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The Best Restaurants In The Twin Cities

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of stars, as people who write about food often do. The only one giving stars is Rick Nelson from the Strib. I love Rick’s writing, I generally agree with his assessments of restaurants, but I’m pretty sure the concept of what makes a 4-star restaurant worth 4 stars is outdated. My own prior assessment is outdated.

I used to think a 4-star had to have a proper host stand, valet parking as an option, more than 2 single-stall bathrooms, and a certain level of formal service. 4-stars means top of the top. But what do you do when a fast-casual restaurant is perfection? That automatically gets dinged to a 3-star because it’s not formal. And that means it’s a half-star away from the 2 1/2 star restaurants, which essentially are the “eh, it’s ok” spots.

I’ve been working on my own list, I’ll publish in a separate post.

Here’s a starting point from Rick: 4-star reviews from Rick Nelson in the Star Tribune.

Those are the 4-stars. Now let’s look at the recent 3 1/2 stars:

I’d add my own top tier restaurants to this list:

What about Brasa? Is that 4 stars? How about Mucci’s? World Street Kitchen? What would you put as your 4-star? I’ll publish my list next week.

How Awesome Is Cossetta’s in St. Paul

Is it Cossetta? Or Cossetta’s? Technically it’s Cossetta, but I’m telling you, Dave Cossetta doesn’t care what you call it as long as you remember it’s in St. Paul, and it’s awesome.

They did more than a million guests on West 7th by XCel Energy Center, and more than 500,000 cannoli. At $4.25 a crack, that’s more than $2 million in cannoli. Read my story from WCCO, or watch the video below (Dave doesn’t do too many interviews – so this is a pretty cool story. I’m still not sure how I convinced him to do it.)

Going to Cossetta and wondering what to order: I recommend the Cossetta salad with zippy Italian dressing, the sausage and peppers is incredible, their pizza is among the best slices you can get in the Twin Cities, you have to go to the bakery and marvel at the fact that the whole thing was built in Italy and shipped over to St. Paul to be assembled, the market has the best selection of salami and sopressata in Minnesota and very good bread as well. What’s your go-to Cossetta order?

Cossetta Alimentari, 211 7th Street West, Saint Paul, MN 55102

Minneapolis and St. Paul Restaurant Recap From 2016

My Minnesota Monthly co-editor Joy Summers also runs the Minneapolis Eater website, and like every year she asked my thoughts for her annual round-up of year in review posts. I thought I’d share all my answers here, so you can see my favorites from 2016 and predictions for 2017.

What were the top restaurant newcomers of 2016?
Mucci’s, The Dirty Bird, Pimento Jamaican Kitchen, Q Fanatic’s Minneapolis location, Alma’s Cafe: the big wins of 2016 were all about casual dining with big flavors and big heart.
What were your top restaurant standbys of 2016?
The Strip Club Meats & Fish, Punch Pizza Maple Grove, Borough
What was the biggest dining surprise of 2016?
The utter failure of restaurants with a lot of seats.  Scena in Uptown (which I really liked) opened and closed; Parella didn’t last long; Salt Cellar in St. Paul also bombed.
What was the saddest closure of 2016?
Saffron. Saffron had an incredible run, but knowing I won’t see Saed Wadi’s giant smile when I walked in, the great drinks at the bar, and the incredibly richness and depth of spice in Sameh Wadi’s food makes me sad.
What was your most disappointing meal of 2016?
Hoban Uptown. I ended up behind the bar looking at their wine selection because the server couldn’t tell me what was they had.
What was your best restaurant meal of 2016?
Tie: Corner Table’s French menu tasting was absolutely stellar, as was a Saint Dinette meal I had inside Xcel Energy Center. Both restaurants are run by incredibly talented, and incredibly kind people.
What are your headline predictions for 2017?
The Lexington finally opens!
Bagels are the new donuts: expect several local bagel shops to open next year
Sum up the 2016 restaurant world in one word.
Generous: It’s been an amazing year of chefs helping other chefs as they open (providing staff meals for each other, talking through challenges with getting approvals and licenses, coaching through troubles) as well as restaurants donating their time and business to charities


Charitable Giving Featured In The Star Tribune

What a thrill to be a part of this great article by Aimee Blanchette about celebrities giving back to charity in the Star Tribune! My kids pointed out that I’m probably the fourth or fifth celebrity out of five in their minds… but the idea of using a platform to give back is really important to me.

