6 Restaurants to Try Right Now

These Twin Cities restaurants launched, relaunched or finally found their footing in 2016—and our stomachs are very happy.

Image by TJ Turner/Greenspring Media

Every year brings a series of both excitement and heartache to the culinary scene of the Twin Cities. But these six restaurants have our vote for the latest and greatest spots that either opened, reopened or finally found their groove in 2016—dig in!

Hi-Lo Diner

The hype surrounding this restaurant opening was well deserved—the 1957 diner car was transported here from Pennsylvania. Slide into a preserved vinyl booth and prepare yourself for a whole new level of diner fare. Curb that carb craving with a signature Hi-Top: this fresh hot “dough” (think of a donut without the hole) is piled high with savory toppings like braised Korean short rib, apple-bacon slaw and wasabi micro-greens, or sweet stuff like baked apples, sea salt caramel, crème fraiche and candied pecans. Go out on a limb and order an ice cream cocktail like The Upside Down, made with brandy, apricot liqueur, baked apples, goat cheese and bitters, or stick with a non-dairy cocktail if that’s more your style.

>> 4020 E. Lake St., Minneapolis, 612-353-6568, hi-lo-diner.com

Nighttime exterior shot of 1950s-era Hi-Lo Diner

Image by TJ Turner/Greenspring Media

Dark Horse Bar & Eatery

Lowertown is erasing the mentality that St. Paul’s sidewalks roll up after 8 p.m. In fact, some of the capitol city’s hottest restaurants have opened there in the last couple of years, including this American-meets-Asian-meets-pub fare establishment. The historic nature of the building is evident in exposed-brick walls and a hint of industrial chic décor, plus a towering wall of bottles that can only be reached by a ladder on rollers reminiscent of those you would find in a lavish library. The menu runs the gamut, including Chinese steamed dumplings; the Dark Horse Burger with smoked gouda, thousand island dressing and bacon; a variety of pizzas; plus a hearty weekend brunch menu. Order virtually any bourbon, whiskey or scotch your heart desires, or get a pint from their lengthy local beer list.

>> 250 E. Seventh St., St. Paul, 651-313-7960, darkhorsebarandeatery.com

The Commodore Bar & Restaurant

Once the watering hole of F. Scott Fitzgerald, this Art Deco stunner in St. Paul’s Cathedral Hill neighborhood was recently revived after years of renovation. Built in 1920, The Commodore witnessed decades of change, from Prohibition to the age of Hollywood glamour and beyond, and its rich history is evident throughout. The bar itself was designed by a 1930s Hollywood set designer who drew inspiration from ocean liners, and the black and white checkered floors live beneath gold leaf ceilings. Although the space is grandiose, the menu is approachable and affordable, including plates like Parmesan Fried Risotto and Pan Roasted Ribeye, plus a delectable dessert menu. No former speakeasy would shine without a standout drink menu, which is why much of the liquor is sourced from local distilleries. Order the Fitzgerald if gin is your spirit of choice, otherwise ask for the Zelda for a champagne cocktail.

>> 79 Western Ave. N., St. Paul, 651-330-5999, thecommodorebar.com

Interior shot of Commodore

Image by TJ Turner/Greenspring Media

Cedar + Stone, Urban Table

Mall of America recently underwent a major expansion that not only added to its mammoth list of stores but also to its culinary repertoire. Once you enter the bright, spacious dining room—courtesy of floor-to-ceiling windows—it’s easy to forget you’re dining in a hotel attached to the nation’s largest mall. The restaurant leverages relationships with local farmers, sourcing most menu ingredients from farms within 200 miles. Open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and weekend brunch, you’ll find dishes such as Blackened Walleye Sandwich, Baked Gouda Mac & Cheese, 12-Hour Braised Beef Short Rib and more. The bar also uses farm-to-table ingredients for a healthier spin on cocktails, mixing up drinks with fresh juices, raw honey and garnishes from local gardens.

 >> 2141 Lindau Lane, Bloomington, 612-615-0124, marriott.com

Pimento Jamaican Kitchen

After winning Food Network’s Food Court Wars in 2013, the team behind this eatery branched out from their suburban location in Burnsville and opened a long-awaited spot on Minneapolis’ Eat Street near Uptown. The authentic menu includes Jamaican favorites like Kingston Style Jerk Chicken, Sweet Fried Plantains, Coco Bread, Curry Goat and more, kicked up with a range of housemade sauces for all sorts of spice lovers. Order a Red Stripe beer, and this meal might be the next best thing to a trip to the Caribbean island.

>> 22524 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis, 612-345-5637, pimentokitchen.com

Colorful array of dishes from Pimento Jamaican Kitchen

Image by TJ Turner/Greenspring Media

Ramen Kazama

The Twin Cities’ first ramen-centric eatery has quickly made a name for itself along Minneapolis’ famous Eat Street. In 2016, Bon Appetit magazine featured the restaurant as one of the best places in the country to get a drool-worthy bowl of ramen, and that’s no lie. Order the Gyoza or Kimchi as an appetizer followed by Shoyu “Old School” ramen if you want something simple; otherwise, ask for the Karamiso “Magma” for a steaming bowl of spicy goodness. They have a fairly broad selection of Japanese sake and a small list of draft and bottle beers, plus kombucha and Japanese soda. The interior is simple and seating can be scarce on busy nights, but it’s always worth the wait.

>> 3400 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis, 612-353-6160, ramenkazama.com

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