The Restaurant Guide: UPTOWN

Updated 5/30/2013

Minneapolis' capital of trendy boasts some surprising new arrivals. More ratings and reviews at vita.mn/food-drink

BIRDHOUSE ON HENNEPIN

American • $$ • 2516 Hennepin Av. S. • 612-377-2213

At Birdhouse, Stewart and Heidi Woodman, the couple behind the nearby Heidi's, serve healthful, sustainable grub all day long in a bright and modestly appointed Hennepin Avenue duplex (formerly the restaurant known as Duplex). Birdhouse offers thoughtful cooking that celebrates the natural beauty of its components. Vegetarian options in particular showcase the splendid results that can be achieved through skillful technique and deep respect for one's ingredients. Sweet pea pâté is verdant and smooth, with tangy goat cheese and mint accents, a snowy crème fraiche cap and pink sea salt sprinkle served with crisp sunflower rye toasts. The recently expanded portion of mushroom terrine is an umami-licious satin pâté of mushroom essence. Soups, salads and desserts all sing with a balanced suite of discernible flavors. The lemon curd dessert is all plush and tang, accompanied by the ripest of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and crumbly hazelnut cookies to sprinkle on top. Even the avian-themed cocktail menu is ingredient-driven: The Starling tastes as multifaceted and iridescent as a Hildebrandt's plumage, with organic rum, blueberries, cardamom, falernum and cava. Check the calendar for events like NFL football on Sundays and Mondays, with $2 taps and free firecracker popcorn at the upstairs bar. Yes, even diehard football fans can enjoy the ethereal pleasures of eating like a bird. Because contrary to popular belief, birds eat really well.KAT KLUEGEL

Kenwood Cafe

American • $$ • 2115 W. 21st St. • 612-377-6876

The new Kenwood Cafe is the work of Don Saunders (of In Season fame), who is best known for his seasonally inspired culinary wizardry. Kenwood promises to provide everything the neighborhood desires -- including Dogwood coffee and pastries from Patisserie 46 in the morning, as well as daily brunch, lunch and dinner. Service is swift and informed, and the wine list provides a variety of excellent options. Duck offal cigars are the perfect opening act: cigar-shaped, sweet and tender duck confit, heart and liver encased in crisp Moroccan brick pastry sheaths and laid on a plate-lickin' port reduction and fresh white figs. Sweet corn soup is thick and smoky-sweet, with savory and earthy accents of bacon and chanterelles. The beef tataki is a stunner: square slices of Peterson Family Farm-sourced beef with piquant pickled cauliflower and squash on top of lush smears of satisfying soy paint, dotted with kicky spice of Japanese mayo and nori and black sesame accents. A sensual deconstructed buttery carrot cake came with cinnamon ice cream, black walnut and raisin. Things were so delightful that we fantasized about finding a place to hide for an impromptu slumber party, because we wanted to see what kind of enchantments might await us for breakfast in the morning. K.K.

Social House

Asian • $$ • 2919 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls. • 612-824-6300

Social House is the perfect place to bring your stiletto-heeled date after watching a foreign film and nearly making out in one of the balcony loveseats at the newly renovated Uptown Theater. This sleek mixology bar and Asian fusion lounge provide all the necessary elements to seal the deal: fruity and potent cocktails, gorgeous tricked-out maki rolls and sexy, red-lit ambience. Both cocktails and food veer toward the sweet -- lots of muddled fruit and sweet glazes. Small plates like the Bacon Cheeseburger Egg Rolls, made with flavorful Kobe beef, bacon and cheddar and a mango habanero ketchup, are oddly, gluttonously good. Multi-component signature maki ($16) are visual stunners. The Firecracker appears to explode with spicy diced octopus, jalapeño, tempura shrimp, scallion and eel sauce; and the Cardinal Sin's rose-carved strawberries added pretty freshness to the tempura shrimp and basil mayo. The closing act of this seduction would be best served by sharing a creamy dessert drink or the espresso-charged martini potion known as the 40 Weight Hustle, which packs the libational potency necessary to last all night long. K.K.

The Lowry

American • $$ • 2112 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls. • 612-341-2112

Oysters, whiskey and eggs, cute and genuinely nice servers dressed in black and white, good beer and a kitchen that cares. The Lowry is the bar/bistro everyone wants -- no, needs -- in their 'hood. The menu has something for everyone without being insipid, and since the kitchen is scratch, you can expect inventive specials like a recent duck confit burger with marsala sauce and golden raisins, along with a standard but excellent burger and solid standbys like the best fish tacos in town or a sturdy grilled cheese with tomato soup shooter. Some of the best bar food around lives here, like buffalo chicken served nacho-style with blue cheese sauce over kettle potato chips (can I get a "hell, yes"?). Or if you want something less decadent but just as good, try the tuna tartare (they call it poke here): sparkling little cubes of raw fish dressed in sesame and scallion that you can scoop up with fried wonton chips. The Lowry is a neighborhood pub equally appropriate for you, your buddies, your grandma, the baby and your booze-quaffing self.MECCA BOS

 

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Common Roots Cafe: American. Ecofriendly cafe with deliciously chewy bagels, zippy salads, sandwiches and a few great dinner entrees. Emphasis on locally grown ingredients. (2558 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls., 612-871-2360.)