The Strib asked me to focus on one area of my charity work, so I talked about hunger. As a food reporter, it’s critical to me to speak out on issues of hunger, and shine a spotlight on the reality that nearly 1 in 5 Minnesotans have to make a decision at the end of every month: do I pay for my prescription drugs, buy clothes for my kids, or do I buy a healthy meal. That’s why I was the Chairperson of the Minnesota March Food Share Campaign this year [as Plymouth Magazine wrote about], and I’ll keep doing whatever I can to share more on issues of hunger with the audience.

I probable emcee about 30-40 different charity fundraising galas each year, so my charity interests run wide for sure. My other passion is the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital: we continue to proudly donate and volunteer our time with the U of M. If you’re interested in having me work with your charity – hit me up on !

A National-Level Food Experience at Scena Tavern

If I told you for $100 you could sit at the counter across from one of the most-acclaimed chefs in the country, and one of the most talented cocktail minds in the country, and spend two hours experiencing flavors that would blow your mind – you’d jump on it, right?

That’s what’s happening at Scena Tavern in Uptown. Chef Erik Anderson was named to Food & Wine’s Top New Chefs list, he ran a hugely successful restaurant in Nashville, and then came home. He’s opening his own restaurant called Brut this summer, but in the meantime he helped create the menu at Scena.

[Read my Minnesota Monthly review of Scena here.]

Scena is great – service can be hit or miss – and some people might not like the Uptown atmosphere of this Uptown restaurant – but overall I really like this restaurant. Great wine list, some of the best cocktails in town, and a really friendly and delicious menu.

But the Crudo bar weekend experience is truly on the level as the best restaurant experiences in America.

crudo erik
Erik Anderson
Nick Kosevich
Nick Kosevich

Imagine crudo dishes like dry-aged Yellowfin tuna, bottarga (roe) and jalapeno paired with Mezcal, lemon, grapefruit, Jamaican Oleo, cilantro, Corazon Bitters, seltzer! Crazy!

Hamachi with cucumber, hot beef fat, and picholine olive was paired with Bone Marrow-infused Auchtentashen Three Wood Whiskey.

I loved the Wild Striped Bass with chilled herb broth, and the Junipero Martini with Orange Bitters, the same herb broth and bergamot oil!

crudo striped bass

There was Spanish Mackeral with charcoaled skin, a gin gelee, and laurel oil paired with a Barrel-Aged Gin Martini. A martini unlike any you’ve ever experienced.

crudo hamachi

Look at this red prawn with the crispy shell on top:

crudo red prawns

If this were on the coasts, national media would be falling over themselves talking about the best bargain in food, the best experience you can have with an incredible pair of chefs. Plus Erik and Nick are really fun – this is a party. Eight seats at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays only.
Scena Tavern, 2943 Girard Avenue S, Minneapolis 55408. Reserve at [email protected]



Top 12 Dairy Queen Blizzard Flavors

I love a Dairy Queen Blizzard. Feeling like candy swirled in that soft serve? Do it. How about cookies? Go for it. Fruit? That’s weird, but you do you. I’ve created a list of the Top 12 Dairy Queen Blizzard flavors – and while you should feel free to disagree in the comments, do so knowing that you are wrong.

  1. Chocolate-covered Cherries (it’s been discontinued – a couple pumps of chocolate formed almost a chocolate shell on the inside, combined with cherries – just perfection)
  2. Choco Cherry Love (This was my replacement for Chocolate-covered cherries. Also discontinued because Dairy Queen apparently hates me)
  3. Turtle Pecan Cluster (pecans with chocolate & caramel)
  4. Snickers Blizzard
  5. Oreo Blizzard
  6. Heath Bar Blizzard
  7. Salted Caramel Truffle (caramel bonbons plus toffee pieces, fudge, chocolate chunks)
  8. Mint Oreo Blizzard  Strawberry Cheesecake Blizzard (I made an error by not including this originally, the cheesecake chunks are delightful. It belongs on the list.)
  9. Butterfinger Blizzard
  10. Banana Split Blizzard (Banana splits are good, banana split blizzards are better)
  11. Reese’s Peanut Butter Blizzard (more peanut butter flavors, please!)
  12. Chocolate Xtreme Blizzard (negative points for the X in Xtreme)