Is Terzo the best Italian restaurant in the Twin Cities?

If Terzo at 50th and Penn isn’t the best Italian restaurant in the Twin Cities, it is at least the best Italian restaurant I have been to in years. I’ll admit that I haven’t thoroughly checked out the three new Italian restaurants that have gotten a lot of buzz lately – Parella, Monello and Il Foro. At first glance, their menus seem pretty similar. I did sample a few of the small plates at Parella in Calhoun Square, which were just okay. Terzo is different. Terzo seems to have fallen off of the foodie crowd’s radar, which is a shame because it is a better and more interesting restaurant than when it opened. When I first reviewed Terzo three years ago, I was not impressed. Continue Reading

Revival: the chicken has landed

 The long-awaited Revival restaurant opened last week in the former Corner Table space at 4257 Nicollet Ave. Revival is the brainchild of chef Thomas Boemer and owner Nick Rancone of Corner Table, which has relocated to more stylish quarters three blocks south at 4537 Nicollet. The pre-opening buzz usually referred to Revival as a fried chicken restaurant, and fried chicken is the featured attraction, but Revival is really much more than that. It’s an homage to Boemer’s Southern roots, reflected in dishes that range from crispy pigs ear salad with watercress, endive and honey carrot dressing ($8 )and shake and bake pork chops with butterbeans, greens and sorghum ($18) to johnnycakes with ham, cheddar, cowpeas and poached egg ($7), and low country chicken, clam and sausage bog ($16). Except for Dixie’s on Grand in St. Paul, and a few rib joints or fried chicken and fried fish takeouts with limited menus, Southern cuisine has long been under-represented on the local restaurant scene, so Revival is a very welcome addition. I had a sneak preview of the fried chicken last fall, when Corner Table served it at the Nicollet Ave. Open Streets fest, and it still ranks with the best fried chicken I have ever tasted. Continue Reading

What are the local Chinese Community’s favorite Chinese restaurants? Check the Chinese press.

To stay on top of the Chinese restaurant scene, I check out the local Chinese-language newspapers – the USA China Tribune, and the Minnesota Times – whenever I get a chance. (You can usually pick them up at Asian grocery stores.)  I can’t read a word of Chinese, but I look at the ads, which have lots of color photos of the food, and at least the name and street address of the restaurant in English. I assume that the restaurants that advertise in these publications are trying to reach the local Chinese community, and are therefore likely to be the restaurants with the most authentic Chinese cuisine.  (You won’t find ads for Big Bowl or P.F. Chang’s.)A  lot of the ads in the current issues are for places that I would put on my 10 Best Chinese list: Mandarin Kitchen, Grand Szechuan, Tea House, Tian Jin, Yangtze (for dim sum), Cafe 99, Grand Shanghai (for Shanghai specialties), Peninsula (for Chinese/Malaysian) and Pagoda. But there are also a lot of ads for all-you-can-eat Asian buffets, like 98 Pounds in Bloomington, Ichiban Asian Buffet in St. Louis Park, Teppanyaki Grill in Minneapolis, Super World Buffet Chinese restaurant in Inver Grove Heights, and all-you-can-eat sushi at Sushi “X” in Golden Valley. This time around, I spotted ads for dim sum at a three restaurants I had never heard of before –  A&L Chinese Restaurant in Inver Grove Heights, the Sesame Cafe in Minnetonka, and the New Beijing in Eden Prairie, and checked out the first two last weekend. The A&L was worth the 25-minute drive from Uptown to Inver Grove Heights. Continue Reading

Women’s Corsets & Girl Shorts

The Theatre Unbound logo is a corset loosened, suggesting the opening of a woman’s body, heart, soul, social status, and very being. Theatre Unbound is where stories by, for and about women are particularly valued, where everyone is invited, and where one hopes that views and perspectives will be broadened!This year’s Girl Shorts is a festival of short plays, short stories, and a series of short dances produced by Theatre Unbound in collaboration with 20% Theatre Company, Gadfly Theatre Production’s, Table Salt Productions, Erin Sheppard Presents, and Raw Sugar. Audience members can choose to attend one set of three to four presentations for $12 or attend the whole festival for only $ 30, now through March 15th. What a bargain! My comments are based on the order in which I saw each set on Saturday.1. Continue Reading

Prairie Dogs Hot Dogs & Handcrafted Sausage: tubesteak on the comeback trail

It’s about time for the hot dog to make a comeback, and the opening of the new  Prairie Dogs Hot Dogs & Handcrafted Sausage at Lake and Lyndale is a promising sign. For the past 90 years or so, ever since the first White Castle opened its doors in 1921, the hamburger has dominated the American fast food scene, meat-in-a-bun category, miles ahead of hot dogs and everything else.Which is a shame, because, let’s face it, burgers are boring – just ground meat and fat, and the fat is the only thing that gives them flavor.  Sausages, by contrast, come almost in infinite variety, with seasonings and ingredients as diverse as their cultures of origin – from British bangers and Polish kielbasa to Filipino longganisa and Czech jitrnice. And now that craft beers are making a huge comeback, the time is right for hot dogs to rise again. Sausage is the natural companion to beer.The new restaurant in the former Gray house space  is a collaboration between chef Craig Johnson (Spill The Wine, etc.) and veteran restaurant consultant Tobie Nidetz (Ike’s, The Sample Room, Rye Delicatessen.) After doing a bunch of pop-ups around town last year, (and an appearance at the 2014 Twin Cities Daily Planet Sausage Fest), they finally opened last month.The basic hot dog on offer at Prairie Dog is a Vienna Beef all-beef hot dog in a natural casing, but it’s the preparations that earn the gourmet label: everything from the All-American, topped with crispy pork belly, morning potatoes, , sunny egg, sriracha aioli and cilantro ($7), to Pliny the Elder, which is fried in duck fat, and topped with a foie gras torchon and currant apple relish ($11). If you want to keep it simple, a naked dog costs $3.75, with toppings a la carte, and a classic dog with mustard, onions, relish, tomato, peppers and pickle is $4.50. My favorite so far is the banh mi Joy dog, topped with char siu pork, chicken liver pate, pickled carrot and daikon, jalapeno, shoyu mayo and cilantro ($8), but there are lots of variations that I haven’t tried yet.Beyond the gourmet dogs,  Prairie Dogs also offers a selection of handcrafted sausages, including a spicy merguez lamb sausage (two links in a natural lamb casing), topped with piquillo peppers, feta and mint aioli ($9), a basic backyard brat topped with bacon sauerkraut ($8), a bock-bockwurst (chicken, $9), and a smiked polish sausage with beef relish. Continue Reading