Minneapolis isn’t exactly prime blintz territory. Fortunately, at the Belmore/New Skyway Lounge, chef Doug Anderson is reviving the dishes that nourished him during his New York City days. The top of this neo-diner’s roster is occupied by the divine blintzes from his go-to kosher dairy. Sprawled across a dinner plate, these rich, eggy pancakes are such paragons of goodness that Anderson’s embellishments — a hefty dollop of ricotta teased with lemon, bananas simmered in brandy — are happy afterthoughts. Oh, and the pizzas? Terrific.
25 N. 4th St., Mpls., 612-339-5990, www.facebook.com/Belmore.mpls
Pizza, the healthy snack
Thinking about nutrition-forward Marin Restaurant & Bar as a pizzeria feels so wrong, on so many levels. For starters, few pizza joints handle scallops, or pork tenderloin or even hummus with a scintilla of the prowess displayed by chef Mike Rakun and his crew. And yet this tilted viewpoint also feels so right, because this great-looking downtown sibling to St. Louis Park’s Mill Valley Kitchen tackles flatbreads with panache. The golden, whole-grain crusts, baked in a showy oven and topped with a flurry of cleverly calibrated ingredients, just might constitute downtown’s best pizza.
901 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-252-7000, www.marinrestaurant.com
No. 1 wine bar
The terrine, so been-there, so done-that, particularly in wine bar country, right? Enter Danny Broder, one of three brothers behind the remarkable Terzo, who enlists octopus into the terrine formula. It’s a remarkable taste and texture (and visual) sensation, and the very definition of a signature dish.
2221 W. 50th St., Mpls., 612-925-0330, www.broders.com
A Southerner, Up North
Yes, the Smack Shack is swimming in lobster — playing a leading role in rolls, guacamole, stew, shore dinners and even corn dogs, to the tune of 3,000 pounds per week — but owner Josh Thoma’s North Loop translation of his equally popular food truck of the same name is also the place for a highly memorable chicken-and-waffles combo ($12.95). For the former, Thoma — who does fried chicken so well it’s amazing he doesn’t speak with a Southern drawl — brines his birds to unlock their juiciest potential, then coats them in a buttermilk-based batter that crisps up, almost ridiculously so, on the stove. As for the latter, each tender waffle is leavened with a pair of spent malts, leftovers from the neighboring Fulton Brewing Co., and they are superb. The kitchen’s shrimp and grits plate isn’t too shabby, either.
603 Washington Av. N., Mpls., 612-259-7278,www.smack-shack.com
While I did devote far too much of 2013 yammering on and on to anyone who would listen about the fabulous apple cider doughnuts that chef/owner Peter Ireland prepares at the Lynn on Bryant, I’ll focus my attention and appreciation on another classic fried goody that this first-rate newcomer approaches with similar skill and finesse. It’s the fritter, and in this instance it’s all about cod, cured in salt for 10 days before being poached in milk, blended with potatoes and formed into orb-shaped cakes. Each one hits the fryer long enough to form a delicately crisp outer shell that enrobes a comforting, gently flavored creaminess. It’s one example among many in the Everyday Goodness Department that make Ireland’s restaurant such a must-visit.
5003 Bryant Av. S., Mpls., 612-767-7797,www.thelynnonbryant.com
Lefse on Hennepin
With so many riches sprawled across his menu, it’s a challenge to zero in on a single example of Lucas Almendinger’s work at Union Fish Market. The modern-day clam chowder? The skate with capers and brown butter? The scallops with bacon and pickled beets? OK, here’s one: the succulent hot-smoked sturgeon, cured in sugar and salt and capped under rendered beef fat and lingonberries and spread, rillettes-style, over lefse that would be the pride of a Lutheran lutefisk dinner.
731 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-455-6690, www.unionfishmpls.com
Yeah, another waffle, and how. Birchwood Cafe chef Marshall Paulsen keeps his savory, ultra-tender waffles so attuned to the seasons that diners could set their calendars by them. Its most recent monthly iteration was built with kale and kernza — a nutrient-packed perennial grain — and generously topped with a compote of apples and shallots, a honey-cinnamon compound butter, snips of smoky bacon and a runny egg expertly coaxed to maximum sunny side up-ness. According to my nearly illegible dining-out diary, February found Paulsen playing around with wheatberry and hazelnuts, and that bacon-egg pairing remained as alluring as ever. The results, naturally, were as photogenic, and delicious, as always.
3311 E. 25th St., Mpls., 612-722-4474, www.birchwoodcafe.com
Parka, that ultra-charming team effort from the talent pool behind Victory 44, Rustica and Dogwood Coffee, re-formats retro dishes in enchanting ways. Most memorable was the kitchen’s rethinking of that Debbie Downer of the Minnesota church-basement potluck, the broccoli salad. Bouquets of blanched broccolini and ropy, gently bitter roasted rapini brought the color and texture, a toasted black sesame dressing proved a perfect 21st-century stand-in for Miracle Whip, and crunchy pops of not-too-sweet sunflower brittle was a brilliant let’s-make-vegetables-fun finishing touch.
4021 E. Lake St., Mpls., 612-886-1585, www.parkampls.com
Burger shines anew
I consumed an alarming number of burgers in 2013 — all in service to Burger Friday, my once-a-week dissection of highly recommended Twin Cities burgers (that’s published, yes, on Fridays, at startribune.com/burger). Of the dozens that I sampled, my memory keeps circling back to HauteDish. With good reason. Chef Landon Schoenefeld seasons his chuck-brisket blend with both the old-fashioned (slow-cooked onions, garlic, thyme) and the newfangled (a powdered house-smoked Gorgonzola), fries each beefy patty in butter and then lays on a flurry of condiments — including roasted garlic aioli, thick-cut bacon and a mushroom salad — then bookends with a golden, butter-toasted house-baked bun, all adding up to a glorious culinary arithmetic. As for the fries, they are equally superb.
119 Washington Av. N., Mpls., 612-338-8484, www.haute-dish.com
Meat and potatoes redux
Leave it to James Beard award-winning chef Isaac Becker to challenge the generally accepted definition of the steakhouse. At his Burch Steak and Pizza Bar, Becker and colleague Daniel Del Prado deliver the goods, beef-wise. But the menu’s side dishes are where they really stretch the genre’s boundaries. Gone are the usual suspects, most notably replaced by a half-dozen mind-blowing takes on the dumpling, starting with a plate of semolina cakes. Roughly the size of a super-plump sea scallop, they’re seared into caramelized gloriousness and then finished with brown butter — can there ever be too much brown butter? — and palate-cleansing sage. So long, hash browns.
1933 Colfax Av. S., Mpls., 612-843-1515, www.burchrestaurant.com