With the recent — and unprecedented — deluge of new restaurants raining down on the Twin Cities, diners need a scorecard or a spreadsheet to keep up.
The folks behind the Yogurt Lab have stepped further into the restaurant business with the launch of Agra Culture Kitchen & Press (2939 Girard Av. S., Mpls., 612-315-3349, www.agra-culture.com), their counter-service cafe and cold-press juice bar. Consulting chef Tim Scott — the longtime head culinary honcho at the Store Formerly Known as Dayton’s — has devised imaginative all-day menus that emphasize fresh, organic, flavor-packed options, all served in a flash and conversant in the languages of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free. A second location is coming soon to the 50th and France area. (Open 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.-Wed., 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Thu.-Sun.).
The Mille Lacs Band ownership — in partnership with manager Graves Hospitality — is slowly but surely wiping the 1980s away from the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in Town Square, and one encouraging sign of progress is Rival House (411 Minnesota St., St. Paul, 651-255-0645, www.rivalhousestpaul.com). In this cavernous next-gen sports bar, the kitchen crew pulls crisp-crusted pizzas from a wood-burning oven and the bar is well-versed in craft beers.
6Smith (294 E. Grove Lane, Wayzata, 952-698-7900, www.6smith.com) takes full advantage of its marina-side real estate, and then some, offering up one exceptional Lake Minnetonka vista after another, both indoors and out. Chef J.P. Samuelson is killing it with a small plates-meets-contemporary steakhouse format that manages to be both crowd-pleasing and food-forward. (Lunch and dinner daily.)
Eco-minded restaurateur Kim Bartmann is going full-on farm-to-table with Tiny Diner (1024 E. 38th St., Mpls., 612-767-3322, www.tinydiner.com), a casual breakfast-through-dinner setup that channels locally raised ingredients into All-American diner fare. (Open daily.)
A shocker is the transformation of St. Paul’s once down-and-out Payne Avenue into a bona fide restaurant destination. There’s Yarusso-Bros., of course, with its red-sauce roots dating back to the 1930s, but gastropub Ward 6 got the ball rolling in late 2012, a move that has been followed up in recent weeks by the debut of Tongue in Cheek (989 Payne Av., St. Paul, 651-888-6148, www.tongueincheek.biz) and Cook St. Paul (1124 Payne Av., St. Paul, 651-756-1787, www.cookstp.com).
At Tongue in Cheek, chef Leonard Anderson (formerly of W.A. Frost & Co.) is delivering transformative comfort food to the neighborhood (the $2 “teaser” starters are a clever intro to his mind-set), and the bar is demonstrating some serious craft cocktail chops. (Dinner daily, brunch Sat.-Sun.)
Meanwhile, at Cook St. Paul, pals Eddie Wu and Charles Cook have given a cheery once-over to the former Serlin’s Cafe, serving scrupulously prepared American diner fare sprinkled with Korean accents. Don’t miss the yellow bean-sausage-cabbage pancakes with poached eggs, or the short rib Benedict. (Breakfast and lunch daily.)
On the subject of red-hot thoroughfares, Hola Arepa (3501 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., 612-345-5583, www.holaarepa.com) is one more reason why Nicollet Avenue in the 30s and 40s has become a go-to dining destination. Food truckers Birk Grudem and Christina Nguyen jumped into a shuttered Mexican restaurant and instantly made it a Nicollet must-visit, with a can’t-be-beat blend of vibrant Latin fare (built on their namesake cornmeal cake sandwiches), Technicolor cocktails and fun-loving environment. (Dinner Tue.-Sun., lunch Sat.-Sun.)
Brothers Thomas, Charlie and Danny Broder have skipped the meals-on-wheels routine, converting a kitchen window at their Terzo (2221 W. 50th St., Mpls., 612-925-0330, www.broders.com) into a walk-up sandwich stand that they’ve dubbed Porchetteria at Terzo Wine Bar. Brined, slow-roasted pork shoulder is the star of the show, stuffed into house-baked ciabatta buns and finished with all manner of delicious add-ons, including a parsley aioli-grilled rapini blend. (Window open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, and then the sandwiches are available on the restaurant’s dinner menu.)