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Food & Drink

Some New Restaurants I Really Liked This Year

These are the 9 places that most charmed and/or delighted me in 2022.

11:59 AM CST on December 23, 2022

Natalia Mendez

There are a lot of Best New Restaurants lists out there each December, but if you ask me, very few of them really relate to the way we actually… eat. Best-of roundups—especially of the national variety—tend to feel aspirational rather than attainable: good for pushing chefs to do their best and most groundbreaking work, bad at helping readers answer the question, “Where should I go eat right now?”

When I make a mental assessment of a new place, I like to factor in things like “How good is the happy hour?” and “How often am I likely to go here, really?” and, crucially, “Is it any fun?” Maybe those criteria are on everyone’s list, but I dunno. It doesn’t always seem that way.

(And besides, I’m just not sure how much value there is in my being the 10th person to say that yes, Mara is good.)

So, I’ll tell you now what I told you in 2021: This isn’t a definitive best-of-new-stuff list, more a collection of places that have most charmed and/or delighted me over the last year. I’m a one-woman team with no food and drink budget; these are restaurants I spent my own money at, liked a lot, and kept coming back to. There’s a burger joint, some coffee shops, a pizza place, a supper club, a bar, a bakery—it’s all over the map.

Maybe in 2023 we’ll get around to ranking new restaurants in a more structured format. Maybe not! [Extremely 2011 blogger voice] Let me know what new spots you liked this year in the comments!

the inside of little t's, with murals on the left and booths lining both sides

Little T’s

This is the part where I confess that I never actually visited the old Little Tijuana, though I’d heard plenty of stories about birthday spankings and drunken misbehavior from friends who knew it well. Racket correspondent Tony Libera was one such regular, and his account of the new, globetrotting Little T’s—formally Little Tijuana Neighborhood Lounge—had me craving palak paneer dip and a burger. I now have a near-obsession with said dip ($12), though I’ve always needed to ask for more naan to plow the mountain of perfect, swamp-thing-green curry. The Potato Pelmeni ($13) is the kind of comfort food dish that satisfies in the summer but literally, actually restores your soul in the winter. (Don’t fact check me on this!) Put it all in a low-lit, divey setting, and throw in a mean marg (though I’m partial to the piña colada) and you’ve got a real winner on your hands. 17 E. 26th St., Minneapolis

Gus Gus

The all-day brunch happy hour at Gus Gus is what got me. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays, Gus Gus has $3 tap Hamm’s, $3 fresh-squeezed mimosas, and jello shots and tap rosé for 5 bucks apiece. Pair it with the $8 happy hour cheeseburger and you could reasonably walk out of there for around $15 with tip. But well, now that you’re here, doesn’t the poutine—piled with fried gnocchi, braised oxtail, and cheese curds—sound really good? You should probably get that for the table. And maybe the eggs Benedict ($13) is more the move—let’s stick with the br- side of brunch. By the time you walk out of there, a tiny bit tipsy from three $3 mimosas and squinting into the sun, you’ll be making plans to come back for dinner. 128 Cleveland Ave. N., St. Paul

Creekside Supper Club & Lounge

Creekside opened just before the new year, and that timing means it didn’t make any best-of lists in 2021 and hasn’t (to my knowledge) appeared on any in 2022. Big mistake!!! Kitsch-wise, this place nails every note, from the vintage cigarette machine that greets you at the door to the bubbling waterfall in the waiting area to the mounted deer head that gazes at you from behind the bar. There is so much wood paneling. And how does this “Wisconsin-style” supper club do on the food? So good! The popovers, y’all. Just $9, puffed up to the heavens, and served with savory-sweet honey butter you can slather on yourself. The chicken penne ($22), is a wildcard hit with wild game sausage and a wonderfully spiced cajun cream sauce. And the prime rib sandwich ($19)... my god. But hey, don’t take my word for it—just ask Wisconsin-born/raised Racket correspondent Natalia Mendez. 4820 Chicago Ave., Minneapolis

Emerald Lounge

Emerald Lounge had my friggin number right away, and it’s a place I’ve returned to again and again for special occasions (birthday!) and little celebrations (made it to the weekend!). I get the PEI mussels ($14), served swimming in a gloriously rich Thom Kha Gai-inspired broth, every time. I wage a little internal battle about whether to get the sausage bucatini ($16), or the classically perfect meatloaf ($16). I have way too many cute little drinks and then I make my partner drive us home. And it’s a 10/10 experience every single time. 455 Seventh St. W., St. Paul

An overhead shot of two plates and two iced coffees at The Briar
We love breakfast, don't we folks?

