Good morning! Our Live Chat begins at noon today. If you'd like to get at the top of the list for questions, post yours now -- early and often! See you in a bit. We'll start out chatting about restaurants worth a drive when you're out looking at colorful leaves.
Let's talk dining destinations with colorful leaves, pumpkin dishes and much more. Take it away, Rick.
It depends. I've always been a bit put out by the restaurant's eternal no-reservations policy, which seems terribly inhospitable for a place that's a good 90 minutes from the Twin Cities; you're going to make that drive, and then wait for a table? (one major improvement is that, after more than a quarter-century, the Harbor View (harborviewpepin.com) is finally accepting credit cards). That said, it's an awfully charming place, particularly if you're seated in the bar/library room. For the most part, the chalkboard menu sticks to the seasons. At my last lunch there, I was also taken aback by the prices, which are the equivalent of what some of the top restaurants in the Twin Cities command.
I wish I could say that you could pull into the Lakeview Drive-Inn, a Winona landmark and one of my favorite places for a quick bite, but it's closed for the season. If you're talking about lunch, here are two ideas: Stop in Lake City and hope for a seat at Rabbit's Bakery (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Rabbits-Bakery/105010079541698), a total gem on the waterfront in that city's downtown. There are maybe a dozen seats, so don't expect anything roomy, and the menu isn't huge, but it's terrific, with well-stuffed sandwiches on beautifully made breads baked in the bakery's wood-burning oven. The sweets are awfully nice, too. Or in Winona, drop into the Blue Heron Coffeehouse (blueheroncoffeeshouse.com), which does a great job with the soup-salad-sandwich circuit. If you're thinking dinner, you should definitely book a table at Nosh Restaurant & Bar in Lake City (noshrestaurant.com).
I’d be more responsive to the Starbucks and Caribous of the world if they exercised a little restraint and kept the pumpkin spice coffee routine out of circulation until at least September; can’t we get through the State Fair without pushing autumn flavors?
I dropped in on the Birchwood Cafe (birchwoodcafe.com) this morning, and their menu has so much pumpkin in it that it’s like a pumpkin patch is growing outside the kitchen door. The (fantastic) bakery counter alone had at least four pumpkin-related items: A pumpkin spice vegan doughnut, pumpkin-pecan bread pudding, pumpkin tres leches cake and adorable heart-shaped chocolate sandwich cookies with pumpkin cream filling. My breakfast was out-of-control delicious: A tender pumpkin-millet waffle dressed with crunchy pepitas, a spoonful of honey-pepita butter, pieces of wonderfully smoky bacon and a runny sunny-side up egg. Wow. I have the feeling I’ll be back to check out chef Marshall Paulsen’s pumpkin offerings at dinner, including his version of a pot pie, filled with roasted pumpkin, cipollini onions and turnips. Oh, and what sounds like an awesome interpretation of the veggie sandwich: A pumpkin-sunflower spread paired with radishes, beets and a pumpkin tofu puree on house-baked focaccia.
I guess that’s my way of suggesting that you drop in on restaurants that channel their efforts through the local/seasonal prism. Lenny Russo had a pumpkin semifreddo on his dessert menu last night at Heartland (heartlandrestaurant.com). Or think about beers. Town Hall Brewery (townhallbrewery.com) is one of many local brewers with a pumpkin ale on tap. Or ice cream: Pumphouse Creamery (pumphouse-creamery.com), for example.
That's such a great suggestion, particularly if you're a doughnut hound (bloedows.com)
Where to begin? I'll start at the top, on the Red Wing side of the river, and work my way down. In Bay City, the Chef Shack -- the bricks-and-mortar sibling to the Twin Cities food truck empire of the same name -- keeps weekend hours: dinner Friday and Saturday, all-day brunch Sunday. There's a wood-burning pizza oven, and great cocktails, too. In Maiden Rock, it's all about the Smiling Pelican Bakeshop -- well-prepared muffins, cookies and pies (sold by the slice) on the sweets side, wonderful quiche for savory appetites; right now I imagine that baker Sandra Thielman is doing incredible things with apples. There are a few options in Stockholm, so I'll point out an often-overlooked one: The small counter at the back of the Palate (thepalate.net), for fabulous cookies and bars. In Nelson, stop at the Nelson Cheese Shop for sandwiches, pizzas, really inexpensive ice cream cones and a nice little wine bar. Cheese, too. Then in Pepin, there's the aforementioned Harbor View Cafe, but also consider breakfast or lunch at the Homemade Cafe (thehomemadecafe.com), which is serving its last meals (oh my gosh, the pies!) of the 2013 season on Sunday.
First things first: If you're going on Saturday, start early and hit the Rochester Downtown Farmers Market (rochesterdowntownfarmersmarket.org), one of the state's best. There are a few grazing opportunities there. As for dining, I'd recommend Sontes (sontes.com), which serves lunch on weekdays and dinner daily, and ZZest (zzestmarket.com).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org). 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!
That's all, folks. Thanks for joining the Live Chat. You can find all your restaurant news at startribune.com/dining anytime, and in print on Thursdays. Also check out Twitter: @RickNelsonStrib and @StribTaste. And, of course, there's Facebook: Star Tribune Taste.