Esquire's 'Best New Restaurants 2018' list features 3 from Minneapolis

There are shoutouts for Hai Hai, Martina and Grand Cafe.
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Three Minneapolis restaurants have featured in Esquire's "Best New Restaurants 2018" guide released on Wednesday.

The magazine every year compiles a list of the 20 best new dining experiences across the country, as well as a handful of related prizes for various achievements.

Three Minneapolis restaurants are included in the guide: Hai Hai, Martina, and Grand Cafe.

Hai Hai features in Esquire's "20 Best New Restaurants," the second time it has made a national "Best Of" list having featured in's "18 Best New Restaurants" earlier this year.

The brainchild of wife and husband duo, chef Christina Nguyen and Birk Stefan Grudem – who also own Hola Arepa – the Northeast Minneapolis restaurant wowed Esquire with its scintillating southeast Asian street food.

As food critic Jeff Gordiner wrote: 

True story: As I stood outside Hai Hai in early spring, a truck sped by on University Avenue and sprayed me from head to toe with dirty snow and gutter water. It’s a testament to the sunny energy of Hai Hai that I didn’t care. By then I’d been filled up with chef Christina Nguyen’s water fern cakes; her fried wontons, all melty inside with cream cheese and chicken livers; her showstopping Balinese chicken thigh under a roof of crispy skin and on a bed of coconut-creamed jasmine rice. Banana blossoms, sugarcane, sticky rice, and green papaya—Nguyen’s menu reads like a street-smitten ode to Southeast Asia, a pop song that can brighten up even the murkiest of days in L’Étoile du Nord.

Of Nguyen, Gordiner writes: "In an age when far too many young chefs are phoning it in with beet salads and predictable globs of burrata, Nguyen cooks with a fresh vantage point on what it means to feed the people."

Elsewhere, there was more praise for Marco Zappia, of Martina in Linden Hills, who you might remember was recently named in Forbes magazine's "30 Under 30."

He was named "Beverage Director of the Year" by Esquire, with Gordiner saying Zappia "floored me with his percolating creativity when I visited Minnesota."

"If cocktail making has become a bit too enamored with itself in recent years ... Zappia may be the antidote."

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The final notable mention goes to Jamie Malone and the Grand Cafe in south Minneapolis, which was named "Restaurant Resurrection of the Year."

Malone has received huge acclaim after re-opening the Grand Cafe last year, leading to it being named among Food & Wine magazine's Best Restaurants of the Year in April.

Her choux pastry and chicken-liver mousse dish, called the Paris-Brest, was named Food & wine's Dish of the Year too.

Gordiner says Malone's menu "would've made Julia Child swoon," adding it's served in a "hygge-forward room where Fred Rogers would've felt cozy in his cardigan."

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