Falafel King - Uptown: Middle Eastern. Falafel and gyros served cafeteria-style. (701 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-824-7887.)

The Herkimer Pub & Brewery: American. Brewpub serving sandwiches and burgers. A spicy Cuban pork sandwich is the specialty. There's also a shuffleboard court. (2922 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls., 612-821-0101.)

Isles Bun & Coffee Co.: Bakery/Coffee. Caramel and cinnamon rolls, sweet breads, cookies, brownies, cakes and other goodies to make you salivate. (1422 W. 28th St., Mpls., 612-870-4466.)

Namaste Cafe: Asian/Nepalese. Mostly vegetarian restaurant featuring mamacha (savory steamed dumplings), curries and other dishes from Nepal and elsewhere in South Asia. Also many varieties of tea and chai. (2512 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612- 827-2496.)

Our Kitchen: In business for more than 50 years, this comfy little family diner is seemingly frozen in time. But its breakfasts are hearty and classic and service is reliably friendly. (813 W. 36th St., Mpls., 612- 825-3718.) (James Norton)

Rustica: Known as home to one of the best local baguettes, Rustica has been known to make even visiting Parisians nod with approval. Their bittersweet chocolate cookies are a mainstay at local cafes, and they mix it up with daily specials including brioche, challah and currant rye. (3220 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612- 822-1119.) (J.N.)

Rye Delicatessen: Deli. Year-old deli on Lowry Hill often nails the genre, with carved sandwiches, soups, Reubens and more. (1930 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls. 612-871-1200.)

Sebastian Joe's - Uptown: Ice cream. A family favorite for years, Sebastian Joe's is a comfortable neighborhood place where indulgent flavors and toppings abound. (1007 W. Franklin Av., Mpls., 612-870-0065. Also: 4301 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., 612-824-3461.) (J.N.)

Tao Natural Foods: American. The recently remodeled Natural Foods beacon is more the equivalent of a vegetarian/vegan short-order diner, with breakfast, sandwiches, wraps and juices. (2200 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls. 612-377-4630.)

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Amazing Thailand: Thai food and drink in the heart of Uptown. (3024 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-822- 5588.)

Bar Abilene: Southwestern. The lively bar pours more than 40 tequilas and shakes up two dozen margaritas. The menu focuses on contemporary Tex-Mex fare. (1300 Lagoon Av., Mpls., 612-825-2525.)

BAR LOUIE: American. Dallas-based chain offers a menu of mainstream gastropub fare (order your calamari traditional or doused in buffalo sauce) and an impressive 100-seat patio is centered around a shallow LED-lit pool. (1348 Lagoon Av., Mpls. 612-824-1529.)

Bryant-Lake Bowl: American. Perhaps the most creative menu you'll encounter at a bowling alley. The kitchen cranks out an appealing range of snacks and meals. Breakfast is hugely popular, particularly on weekends. The beer list is exceptional, as is the affordable, adventurous wine list. (810 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612- 825-3737.)

Burger Jones: American. Burgers and all the fixings get the premium treatment: velvety and addictive shakes and malts made with frozen custard, large hand-formed beef patties on toasted sesame-seed buns with Minnesota-made cheese, a tower of fries with multiple dipping sauces. (3200 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-746-0800.)

Chiang Mai Thai: Serving appetizers, curries, Thai noodles, stir-fries, Thai soup and desserts. (3001 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-827-1606.)

Chino Latino: Fusion. Colorful, trendy and enormous, Chino emphasizes highly seasoned street foods from the world's equatorial regions, served in meant-to-be-shared portions. A late-night happy hour knocks out tacos and other fast food at bargain-basement prices. (2916 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-824-7878.)

Ecopolitan: Raw/vegetarian. The Twin Cities' first raw-food restaurant -- a pioneer in the movement that lies well to the left of vegetarianism and a few steps beyond the vegans. (2409 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls., 612-874-7336.)

El Meson: Latin. Modest Latin bistro has been serving dishes such as arroz con pollo and carnitas con mofongo for more than two decades. It's true to the flavors and spirit of Latin cuisines, but with updated techniques and presentation. (3450 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls., 612-822-8062.)

Famous Dave's BBQ & Blues: Barbecue. Restaurant and blues club serving Dave Anderson's St. Louis-style ribs. (3001 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612- 822-9900.)

French Meadow Bakery & Cafe: American/Bakery. Vegetarian selections, soups, salads, sandwiches, soups, along with a few meat dishes, and baked goods. 2610 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls., 612-870-7855.)

Fuji Ya - Uptown: Sushi. Japanese-style noodle soups, tempura, sushi bar, seasonal outdoor seating and private rooms for two to six. (600 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-871- 4055.)

