The Restaurant Guide: The suburbs

Updated 10/11/2013

There’s good eats in the ’burbs. You just have to know where to look.

PIG ATE MY PIZZA

Pizza • $$ • 4154 W. Broadway, Robbinsdale • 763-535-1131 • www.facebook.com/pigatemypizza

Part of the Travail team’s rapidly growing restaurant empire, this off-the-cuff solution to what to do with the old Travail space while Travail 2.0 and the Rookery get built is just as much fun — with added cheese and bacon. Champions of doing only what they love and staying true to their hearts, the Travail gang thought of just that — what do they love? Well, pizza. Duh. “We’re a bunch of fat guys,” says co-owner and chef Mike Brown. But never leaving well enough alone, they smooshed together two beloved concepts — pizza and charcuterie — so you’re guaranteed to leave with a stomachache that’s a joy to cultivate. The place maintains the signature high-energy vibe that’s garnered the team its throngs of dedicated fans, and the tunes are still bumpin’. In addition to the impressive pie and potted trotters, if you please, there are strawberry shortcake lollipops, cooks in chicken suits, and more slices of salami pressed into a pizza than you have ever seen. And perhaps my favorite flourish: free sauce, anytime you want it, ladled right onto your plate, straight from the pot. Because if there’s one thing in life we could all use a little more of, it’s sauce. Mecca Bos

FIRELAKE GRILL HOUSE & COCKTAIL BAR

American • $$$ • Mall of America, 2100 Killebrew Dr., Bloomington • 952-881-5258 • www.firelakerestaurant.com

A frequent Mall of America complaint is that there’s nowhere decent to eat (well, outside of Masu). The Radisson Blu hotel is out to change that perception with FireLake. Its soothing neo-Scandinavian setting feels miles away from the megamall’s hullabaloo, and is a fine platform for chef Paul Lynch’s something-for-everyone fare. Lynch makes an effort to source local ingredients — not easy in his corporate world — and he keeps his wood-burning oven busy with well-topped pizzas. A mesquite-burning grill burnishes rich flavors into elk, beef, seafood and a pair of impressive burgers. Happy surprises await in all corners of the lengthy menu: beer-battered zucchini fries, bison marrow spread on toast, a creamy smoked freshwater whitefish brandade, puffed-up popovers glistening with honey butter, a lively charcuterie platter, a robust wild rice soup and hearty fritters of smoked, slow-braised lamb. For breakfast, a vast $12-and-under selection that shines a spotlight on trademark Minnesota ingredients (wild rice pancakes with a chokecherry syrup, a walleye hash topped with poached eggs and hollandaise, a scrambled egg lefse wrap) and a long list of a.m. favorites (substituting duck eggs for chicken eggs is a very nice touch, as is the Pop Tart-inspired blueberry breakfast pastry). The refuge of a bar fully embraces the craft cocktail movement and taps a bevy of locally brewed beers. Rick Nelson

HELLO PIZZA

Pizza • $ • 3904 Sunnyside Rd., Edina • 952-303-4514 • www.hellopizza.com

There’s been much haranguing about the idea that no good pizza pies get made once the border of New York City gets crossed. Whether you buy into that notion or not, there’s no arguing the fact that the middle of the map seems to be missing much in the way of great pizzerias. (Unless you count Chicago. Which I don’t.) But then along came Ann Kim, who gave up a career in theater all for the love of the pie. The until-then completely inexperienced restaurateur underwent a rigorous training in the tradition of Neapolitan-style pizza, and came up with a signature interpretation on the product. But that was then. She also had a hankering for the East Coast pie she loved while studying in New York, so — Hello Pizza! The fluorescent-lit shop is about as close as you’ll get to an NYC slice joint without a plane ticket, from the affordable slices (a little steeper than a New York slice, at about three to four bucks a pop) to the real-deal recipe. This is a floppy slice, a foldable slice, an I-almost-want-another-but-I’m-too-full-slice. The backdrop of Sunnyside Road in Edina isn’t exactly the grit of the Big Apple, but we’ll take it. M.B.

