The Twin Cities are immensely fortunate to have two superb jazz clubs: St. Paul's Artists' Quarter and the Dakota in downtown Minneapolis. Both offer a steady stream of local talent, in intimate settings that encourage easy mingling of patrons and artists. So what puts the Dakota over the top? First, the club is regarded as one of the premier jazz clubs in the world, which means its rep is as solid in Stockholm, Sweden, as in Stockholm, Wisconsin. Second, the breadth of artists visiting the Dakota is often breathtaking (many never playing rooms so small elsewhere), the sound is always first-rate, and its friendly confines are classy without being ostentatious. And third, the Dakota's kitchen consistently produces top-notch, creative cuisine while making even the lowly burger something special. In recent years, the Dakota's lineup has expanded beyond the boundaries of jazz. But considering the bevy of jazz artists regularly moving through the Dakota, that's a minor quibble. Besides, eclecticism has yielded myriad rewards: Lucinda Williams's recent solo gigs, Rosanne Cash's intimate shows last summer, Booker T and the MGs' always incandescent performances. Plus, chief Dakotan Lowell Pickett has presented an array of New Orleans artists—from Allen Toussaint to clarinetist Evan Christopher—virtually unrivaled this side of Lake Pontchartrain. And then there's the late-night gigs featuring such up-and-coming treasures as the subcontinent bop of Denver's Aakash Mittal Quartet. World class all the way.