirate of pepperoni, canadian bacon, and ground beef dance across a field of green peppers, onions, mushrooms, and pineapples. Offered all day, breakfast dishes, such as steak and eggs ($11.99), confound morning news anchors and goad cadres of confused roosters into crowing at sunset. While enjoying delicious bites and discussing the proper way to braid spaghetti, wash down a mighty meal with selections from Bilotti's wine list.
In the 1950s, Sam Perrella owned a small cafe in Minnesota's Iron Range, offering up the usual cafe fare of coffee and baked goods. But after hearing WWII soldiers' stories of Italian pizza and traveling to Chicago to taste the Windy City's version of the Italian pie, he and his wife created their own version. They morphed the cafe with Sammy's Pizza, moved it to a larger location, and watched the loyal customers roll in.
The iconic restaurant now boasts 16 locations in three states and the Five Four Lounge in Coon Rapids. But though it's a household name, it remains a family-run eatery with menu items culled from family recipes. Among them are chicken tetrazzini, three-cheese bacon caballero, and specialty pizzas. Favorites include Sammy's Special with Italian sausage, green pepper, and onions, or the Iron Ranger with kosher beef salami, pepperoni, and mozzarella cheese.
Fresh ingredients from local suppliers abound at Crave, where patrons can create their ideal plates by hand-selecting from an array of all-natural and organic eats. The buffet table sports an elaborate ensemble of tongue tempters, with items such as fresh baked goods, seasonal fruit, applewood-smoked bacon, and egg strata orbiting a chef's selection of fish. Toppings of maple syrup, whipped cream, and berry compote eagerly adorn freshly-toasted checkerboards at the gourmet waffle station, and the chef's carving station showcases a selection of fine meats whittled to look like bars of soap. Champagne, mimosas, and bellinis give brunch a cosmopolitan flair, and Crave's low-lit ambience provides an intimate backdrop for shadow-puppet Civil War reenactments.
At Sweet Taste of Italy, the secret’s not just in the sauce—although they have a specialty housemade red sauce—because everything is made from scratch each day. The chefs whip butter, grind cheese, bake fresh sweet Italian bread, and hand-slice meats to create Italian favorites with an American twist. Customers can dine in or take out heaping helpings of pasta and Toyota-sized pizzas, and catering services are also available.