EAT SHOP KITCHEN & BAR

American • $$ • 16605 County Rd. 24, Plymouth • 763-270-5929 • www.theeatshop.com

Put together two Parasole vets (owner Michael Larson and chef Jeff Anderson), the sprawling footprint of a former sports bar, and a clientele hungry for something new and different, and the happy results are Eat Shop Kitchen & Bar. Now western suburbanites can stay close to home for their chain-restaurant-free dose of an eclectic, covers-the-bases menu, one that swings from an excellent slaw-topped pork sandwich and fragrant beer-steamed mussels to rigatoni tossed with tender duck confit, earthy mushrooms and plenty of sage and polenta topped with sautéed greens and a poached egg. Hungry for a burger? You’ve got 10 options, including a Jucy Lucy-inspired monster stuffed with onions, mushrooms and American cheese. Salads include a beauty with savory duck confit and mixed greens tossed in a bacon vinaigrette and topped with a runny poached egg. Bar snacks swing from tender, piping hot swordfish fritters to can’t-eat-just-one glazed chicken wings. Crispy-skinned fried chicken with mashed potatoes? Check. Vegetable-studded, saffron-scented risotto? Yep. A sizzling hanger steak with a hefty handful of salty fries? Sure thing. Then there’s happy hour, which shows off the well-stocked bar to its best advantage while simultaneously offering diners a handful of well-made $3, $5 and $6 noshes. The bar knows what it’s doing, the patio is a looker and weekend brunch is a treat. R.N.

 

BUDGET

YUM! KITCHEN AND BAKERY

Nothing fancy — just fresh ingredients, clean flavors and uncomplicated preparations. (4000 Minnetonka Blvd., St. Louis Park, 952-922-4000.)

$

BIG BOWL: Quality-minded Asian-accented chain emphasizes quick noodle dishes, stir fries, curries and other freshly prepared fare with Thai, Szechuan and Vietnamese roots. Build your own stir-fry at the self-serve ingredient bar. (Three locations: 3669 Galleria, Edina, 952-928-7888; 1705 W. Hwy. 36 (Rosedale), Roseville, 651-636- 7173; and 12649 Wayzata Blvd. (Ridgedale), Minnetonka, 952-797-9888.)

GALAXY DRIVE-IN: American. Classic drive-in fare in a classic drive-in setting. (3712 Quebec Av. S., St. Louis Park, 952-277-7777.)

INDIA PALACE: Traditional Indian cuisine including Tandoori dishes and curries. (2570 N. Cleveland Av., Roseville, 651-631-1222.)

PANNEKOEKEN HUIS: Dutch. Pannekoeken, those Dutch-style pancakebowls (filled and/or topped with anything from bacon to fresh fruit to hot fudge) are much loved by their fans. (4995 Excelsior Blvd., St. Louis Park. 952-920-2120) (James Norton)

PEOPLES ORGANIC: American. Breakfast all day, grab-and-go lunches and an emphasis on local and organic. (3545 Galleria, Edina. 952-426-1856.)

ROJO MEXICAN GRILL: Fresh, traditional Mexican fare in slick surroundings. More than 75 varieties of tequila. (1602 West End Blvd., St. Louis Park, 952-657-5385; also 10 Southdale Center, Edina, 952-595-5495.)

TRAVAIL KITCHEN AND AMUSEMENTS: American. This new location of Travail is currently under construction. Chef-driven flights of fancy at fast-casual prices make this fun-loving, trend-setting and idiosyncratic gem all the more remarkable and unabashedly enjoyable. The experience is like none other in the Twin Cities. (4124 W. Broadway Av., Robbinsdale. 763-535-1131.)

$$

BEAUJO’S WINE BAR & BISTRO: American. Comfortable, well-managed neighborhood wine bar and bistro serving salads, small plates, sandwiches, soups and simple, well-prepared entrees, including roast chicken, walleye and New York strip steak. (4950 France Av. S., Edina, 952-922-8974.)

COOPER IRISH PUB: Irish. Upscale pub fare is dressed up with touches like locally produced meat. Atmosphere to spare, and 16 tap brews to choose from. (1607 Park Place Blvd., St. Louis Park, 952-698- 2000.) (J.N.)

FIGLIO: Italian. Reincarnation of the Calhoun Square classic at the West End is more of a vague, marketing-driven impersonation. Samuelson’s crew is churning out pizzas of distinction, pastas are something of a revelation, and burgers hit all the right notes. (5331 W. 16th St., Mpls. 952-345-2400.)

FLAME: American. The fire theme is taken literally: A wall of gas flames occasionally erupts off a mesquite-burning grill. The kitchen focuses on simple roasted chicken and beef, sold as plates with a half-dozen side dish options or available family-style. (863 Rosedale Center Plaza, Roseville, 651-315-5005.)

GOOD DAY CAFE: American. Breakfast standbys — from the lumpy crab cakes capped with poached eggs and hollandaise to the jaunty waffles — are presented with lavish attention to detail. Lunch includes a fantastic pan-roasted steak sandwich, a textbook Reuben and a half-dozen salads, and a dinner menu has been added. (5410 Wayzata Blvd., Golden Valley, 763-544-0205.)

