Many new-ish restaurants in the Twin Cities are almost a "go-to" home-away-from-home restaurant. But immediately bringing together value, service, comfort, consistency, and dependability is not easy – and it's not always a restaurant's goal.
High prices or fussy service can overshadow the tightest food concepts and the most-gorgeous rooms. Working out these kinks to turn just another place into a regular destination can take years, if not decades.
Few restaurants come out of the gates blazing, destined to become a place for the ages. (A place like DeGidio's in St. Paul, even.) When it happens, the owners have their hearts in the right place. That is: beating strongly for you, the regular guest.
Here are four places in Minneapolis – and one in St. Paul – ready for your repeat visits.
Dumpling (Howe/Hiawatha, Minneapolis)
Dumpling owners Bunbob Chhun and James Munson recently put down Chinese-American roots where some were already planted. The spot replaced Ming’s Palace, a Chinese takeout and buffet institution that fueled Southeast Minneapolis 20 years. The food is something satisfyingly authentic, fueled by days and nights of fantasy and a ridiculous amount of hard work.
Bringing together designer decor, handmade sweet-and sour-chicken, low-proof cocktails, and on-site owners, this unpretentious neighborhood stop is the Chinese restaurant of your regular takeout dreams.
Moroccan Flavors (Phillips, Minneapolis)
Hassan Ziadi can run a Moroccan grab-and-go counter like the finest hotel kitchen in Marrakesh. That's where this white-coated chef used to work, over a career of cooking all over the world. But he had an American dream, and it plays itself out, day by day at Midtown Global Market. Choose a tagine (go to the chef’s table and get the ceramic beauties presented before you, fine-dining style) with rivulets of moisture raining down on the fork-tender meat.
Or, a try a rainbow of vegan veggies, each enhanced by advanced culinary know-how: preserved lemon, rose water, smoke. You won’t dine better on the reg for a few bucks anywhere, even on tacos.
PinkU Japanese (Northeast, Minneapolis)
PinkU democratizes sushi – no longer confining Japanese food to fine dining (or the grocery store case). It strikes a happy, affordable medium where sushi is every Tuesday lunch, and sometimes dinner, as well. This impeccably sourced fish is served in portions and iterations that are approachable above all, especially at a few bucks a pop, in a sliver of a space that prides itself on fast-food speeds. Expect spicy tuna tartare on crispy rice, jumbo crispy shrimp with spicy mayo, fatty salmon rolls, and just a few other faves that everyone wants (and returns for).
Pimento Kitchen (Whittier, Minneapolis)
For a few bucks a plate, Jamaican native Tomme Beevas and his brother from another mother Yoni Reinharz serve up jerk chicken, Red Stripe beer, and dancehall king Buju Banton on the speakers. The Nicollet Avenue location of Pimento provides platters of Beevas’ grandma’s recipes (adapted by Reinharz’ brother-in-law chef) like curry goat and braised oxtail. This soul-stirring comfort food lights you up from within, especially after adding some “Kill Dem Wit It” hot sauce.
Truly a family affair, the two men and their spouses and kids hold court with visiting musicians, chefs, cooks, and you – all soon to be regulars, if you’re not already.
Bar Brigade (Mac Groveland, St. Paul)
You'll find Bar Brigade on a quiet sidewalk on a typical St. Paul street beneath a Pabst Blue Ribbon sign simply reading “Brigade.” That modest signage sets the tone for the warm bar within. Order a some warm rolls and salted butter for $4, a glass of inexpensive wine on tap, and then decide if you want a grilled trout or a chicken salad or a grand Fromage platter to share with friends.
Owner Matty O’Reilly and chef J.D. Fratzke – two restaurant industry lifers – say they were inspired by the taverns of France, the kind that everybody frequents in every neighborhood, at all hours of the day, like an extension of home. Fratzke even writes a blog that makes it seem like every layer of phyllo dough in this place feeds a labor of love.