In La Crosse, consider the soaring, cathedral-like dining room at in the Shrine of our Lady of Guadalupe, the prettiest dining venue in the region, no contest. It's a
challenge to drop more than $10 at breakfast (potato strata, French
toast with caramel-apple sauce) or lunch (roast beef-Havarti
panini, macaroni and cheese). It's located in the hills just southeast of town (guadalupeshrine.org).
My first thought for the drive up the shore is the New Scenic Cafe (newsceniccafe.com), but then again that's always my first thought when I'm thinking of Duluth.
You should check out the four-course weekend brunch at the Signature Cafe (signaturecafe.net) in Minneapolis' Prospect Park neighborhood. It's affordable -- $14 for adults, $8 for children -- and it's delicious, starting with yogurt and fruit, then a kind of bread pudding-style French toast, followed by an herb-packed frittata served with roasted potatoes and crispy duck bacon, and then some kind of dessert (last week it was apple crisp). The place is tiny, in a throwback kind of way, and the food is uncomplicated, fresh and delicious.
I can't either, we should all be wearing black. The good new is that owners Stewart and Heidi Woodman are closing the right way; they've made their announcement far in advance of the actual last day (which is Dec. 31), which will allow diners like you (and me) to get in and enjoy Stewart's one-of-a-kind cooking before they pull the plug. As for dishes you need to try, I'd start with the mussels soup (oh dear lord, it's amazing) and the lobster pappardelle, two iconic Woodman dishes. I also highly recommend the early bird special: three courses for a crazy $28, and you have to be seated by 6 p.m. It's one of the Twin Cities' great dining deals.
I'm not exactly sure if this qualifies as Mom & Pop, but I'd send you to the Monday night pizza night at Sun Street Breads (sunstreetbreads.com). It's terrific.
I was impressed by their fruit pies when I was in that neighborhood last summer. You can't miss it: The restaurant has one of the state
great slam-on-the-brakes pie signs.
You can't miss it: the Two Harbors restaurant has one of the state's great put-on-the-brakes pie signs. When I was gorging my way up and down the Hwy. 61 pie trail last year, I was impressed by the Rustic's fruit pies.
Here are two to keep in your radar: the Freehouse, the brewpub/restaurant by the Blue Plate Restaurant Co. (Highland Grill, the Lowry, 3 Squares) in the North Loop in Minneapolis. I'm already a fan because they've installed an instant landmark: a corrugated metal grain silo. Then there's Travail Kitchen and Amusements, which is launching its new home in Robbinsdale, hopefully by the end of the year, along with their casual neighborhood spot, the Rookery.
For starters, hurry! The entry deadline is tomorrow at noon (you can submit your entry to email@example.com). Here's my suggestion to you: Check out our past winners at Startribune.com/cookies. You'll get a sense of what we've loved in past contests. Also, good cookies start with good ingredients, and not items along the lines of pudding mixes, canola oil or maraschino cherries. Good luck!
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