MILL VALLEY KITCHEN: American. Chef Mike Rakun is demonstrating that restaurants can deliver robust and satisfying flavors without relying upon clarified butter, rich animal proteins and other dietary no-nos. With a few exceptions, his cooking is clean, sensible and occasionally exciting. (3906 Excelsior Blvd., St. Louis Park. 952-358-2000.)

MASU SUSHI & ROBATA: Japanese. Masu’s Mall of America sequel is virtually identical to the Northeast original. The menu is the same, save for a few additions such as Takubetsu na men (a noodle bowl special that changes daily). (334 South Av., Mall of America. 952-896-3884.)

MOZZA MIA: Italian. Finally, 50th & France has a decent pizzeria. Ten well-calibrated options, starting with a fine Margherita. (3910 W. 50th St., Edina. 952-288-2882.)

PARMA 8200: Italian. The cooking isn’t flashy or trendy at this D’Amico venture, but given the meticulous attention to detail, it doesn’t need to be. (5600 W. 83rd St., Bloomington, 952-896-8888.)

PORTER CREEK HARDWOOD GRILL: American. Out in the 55337, dishes such as lamb shanks and roast duck are borderline revolutionary. Also: flatbreads, roasted chicken, Southwestern salad, Israeli couscous salad, hanger steak, walleye, panna cotta. (14201 Burngarten Dr., Burnsville, 952- 698-1888.)

Q FANATIC BBQ AND GRILL: An unsung gem of the barbecue scene, Q Fanatic adds imaginative and artfully executed sauces to traditional slow-smoked meats and well-made, substantial sides. (180 Miller Rd., Champlin, 763-323-6550.) (J.N.)

RAKU MODERN JAPANESE: “Upscale Japanese fusion” restaurant featuring creative sushi and other dishes with European and other Asian influences. (3939 W. 50th St., Edina. 952-358-2588.)

RICE PAPER: Asian. The menu tiptoes between the subdued flavors of Vietnam and Thailand’s more aggressive tastes. The quality of ingredients is evident in every bite. (3948 W. 50th St., Edina, 612-926-8650.)

SAMBA TASTE OF BRAZIL: The Pantano family infuses a warm and gracious sense of hospitality into their colorful, casual restaurant. Entrees lean on the comfort-food end of the spectrum. (922 Mainstreet, Hopkins, 952-935-2708.)

SMALLEY’S CARIBBEAN BARBEQUE AND PIRATE BAR: Chef Shawn Smalley flames up pimento wood and puts a blackened stamp on pork ribs and chicken, insinuating that smoky goodness into pork shoulder, beef brisket, shrimp and sausages. (423 S. Main St., Stillwater, 651-439-5375.)

THANH DO: Asian. The casual St. Louis Park spot combines Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese and other Asian favorites — with a cranberry curry and a version of the cranberry puffs app made famous by Azia. (8028 Minnetonka Blvd., St. Louis Park, 952-935-5005.)

WOK IN THE PARK: Thai. A splinter restaurant from Thanh Do, Wok in the Park adheres to its estranged brother’s philosophy of easy, accessible Asian dishes made with care and quality ingredients. (3005 Utah Av. S., St. Louis Park, 952-657-5754.) (J.N.)

$$$

ACQUA RESTAURANT AND WINE BAR: Italian. A non-trendy menu of specials and entrees unlocks the flavors lurking deep inside ingredients. Acqua does a great job balancing the unexpected with the standard. (4453 Lake Av. S., White Bear Lake, 651-407-7317.)

BACIO: The Italian-inspired menu at this warm, handsome restaurant and bar emphasizes fish. (1571 Plymouth Rd., Minnetonka, 952-544-7000.)

CRAVE: American. There’s something to suit just about every craving. Sushi, woodfired pizzas, rotisserie chicken, salads, sandwiches, pastas, a big New York strip with creamy mashed potatoes: It’s all there — a superb burger, a bunch of super-fresh salads. (Three suburban locations: 368 South Av., Mall of America, Bloomington, 952-854-5000; 3520 W. 70th St., Galleria, Edina, 952-697- 6000; 1603 West End Blvd., St. Louis Park, 952-933-6500.)

LORD FLETCHER’S: American. Outdoor decks allow full view of the cavorting, waterskiing, flirting and boating on Lake Minnetonka. Classic steakhouse fare makes this a restaurant that will go down with just about any diner, particularly those seeking shrimp cocktail- and ribeye-style familiarity. (3746 Sunset Dr., Spring Park, 952-471-8513.) (J.N.)

REDSTONE GRILL: American. Huge, cabin-styled restaurant serving steak, chicken, ribs and more. (Three locations: 12501 Ridgedale Dr., Minnetonka, 952- 591-0000; 8000 Eden Lane, Eden Prairie, 952-903-9500; 12109 N. Main St., Maple Grove, 763-420-0232.)