The Future of Dining

With an influx of innovative chefs and restaurateurs to the Twin Cities comes a new take on dining out.

Image by TJ Turner/Greenspring Media

The Twin Cities represents a classic example of extremes. Bone-brittle arctic winters clash with humid, mosquitoes-masquerading-as-horseflies summers. Midwestern locals with downhome, everyone’s-a-friend charm dare brush up against the more reserved, I’ll-let-you-in-when-I’m-good-and-ready disdain of true Northerners.

Not surprisingly, these polar opposite tendencies invade our culinary scene as well, and over the decades, have transformed the Twin Cities into a highly inventive food market that is truly shaping the future of dining.

From its humble beginnings on Cedar Avenue in South Minneapolis in the 1950s, the Time magazine-honored Jucy Lucy [sic] has set the greasy comfort food standard for hundreds of burger joints across the country that have long-clamored to replicate the seemingly simple, cheese smashed between two patties approach to molten goodness.

Now contrast that with the gastronomic genius found in more recent openings—well over 100 in the past two years alone, not including fast food joints—which read like a James Beard Awards laundry list of finalists and runners up.

There’s Libertine, the latest creation of our local fine-dining master Tim McKee, where you can sample some of the utmost gourmet of foods in the most laid back of atmospheres. Nibble on fried pig’s ear then wash it down with a whiskey shot from a recently licked-clean bone.

Deservedly grabbing one of Minnesota Monthly’s 2014 Best New Restaurants honors, Libertine perfectly exemplifies Parasole Restaurant Holding’s trademark, yet still somewhat untraditional approach of marrying truly gourmet food with a uniquely no-fuss, sometimes hard to find, informality.

With marquee culinary names like Isaac Becker, the Dayton & Wadi brothers, Lenny Russo, Michelle Gayer, Doug Flicker, and recent returnee Gavin Kaysen, to name just a few, the Twin Cities is clearly no stranger to the latest culinary movements, and even local perennial favorites constantly reinvent the wheel… or in the case of Travail, the entire restaurant.

When Travail Kitchen and Amusements burst on the scene in 2010, its relatively unknown founders quickly found themselves on Bon Appétit’s Best New Restaurants list. Fast-forward four years and the recently reinvented Robbinsdale hotspot is breaking all the rules and creating an entirely new dining paradigm in the process.

If you are a pre-planner, though, forget the trip. No menu, no reservations, heck, not even a wall separating the kitchen from the dining room. And certainly no wait staff. The chefs serve the food upon making it. While this loss of predictability might steer the traditional fine-dining enthusiast back downtown, others will brave the Minnesota elements and stand in line for 30, 40 even 60 minutes before the doors even open.

Indeed, we’re a hearty bunch, we Minnesotans. And we most definitely love our food. Twin Citians celebrate our fabulously diverse fine dining establishments that don’t just push the envelope in culinary trendsetting, but rip it apart.

After all, the next best thing to eating great food is, of course, talking about it. And we’ve all done plenty of that. Discussing your next meal over the current meal has now given way—in the Twin Cities anyway—to dining at one restaurant and making reservations at the next. Unless of course you’re headed to Robbinsdale.

Bon Appétit!

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