The past year brought us our share of new restaurants (Hi-Lo at the top of that list), but the ones that promise to be even more exciting debuted in the final few weeks of 2016. I’ve paid each a quick visit, so here’s a run-down of the leaders of the pack, eager to earn your approval in 2017.
McKinney Roe, in East Town’s Wells Fargo tower, is within punting distance of the new Vikings stadium and clearly hopes to win touchdowns with that crowd via a menu of familiar comfort food, ranging from burgers aplenty ($15 and under) to its signature entrée, pork shank for two (entrees $22-35). Tables crowd the ultra-gorgeous back bar (the owner’s Irish, so it’s in his DNA); balcony seating, too.
Oui Bar, the hip gathering spot of the new Radisson Red Hotel, also in East Town, aims to woo millennials with a short, sweet list of apps ($10 and under) to mix and match in a bright, mural-clad domain. Hits include Ham Tots (yup, just what they sound like); British Street Tacos (think fish & chips in a shell); and a terrific chicken-and-waffle combo.
Esker Grove is Walker Art Center’s brand-new dining op, this time (sensibly, at last) located right at the front door, which now faces Vineland Place and the Sculpture Garden on view through the glam glass walls. The menu is overseen by Doug Flicker (who recently closed his legendary Piccolo), bringing his out-there flair to entrees like Parsnip (coffee, caramelized goat milk, escarole) to lamb shoulder, clams to capon (entrees $19-32).
Bonicelli Kitchen is the love child of food-delivery diva Laura Bonicelli, behind the stove at this small and cozy NE Central Avenue site. The compact menu of small plates for sharing stars a stand-out Nicoise salad; balsamic braised beef; and homemade pastas—one in a traditional Bolognese sauce, the other bright with cream and lemon, all under $15.
Revival, the shrine for Southern fried chicken in South Minneapolis, just opened a bigger site with expanded menu on St. Paul’s Selby Avenue—and, trust me, it’s worth the drive. New items include barbecued pork in all sorts of variations, including an entire pig’s head for parties of, oh, a hundred or so, to nosh. Don’t miss the outstanding mac and cheese, marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes, stewed okra, and pies-pies-pies (Think: banana cream and butterscotch at the top of the list).
Tullabee is the wild card in this dining deck—the Nordic-influenced restaurant in the Warehouse District’s new Hewing Hotel. All glass and brick and high, wood beams, the site’s a winner—and so’s the short, carefully incised menu. Don’t expect Aunt Lena’s meatballs, though. Instead, the lunch menu showcases open-faced sandwiches, from smoked salmon to cauliflower (!) to cod in a bun. Also duck-fat fries with a trio of dippers. For dinner, meatball soup and sea urchin toast among the starters, then on to cod with parsnips, poussin with egg yolk fudge rice (What??), and pork rib chop. Or, if you prefer, pork heart skewer. Just sayin’. (Entrees $25-36).