Galactic Pizza: Pizza. The long list of nontraditional options includes morel and shiitake mushrooms, wild rice, buffalo sausage, and for vegan customers, mock duck, nondairy mozzarella, and a range of sauces including tomato, ranch, barbecue, Thai peanut and garlic and olive oil. The pizzas are better than average, especially the Thailander. (2917 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls., 612-824-9100.)

Gigi's Cafe: American/Coffee. Neighborhood coffeehouse, plus a wine bar and expanded food offerings. (822 W. 36th St., Mpls., 612-825-0818.)

Heidi's Minneapolis: American. Chef Stewart Woodman routinely transforms familiar ingredients, deftly layering in unexpected embellishments. His excursions into molecular gastronomy are all about razzle-dazzle playfulness (and deliciousness). (2903 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls. 612-354-3512.)

It's Greek to Me: Greek/Middle Eastern. Authentic Greek specialties in a tavern atmosphere. (626 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-825- 9922.)

JJ'S COFFEE + WINE BISTRO: American. Pastries, egg sandwiches and burritos at breakfast, sandwiches and salads at lunch, and bruschettas, flatbreads and cheeses in the evening. (1806 W. Lake St., Mpls. 612-522-8000.)

Kinsen Noodles & Bar: Asian. Noodle dishes with locally sourced meats. (1300 Lagoon Av., Mpls., 612-367-4595.)

The Lowry: American. At Blue Plate's popular Uptown outlet, the served-until-2-a.m. menu includes oysters, a half-dozen snacks (bacon deviled eggs, jalapeno cheese curds), a curry-and-peanut garnished turkey burger and a scrambled eggs-hash browns breakfast platter built for two. (2112 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-341-2112.)

Lyndale Tap House: American. Gastro-pub with slow-roasted beef and 18 tap beers. (2937 Lyndale Av. S. Mpls., 612-825-6150.)

moto-i: Japanese. Moto-i's food tends to get overshadowed by its sake-making efforts, but the tasty bar snacks more than stand up to the liquid counterparts. (2940 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls., 612-821-6262.)

Mt. Fuji: Sushi. Irreverent sushi with generous happy-hour deals. (2819 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-872-1778.)

Muddy Waters: American. Pot roast sliders, pizzas, burgers topped with chicken-fried bacon and fried onions, yucca fries with chimichurri. Breakfast, weekend brunch, late-night, craft beer, pastries, it's all here. (2933 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls. 612-341-2112.)

PRIMEBAR: American. New chain bar in the former Figlio/Il Gatto space offers buffalo calamari, bacon-wrapped shrimp skewers, "two-handed" sandwiches, wood-fired flatbread pizzas and an aggressive 3-7 p.m. happy hour. (3001 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls. 612-235-4295.)

Rinata: Italian. A dozen pasta-risotto-gnocchi options anchor Jonathan Hunt's crowd-pleasing menu, with a satisfying rendition of spaghetti and meatballs. (2451 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-374-8998.)

Roat Osha: Thai. Stylish second effort by the spouses behind Tum Rup Thai. The lengthy menu covers all the familiar bases, but much of it is rather boilerplate. (2650 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-377-4418.)

SPARKS: American. A wood-burning oven is the inspiration for Jonathan Hunt's eclectic menu -- pizzas, chicken and merguez sandwiches, bulgogi tacos and roast chicken. (230 Cedar Lake Rd. S., Mpls. 612-259-8943.)

Sushi Tango: Sushi. Sushi restaurant in Calhoun Square. 3001 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612- 822-7787.)

Uptown Cafeteria and Support Group: American. At this populist palace, the food is still playfully Retro Diner, prices remain focused on the post-college crowd and portions continue to be gihugic. (3001 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-822-1688.)

Urban Eatery: American. A slick corporate feel and a gastropub menu that subverts clichés at the Calhoun Beach Club. (2730 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-920-5000.)

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Amore Victoria: Italian. Definitely Italian-American rather than "authentic" Italian, but it offers more variety and better quality than the usual red sauce restaurant. (1601 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-823-0250.)

Barbette: American/bistro. Local, seasonal and organic ingredients for uncomplicated, satisfying bistro fare. The late-night menu ranks as one of the best in town. Extraordinary wine list. (1600 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-827-5710.)

Lucia's Bakery and Take Home: American. Lucia Watson's short menu is committed to local farmers and changes weekly. The adjoining wine bar is Uptown's most romantic destination. (1432 W. 31st. St., Mpls., 612-825-1572.)

Rudolph's Bar-B-Que: Barbecued ribs and chicken with an old-time Hollywood theme. (1933 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls., 612-871-8969.)

Stella's Fish Cafe and Prestige Oyster Bar: Casual seafood restaurant with the soul of a low-country lunch counter. Best asset is the famed rooftop patio.

Tryg's: American. Skillful combination of trendy and nostalgic with updated comfort-food offerings. (3118 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-920-7777.)