The Restaurant Guide: The North Loop

Updated 10/11/2013

The growing neighborhood is officially the city’s hottest dining district.

BOROUGH

American • $$$ • 730 Washington Av. N., Mpls. • 612-354-3135 • www.boroughmpls.com

The Twin Cities’ most exciting new restaurant? It’s Borough, by a mile. Enthusiasm builds with each successive dish. A smoky, mouth-melting slab of pork belly was beautifully balanced by bitter broccoli raab, a sweet carrot purée and mellow, quietly nutty farro. Another brilliant bout of porkiness came in the form of a deeply fragrant ham-hock broth poured over a pristine slice of grilled sturgeon and buttery gigante beans. Delicate ribbons of house-made linguine were generously tossed in a trio of compound butters and finished with squash, sage and hazelnuts. Chefs Nick O’Leary and Tyler Shipton became friends while working at Travail in Robbinsdale, and in this case a superb restaurant has spawned another superb restaurant. Like Travail, Borough is remarkably affordable. Both kitchens share a penchant for artful presentation and an interest in molecular gastronomy. But if Borough feels less playfully improvisational than Travail, O’Leary and Shipton’s cooking leaves the impression that each dish is the final permutation of a well-thought-out idea. The space ignites all kinds of loft envy, and the best seat in the house is at the lively, marble-topped kitchen counter. Enterprises like Borough are making the Twin Cities a major American dining destination. Amen to that. Rick Nelson

 

CLASSIC

MONTE CARLO

American •$$$ • 219 3rd Av. N., Mpls. • 612-333-5900 •www.montecarlomn.com

The black-and-white starched uniforms on the waitresses are legendary, as are the classic sidecars and barmen who would blush if you asked one to make you a Mojito. Monte Carlo is where to go if the world seems a little off-center and you’re looking to set things right. Here, men drink brown liquor and lots of it, ladies don’t pay the bill, and your steak is done right every time. The true Monte Carlo aficionado is probably a regular and already knows all about its copious charms. But in addition to the rich copper bar, the reflective tower of booze, the hundred years of drinkers gone-by who you’re in cahoots with — and the steaks — here are a few more. The handsome, airy patio if you’re not in a hunkering-down kind of mood; the signature Szechuan green bean appetizer that will blow your face off and challenge your notion of steakhouse fare; the reasonable-in-its-class prices — just $28 for a filet mignon, with all the sides. Oh, and they’re open on Christmas Day, and there’s no better way to avoid your family than by watching other families knock ’em back over peppercorn beef and twinkle lights. Mecca Bos

SMACK SHACK

Seafood • $$ • 603 Washington Av. N., Mpls. • 612-259-7288 • www.smack-shack.com

“We go through more lobster than the rest of Minnesota combined,” claimed Smack Shack owner Josh Thoma — roughly 3,000 pounds a week, in fact. But this bricks-and-mortar iteration of the food truck of the same name is also a quality-minded venture. At least a third of that tonnage is funneled directly into a variety of lobster boils, a heaping platter of whole lobster paired with a slew of well-prepared sides. What an enjoyable way to share a meal, and to call the portions generous is an understatement. But Thoma ingeniously incorporates lobster into dishes up and down his menu. There’s a creamy, brightly composed guacamole. A super-rich mac-and-cheese. And a hilarious yet slightly addicting play on State Fair shtick in the form of lobster on a stick, dipped in a fresh corn batter and deep-fried. Still, the star of the show remains the lobster roll — one bite is enough to instantly transport your taste buds to the Maine coast. And the kitchen offers plenty of non-lobster reasons to stop by: the crab roll, for starters, or the overstuffed po’boys. Thoma said he’s hoping to launch more Smack Shacks, at least outside the Twin Cities. Not bad for a business plan that was launched out of the back of a truck. R.N

 

$

BEV’S WINE BAR: Wine bar. Vino parlor has logged nearly two decades in the North Loop. Small bites available. (250 3rd Av. N., Mpls. 612-337-0102.)

BLACK SHEEP PIZZA: Pizza. A hot- and dry-burning coal-fired oven turns out pizzas with superb toppings (housemade fennel sausage; mushroom-mozzarella-rosemary; tomato-oregano) on glorious crusts. (600 Washington Av. N., Mpls., 612-342-2625.)

FULTON BEER: Taproom. Flagship brews like Sweet Child of Vine and the Libertine — with a food truck such as Vellee Deli, Chef Shack or Gastrotruck parked outside.(414 6th Av. N., Mpls. 612-333-3208.)

STADIUM PIZZA: Pizza. Divey pizzeria and Packer/Badger bar coaxes PedalPubbers with ride-related deals. (200 Washington Av. N., Mpls. 612-334-3000)

TOAST WINE BAR & CAFE: American. Owner Erin Tomczyk really nails the wine-bar food thing, keeping her nibble-friendly menu short and uncomplicated while emphasizing fresh, generous flavors at affordable prices. (415 N. 1st St., Mpls., 612-333-4305.)

 

$$

BE’WICHED DELI: American. High-end culinary practices are scrupulously adapted to the humble sandwich. The results include an astonishingly great pastrami, a luxurious tuna and a positively seductive pulled pork version. (800 Washington Av. N., Mpls., 612-767-4330.)

 

$$$

THE BACHELOR FARMER: Scandinavian. Chef Paul Berglund tackles contemporary Scandinavian farmhouse cooking; do not miss the ling cod brandade, the sockeye gravlax or the rabbit liver terrine. In the lower-level Marvel Bar, Pip Hanson concocts some of the city’s most refreshing cocktails. (50 N. 2nd St., Mpls. 612-206-3920.)

BAR LA GRASSA: Italian. Spouses Isaac Becker and Nancy St. Pierre (112 Eatery) collaborate on this hot North Loop pasta joint, combining great energy and wonderfully simple food. (800 Washington Av. N., Mpls., 612-333-3837.)

HAUTEDISH: American. Chef Landon Schoenefeld displays his passionate love affair with rich foods. He twists familiar dishes, each seemingly culled from a retro church cookbook or a vintage food mag. (119 Washington Av. N., Mpls., 612-338- 8484.)

J.D. HOYT’S: American. Vintage supper club, both classy and casual enough for intergenerational outings. (301 Washington Av. N., Mpls. 612-338-1560.)

MONTE CARLO BAR & CAFE: American. Popular watering hole serving burgers, sandwiches, pasta and other American fare. (219 3rd Av. N., Mpls., 612-333-5900.)

ORIGAMI: Sushi bar with many vegetarian items. (30 N. 1st St., Mpls., 612- 333-8430.)

SAPOR CAFE AND BAR: Fusion. The name is Latin for “flavor,” and the around-the-world food lives up to it. (428 Washington Av. N., Mpls., 612-375-1971.)

 

BUDGET

MOOSE & SADIE’S

Sunny cafe brings counter service, fresh fare and affordable prices to the condocracy. (212 3rd Av. N., Mpls. 612-371-0464.)