The Restaurant Guide: SOUTH MINNEAPOLIS

| September 26, 2012 - 8:10 PM

Pat's Tap

American • $$ • 3510 Nicollet Av. S. • 612-822-8216

Pat's Tap (full name: Pat's Tap Skee Club and Gastro Pub) is like a young adult version of Showbiz Pizza -- except with upscale American comfort grub, a shocking selection of beer in cans and on tap, and no snake-like chains of tickets redeemable for worthless plastic prizes. Pat's is the neighborhood go-to for convivial vibes and satisfying grub among friends. It's great for restorative brunches with elixirs like Wake Up! Beer (porter with espresso) and eggs galore. Notable apps include beautiful Castle Rock Creamery cheese-curd gems accompanied by a tiny upside-down top hat of Sir Kensington's bold and deeply flavored spiced ketchup. Other fan faves include flavorful mahi mahi tacos with corn tortillas and all the fixings. Or the reliably tasty sandwiches, like the honey- and harissa-grilled chicken on foccacia with pickled chiles, Manchego and garlic aioli. Since Kim Bartmann's retro skee ball machines don't give out tickets for winning, you'll have to make up your own prizes, which is kind of a fun game in itself. KAT KLUEGEL

Harriet Brasserie

Fusion • $$$ • 2724 W. 43rd St., Mpls. • 612-354-2197

Forget about your "brasserie" notions of steak frites, onion soup and goblets of beer and wine -- although they have all of that, too. Harriet Brasserie is the United Nations of eating establishments -- a confluence of cuisines that comes off classic, yet daring and altogether new. The brainchild of three men -- one French, one Brazilian and one American -- Harriet's influences are rich, heady, spicy, sometimes familiar and other times brilliantly novel. Take the "Niçoise-esque," which lays a requisite foundation of greens and tuna, but veers to the east with sesame orange vinaigrette, edamame, taro and tobiko. Or, instead of staid old seared scallops, how about bedfellows of blood sausage with red pepper and cilantro? Timeless dishes exist happily with these, and are done with exacting precision -- omelettes, Benedicts, mussels, fried chicken -- but do not be surprised to find an eye-opening ingredient tossed in for interest. This kitchen is not afraid to use ginger, sambal, sardines, fermented black beans and liver anywhere it deems appropriate for maximum flavor. White linens lend an air of elegance, yet Harriet is plenty appropriate for dropping in on the bar for some fries with béarnaise and a Pacifico after a jog around the lake. And who doesn't want a Mexican brewski and a Francophile snack after working up a sweat? You've earned it. MECCA BOS

FIKA

Scandinavian • $ • 2600 Park Av. S., Mpls. • 612-871-4907

Nordic figure carving, textile design and Swedish basket weavings are lovely, yes, but not on an empty stomach. No sir. When Michael Fitzgerald decided to take the reins of the newly designed cafe Fika at the equally spanking new remodel of the American Swedish Institute, he was set on striking that sweet spot that honors tradition without remaining stale, and surprises without getting weird and flouting said tradition. And, while new Nordic cooking is all the rage with the cool culinary kids (see: the Bachelor Farmer), Fitzgerald remains realistic. You'll find a rotating roster of open-faced sandwiches on sturdy house-made rye, scratch soups and seasonal salads, each made with the minimalist attention to detail that marks all things Scandinavian. Each dish is rarely more than four ingredients, and shines with the sort of bright accuracy such things demand. And for those who require such things, there are lingonberries and meatballs to be had. M.B.

THE LEFT HANDED COOK

Asian • Midtown Global Market, 920 E. Lake St., Suite 124 • 612-208-0428

Left-handedness is oft-maligned because it is unusual -- but the Left Handed Cook openly celebrates its own subversive spirit. Its aesthetic is L.A. low-rider punk, and its seasonally driven, Asian-influenced casual comfort food reflects its stylistic hybridity. This Midtown Global Market nook makes a totally righteous post-DMV lunch pit stop. Free "hurricane popcorn" -- a sugar, salt and furikake-seasoned mix of popcorn and rice crackers -- is a satisfying precursor to the shareable apps, rice bowls and sandwiches to come. The killer 21 Spice Fried Chicken is available in chicken strip form or as part of a sweet and spicy gonchu-sauced bibimbap rice bowl, along with a supple poached egg, pickled vegetables and a tasty kim chi. Its surprisingly light and spice-explosive coating tastes like an Asian-influenced version of jerk spice, but without the heat. The Chop Sammie is the perfect portable luxury: diced soft-shell crab, avocado, thinly sliced onion and Thai mayo are melded into a glazed brioche pillow from the neighboring Salty Tart. Complement it all with a Hawaiian Aloha soda ($1.50) and you have one kick-ass fusion lunch built for a gangsta king.K.K.

