You consider yourself a true explorer of local restaurants — like Magellan with a brunch reservation and a more kempt beard. You're an adventurer of appetites. A voyager of vittles. But there are still a few stones left unturned in your search for all the best secret eats in the Twin Cities. So we decided to act as the Norgay to your Sir Edmund and guide you through some of our recent hush-hush favorites.
Sun Street Breads
4600 Nicollet Ave. S., Minneapolis
We've been singing the praises of owner-baker Solveig Tofte's gorgeous sourdough loaves, flaky rhubarb turnovers, and perfectly peppery biscuits and gravy ever since Sun Street Breads opened in 2011. After a year of offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner in addition to the standard coffee and bakery menu, Tofte felt the staff were stretched too thin and ultimately decided to scrap the evening meal service. Since then, Sun Street has quietly brought back one of its most popular supper specials by giving it its own dedicated night. Every Monday from 6 to 8 p.m., people line up for the neighborhood bakery's pizza night, featuring a veggie special — like the earthy and vibrant combo of kale, beets, chevre, and Serrano oil we sampled recently — and a market special, which is usually something fun and meaty. (Think crumbled crispy chorizo sausage with paper-thin slices of fingerling potatoes or bacon brat, sour cherries, and caramelized onions.) Cheese, pepperoni, and Hawaiian pizza are always available for the kiddos, and no matter which pie you order, the crust is always perfection: light and bubbly on top, crisp on the bottom, and Punch-level chewy throughout, sans excess grease.
4955 West Lake Nokomis Parkway, Minneapolis
In its second season, Doug Flicker's Sandcastle at Lake Nokomis got a bunch of big-time upgrades. They've expanded the seating area into a terrace, formalized the beer garden, started serving wine on tap, and added a soft-serve ice cream machine thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign. But what we're most excited about is what happens on Fridays, when Sandcastle fries up the same Callister Farms chicken used for their tasty buffalo wings, only in bigger pieces and in bigger batches. Nine dollars will get you three pieces of bone-in chicken along with a tender drop biscuit made with a little bacon fat and some scallions, served with a pat of smoked maple butter. If you want to make it a little healthier, order an apple and almond salad or a side of coleslaw with your meal and walk a few laps around the lake when you're done. Plan to arrive early because Sandcastle's Southern-fried treat is served on a sell-out schedule: When it's gone, it's gone.
30 First St. N., Minneapolis
Summer is drawing to an end, but that's all the more reason to squeeze every last day of suitable al fresco dining out of the next couple of months. To that end, Origami's original location in the North Loop has added a little sidewalk seating area on the side of the building, so now you can bask in the sun with your post-work sake and sashimi.
The Mill Northeast
1851 Central Ave. NE, Minneapolis
Since the Mill NE opened in the winter, it took us by surprise when we stopped by again this summer and discovered that this creative little cafe can add "charming patio" to its long list of good attributes. See also: killer cocktails and brunch every day.
Bauhaus Brew Labs
1315 Tyler St. NE, Minneapolis
For late-summer beer drinking, arguably one of our favorite pastimes, the newly opened Bauhaus Brew Labs' colorful parking-lot patio is just about perfect. Strings of lights twinkle overhead, there is frequently live music, and food trucks from Tru Pizza, Hot Indian Foods, Gastrotruck, or the Anchor Fish & Chips could show up. It's a Northeast spot that's both utterly hip and fully family-friendly.
Check out our photos of Bauhaus Brew Labs in Northeast Minneapolis.
2923 Girard Ave. S., Minneapolis
We were so distracted by the duck confit arancini and the real-deal whiskey sour at Coup d'Etat that when they opened their quick-service window as a late-night alternative to the nearby McDonald's drive-thru, we almost missed it. Almost. We soon sampled their pastrami on a pretzel roll served with big, gooey mounds of cheese curds and then couldn't stop blabbing about it to anyone who would listen. So, for anyone wandering the streets of Uptown in search of something decent and decadent on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday nights after 11 p.m., make this chef-run walk-up window your go-to destination. The menu is limited (handy for post-bar decision-making) but rotates often. Get hot sandwiches, grass-fed burgers, and Fair-worthy fried sides until 2 a.m.
Porchetteria at Terzo Vino Bar
2221 W. 50th St., Minneapolis
For a satisfying secret meal in the earlier half of the day, it's all about the Porchetteria at Terzo Vino Bar, a little parking lot walk-up window with an all pork menu and picnic-style seating. The Broders' family-owned operation serves four different versions of the sophisticated Italian pulled pork sandwich (in this case it's slow-roasted shoulder and belly) and has recently extended its formerly lunch-only hours, all the way until the full restaurant opens for dinner service. Stop by any day of the week between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. and order the crunchy, complex Verdure — layers of meat, grilled rapini, bittersweet currant-radicchio slaw, and a bagna cauda spread that seeps into every nook and cranny of the ciabatta bread — or the impossibly rich, umami-packed Truffled Mushroom sandwich with garlicky aioli. No matter which meal-in-a-bun you decide to get, be smart, plan ahead, and get your own portion of Terzo's hand-cut, super-thin, perfectly salted potato chips. Your friend/spouse/child/stranger eating next to you will not want to share theirs, and as is true of kittens and tattoos, you will want to have more than just one.