The Briar

If I was designing my dream restaurant, it would look a lot like The Briar: a cozy and unassuming all-day neighborhood cafe where the food is seriously punching above its weight. At this Northeast newbie, you can grab to-go lattes, sure, but also a roasted broccoli and fennel salad with bagna cauda, crispy garlic, and a mushroom and caramelized onion vinaigrette ($10). There’s drip coffee, of course, but also a dreamy open-faced egg salad sandwich on focaccia with crunchy cornichons and a shower of dill ($11). And with recurring pop-ups from spots like Dahlia, there’s always something fun going on. 1231 Washington St. NE, Minneapolis

disco death's silver, metal exterior (with a little motor bike parked out front and a sign reading "coffee here!")

Disco Death Records

While we’re on the subject of damn good coffee shops: I absolutely love Disco Death. Admittedly, I’m a sucker for a place that names their drinks stuff like Asmodeous and Hayl Satan and charges $6.66 for them. (We love a bit!) And DDR comes from a trio of analog aficionados who aren’t just doing coffee; they’re also selling a curated collection of records, and there’s a “speakeasy film lab” in the back of the shop. “Even our espresso machine is different from a lot of other places—a Victoria Arduino hand-crank machine… It’s definitely a more classic Italian thing,” co-owner Colin Wilkinson told us in August. If you’re a certain kind of person (as in, an insufferable nostalgic like me, who still shoots film and whose house is exploding with physical media), you’re gonna love it, too. 721 W. 26th St., Minneapolis

Asa Diebolt of Asa's Bakery

Asa’s Bakery

For my money, Asa’s makes the best bagels in the Twin Cities, and their move into a standalone space earlier this year has been such a win. Now you can get bagels and bialys Thursday through Sunday, and you can get ‘em slathered with rotating seasonal cream cheeses like butternut squash and garlic or liptauer (a take on a Slovak spread with red pepper and sweet onion). When it’s an option, you have to get the smoked whitefish salad. When it’s not… I mean, you kind of can’t go wrong. 5011 34th Ave. S., Minneapolis

Dream Creamery

I’m but a humble woman of simple pleasures: Give me a sloppy smash burger and an ice cream cone and I’m satisfied. It’s not a complicated formula, but it is a winning one, and it’s why I called Dream Creamery the feel-good hit of the summer earlier this year. This burger ($8 for a single, $10 for a double, $12 for a triple) is really, really, really good, oozing melty cheese and sending a cascade of Thousand Island-adjacent “special sauce” down your hands. The burger/scoop shop is closed for the season, but if you’re craving ice cream—and who isn’t, when it’s -40 degrees outside?—you can find Dream Creamery pints at Nouvelle Brewing and Pizza Luce. 816 NE Lowry Ave., Minneapolis

Mmmmm, bungle.

Wrecktangle 

OK, so yes, before this year Wrecktangle Pizza had two existing food hall locations: one in the North Loop Galley and one in The Market at Malcolm Yards. But their first independent, all-Wrecktangle-all-the-time location is its own animal. You already know we love their pizzas thanks to our objectively correct and yet highly controversial local pizza chain rankings; Wrecktangle Lyn-Lake takes those tasty little Detroit-style pies and ups the ante with a whole menu of starters and salads and sammiches (long live the humble Bungle). Plus they’ve got a fun array of alcoholic drinks here. Grab a seat at the bar and order a Grape Ape ($4), a brisket chopped cheese ($11), and some MN sushi ($2)—you’ll thank us. 703 W. Lake St., Minneapolis

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