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5-8 Club Tavern & Grill: American. Along with Matt's, the 5-8 Club is one of the original claimants of the Jucy Lucy originator's crown. The stuffed burgers are big, unseasoned and made with lovely bakery buns. (5800 Cedar Av. S., Mpls., 612-823-5858 ) (James Norton)

Birchwood Cafe: Vegetarian. Inexpensive, mostly vegetarian fare, often made from local ingredients. Breakfast includes crispy waffles, quiche, addictive cinnamon-raisin rolls and oatmeal. Lunch and dinner range from salads and sandwiches to more elaborate entrees. (3311 E. 25th St., Mpls., 612-722-4474.)

C&G's Smoking Barbecue: The proverbial hole-in-the-wall BBQ joint. The ribs are smoked for three hours in an electric server and the sauce comes on the side. (4743 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., 612-825-3400.) (J.N.)

Hamdi: African. Traditional Somali cuisine with tasty food and welcoming service. Best bets include the grilled steak, roast goat or chicken leg dinner, all served in generous portions. (818 E. Lake St., Mpls., 612-823-9660.)

Fat Lorenzo's: Italian. A neighborhood pizzeria par excellence, boasting simple Italian-American food done with good ingredients. The pizza is solid Midwestern stuff. (5600 Cedar Av. S., Mpls., 612-822-2040.) (J.N.)

Gandhi Mahal: Indian. Serving up richly sauced and spiced northern Indian cuisine, Gandhi Mahal is a destination for those who like it rich and sophisticated. (3009 27th Av. S., Mpls., 612-729-5222.) (J.N.)

Harriet Brewing: Taproom. The brewery's signature Belgian styles are on tap, and food trucks are parked outside most weekends. (3036 Minnehaha Av. S., Mpls. 612-225-2184.)

Longfellow Grill: American. Updated version of the neighborhood diner. There is a lot on the menu that you won't find at traditional diners, and breakfast is a strong suit. (2990 West River Pkwy., Mpls., 612-721-2711.)

Manny's Tortas: Mexican. Quick-service Mexican fare in the Midtown Global Market, at bargain-basement prices. Try their humongous, affordable and addicting sandwiches. (920 E. Lake St., Mpls., 612-870-3930.)

Matt's Bar: American. Home to the Jucy Lucy, the lovable Matt's is the quintessential south Minneapolis tavern eatery. Everybody likes the humble, charred, cheese-stuffed hamburgers that have put this place on the map. (3500 Cedar Av. S., Mpls., 612-722-7072.)

Northbound Smokehouse and Brewpub: American. Brand-new brewpub boasts a smoked-meat-heavy food menu, with reasonably sandwiches and burgers. (2716 E. 38th St., Mpls. 612-328-1450.)

Salty Tart: Bakery. Michelle Gayer's Midtown Global Market bakery is the place for first-rate baked goods and sandwiches. (920 E. Lake St., Mpls., 612-874-9206.)

Seward Cafe: Breakfast/vegetarian. Some of the best breakfasts in town are found at this worker-managed community cafe. Be sure to try the huevos rancheros. 2129 E. Franklin Av., Mpls., 612-332-1011.)

Sun Street Breads: Bakery. Along with breads, fantastic sourdough pancakes, made-to-order lunch sandwiches and a handful of sweets, the stars of the show are the tender, golden biscuits. (4600 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls. 612-354-3414.)

Taqueria La Hacienda: Mexican. One of the best sources of tacos al pastor -- spice-rubbed pork tacos that come served with cilantro, onions and a wedge of lime. (334 E. Lake St., Mpls.; 1515 E. Lake St., Mpls., 612-822-2715; 612-728-5424.) (J.N.)

Taqueria Los Ocampo - East Lake: Mexican. From the crispy masa-cake-based huarache to the tacos carne asada, Los Ocampo brings humble, well-balanced flavor to the table. (809 E. Lake St., Mpls., 612-825-4978.) (J.N.)

Ted Cook's 19th Hole: Barbecue. This grungy, old-school BBQ takeout joint smokes its meat all day. Pork ribs and jojos are among the house specials. (2814 E. 38th St., Mpls., 612-721-2023.) (J.N.)

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Blackbird: American. Preferably you'll have a big bowl of fiery udon noodles in front of you, or roasted chicken with fried chicken livers, or a carefully assembled banh mi. Weekend breakfast is particularly pleasant. (3800 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls. 612-823-4790.)

Blue Nile: African. Try a combination plate to sample the assorted Ethiopian stews, served over flatbread. (2027 E. Franklin Av., Mpls., 612-338-3000.)

Broders' Pasta Bar: Italian. It's all about pasta at this value-oriented south Minneapolis gem with an ever-changing menu. (5000 Penn Av. S., Mpls., 612-925-9202.)

