Best restaurants in the northwest suburbs

RICK NELSON | Updated 5/9/2013

Who says there’s nowhere good to dine out in the 763?

UChu

4130 Berkshire Lane N., Plymouth • 763-577-3744 • www.uchuperu.com

This Peruvian gem has to be one of the area’s best-kept dining-out secrets. Chef/owner Jorge Armando Sarmiento and his family are hospitable to the nth degree, and the pretense-free menu is a treat, whether he’s demonstrating his mastery for slow-cooked beans, mussels, ceviche (preparing it four exciting ways) or shrimp smothered in a richly savory pepper sauce. Sarmiento’s triumph is a stunner of a rice-shrimp stew crowned by a dainty crayfish. It’s a meal for two, and at $15 it’s a spot-on example of how he deftly melds originality, skill and value.

Eat Shop Kitchen & Bar

16605 County Road 24, Plymouth • 763-270-5929 • www.theeatshop.com

Add two Parasole vets (owner Michael Larson, 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. Instead of making the trek to Uptown, western suburbanites can stay close to home for their dose of an eclectic, covers-the-bases menu that swings from an excellent slaw-topped pork sandwich and clever swordfish tacos to rigatoni tossed with tender duck confit, earthy mushrooms and plenty of sage and polenta topped with sautéed greens and a poached egg. Three other pluses: The bar knows what it’s doing, the patio is a looker and weekend brunch is a treat.

Milton’s

3545 Douglas Dr. N., Crystal • 763-535-9373

Thank you, Francine Weber, for demonstrating that the cozy drop-in destination that thrives all over both Minneapolis and St. Paul can also find an audience in suburban ZIP codes. Her Milton’s is exactly the kind of newcomer we all hope would move into the neighborhood, a great-looking and uncomplicated place to gather over a lengthy beer selection and a mountainous plate of pulled pork-topped nachos or meaty chicken wings. Weber wisely sticks to what she knows best, which means her modest, value-priced menu also features a well-embellished burger, appealing salads, a fine rendition of jerk chicken, a homey mac-and-cheese and just-like-Mom-bakes Bundt cakes. Oh, and the nicest people, truly, many of whom are members of Weber’s extended family.

Nectar

204 Central Av., Osseo • 763-657-7231 • www.nectar​bistro.com

Chef/owner Kevin Nordeen squeezes a lot into an oddball assortment of storefront spaces, including a romantic slip of a bar and a pair of dining rooms. His brief, changes-frequently menu is also a reliable haven for locals in search of creative, well-prepared fare, perhaps a Creole take on double-cut pork chops, Greek-inspired grilled lamb or grilled trout with pleasing Asian accents. Oh, and the intoxicatingly fragrant spice shop in the same building? It’s Ethnic Foods Co., stocked floor to ceiling with an around-the-world selection of spices (including many house-mixed blends), herbs, grains, lentils and condiments.

3 Squares

12690 Arbor Lakes Pkwy., Maple Grove • 763-425-3330 • www.3squaresrestaurant.com

The ever-expanding Blue Plate Restaurant Co. real­ly got it right when it turned its considerable talents to over-chained Maple Grove and came up with 3 Squares. The restaurant follows the breakfast-lunch-dinner formula without feeling formulaic. Yes, the menu covers the basics, but does it with an anti-Perkins twist, enthusiastically jumping into the offbeat with such memorable items as a walleye-shrimp cake Benedict, a fantastic turkey burger and Cheddar-stuffed pierogies finished with a blazing horseradish garnish. The roomy patio is reason enough to become a regular, along with the full bar and its 20 tap beers.