Buster's on 28th: American. Known for its burgers, the tavern has one of the best beer selections in the state, replete with local, national and international beers worth savoring. (4204 28th Av. S., Mpls., 612-729-0911.) (J.N.)

Cafe Levain: American/ French. Affordable neighborhood bistro. The seasonally sensitive menu changes daily. (4762 Chicago Av. S., Mpls., 612-823-7111.)

Corner Table: American. Creative use of moderately priced ingredients, value-conscious prices, sane portions and smart, unpretentious cooking yield clean, sincere and often intensely satisfying flavors. Menu changes monthly. (4257 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., 612-823-0011.)

El Paraiso: Mexican. Impressive list of seafood dishes and other traditional south-of-the-border fare. (3501 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., 612-823-4707.)

First Course: American. Modest little cafe tries to offer something for nearly everyone -- from budget-priced pasta entrees to ambitious nightly specials. (5607 Chicago Av. S., Mpls., 612-825-6900.)

George & the Dragon: British. Locally sourced, scratch-cooked, British pub-inspired lunch and dinner service Monday through Saturday, plus Sunday brunch. (813 W. 50th St., Mpls. 612-208-1047.)

In Season: American. Chef Don Saunders completely overhauls his seasonal menu four times a year. Regional farms are tapped when it makes sense, but when inspiration calls outside the region, In Season answers. (5416 Penn Av. S., Mpls. 612-926-0105.)

Jakeeno Pizza and Pasta: Jakeeno's pizzas are true to Midwestern tradition: The crust is crusty, the cheese is gooey and the toppings are applied in ample proportion. (3555 Chicago Av. S., Mpls., 612-825-6827.)

Pig & Fiddle: The Muddy Pig's spinoff pub at 50th & France has a Belgian-beer emphasis, and chef Stephanie Kochlin culls her Old World food menu from all over Europe. Think: pierogies, pasties, stews. (3812 W. 50th St., Mpls. 952-955-8385.)

Pizzeria Lola: Top selections include the Sweet Italian, which features a house-made pork shoulder sausage, and the Xerxes, in which a light touch of mozzarella and feta stands up to nicely bitter sauteed broccoli rabe, salty olives and crushed almonds. Also: a first-rate Margherita. (5557 Xerxes Av. S., Mpls. 612-424-8338.)

Prima: Italian. Pastas are mostly classic preparations such as spaghetti with clams or penne alla puttanesca. (5325 Lyndale Av. S.,Mpls., 612-827-7376.)

Scott Ja-Mama's Barbecue: Featuring Scott Woolsey's mama Dorie's famous sauce, plus barbecue steak and shredded pork sandwiches. (3 W. Diamond Lake Rd., Mpls., 612-823-4450.)

Tilia: American. At star chef Steven Brown's hot Linden Hills restaurant, familiar favorites are energized anew, brilliantly, at accessible prices. You'll probably be waiting for a table. (2726 W. 43rd St., Mpls. 612-354-2806.)

True Thai: Seward Thai institution claims to be the only place that makes its own Thai curries from scratch. (2627 E. Franklin Av., Mpls., 612-375-9942.)

Victor's 1959 Cafe: Cuban. Breakfast and lunch menus feature a mix of Cuban and American fare; dinner is all-Cuban. (3756 Grand Av. S., Mpls., 612-827-8948.)

Wise Acre Eatery: American. The farm-to-table movement is vividly encapsulated here. The Engelmann family farm in Plato, Minn., is the restaurant's not-so-secret weapon, supplying chickens, hogs, beef cattle and all manner of vegetables and fruits. Simple goodness follows. (5401 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls. 612-354-2577.)

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Al Vento: Italian cafe/neighborhood bistro with simple but authentic Southern Italian fare, moderate prices and minimal decor. (5001 34th Av. S., Mpls. 612-724-3009.)

Cave Vin: French. Cozy little corner offers beautifully executed bistro classics (including tasty frog legs, tartare and steak frites) and a professional-grade wine list. (5555 Xerxes Av. S., Mpls., 612-922-0100.) (J.N.)

Craftsman: American. Former chef Mike Phillips put this spot on the map with his attention to seasonal ingredients and his nationally known charcuterie plate. (4300 E. Lake St., Mpls., 612-722-0175.) (J.N.)

Piccolo: American. Dining as high art, dinner served two bites at a time, as artfully arranged as it is prepared. Each item is a masterpiece of form and flavor. And yes, minuscule. (4300 Bryant Av. S., Mpls., 612-827-8111.)

Trattoria Tosca: Italian. An oft-changing menu of starters, pastas, entrees, side dishes and desserts. (3415 W. 44th St., Mpls., 612-924-1900.)

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