2014 Dining Out for Life Celebrating 20 Years

By Lavender April 17, 2014

Categories: Featured - Home Page, Food & Dining, Our Scene

By Pat Evans and Joy Summers

It’s that time of year again: Dining Out For Life, an annual fundraising event involving the generous participation of volunteers, corporate sponsors, and restaurants. You’ll see KARE11 personalities, Sven Sundgaard, Rena Sarigianopoulos, and Blake McCoy—in addition to hundreds of volunteers—wearing red aprons at your favorite restaurants that are generously donating portions of their proceeds to benefit The Aliveness Project.

Originating in Philadelphia in 1991, Dining Out For Life is now produced in 60 cities throughout the United States and Canada. Across North America, more than $3 million dollars a year is raised to support the missions of 60 outstanding HIV/AIDS service organizations. This year marks the 20th anniversary of Dining Out For Life in Minnesota, with more than 240 participating restaurants in the Twin Cities, Duluth, Mankato, and Rochester having agreed to donate a portion of their proceeds to The Aliveness Project. Founded in 1985, The Aliveness Project will have a direct and meaningful impact on the lives of more than 1,700 adults and children living with and affected by HIV/AIDS this year. Last year’s Dining Out For Life in Minnesota raised over $255,000 in donations from generous restaurants, sponsors, and 35,000 individual diners. This year, the goal has been set at $270,000 and 40,000 diners. We invite you to “Dine Out, Do Good” and have fun as you contribute and help reach and surpass those numbers!

In observation of the 20th Anniversary of Dining Out For Life for The Aliveness Project, we gussied up for this restaurant coverage. Sven, Rena, and Blake—in addition to our food writers Pat Evans and Joy Summers—are glitzing up our Dining Out For Life picks in these following pages. Read their highlighted choices and then plan your day to “Dine Out, Do Good” by checking out the full list of participating restaurants and the percentage of proceeds they’ll be donating at www.diningoutforlife.com/minneapolis.

 

Black Sheep Pizza. Photo by Hubert Bonnet

Black Sheep Pizza. Photo by Hubert Bonnet

Black Sheep Pizza
What separates a good pizza from a truly great slice relies entirely on the crust. A simple mixture of flour and yeast can land so many ways. The ones you’ll find inside Black Sheep Pizza are crackle-crisp on the bottom and satisfyingly chewy in the center with just enough salt and a blistered top soul-kissed by that coal-fire oven. There are standard toppings like a thinly sliced pepperoni or a fennel-redolent sausage, but I suggest starting with the meatball and creamy, fresh ricotta cheese, spiked with garlic. Don’t worry about your breath. If you order their Farmer’s Market salad, of fresh greens tossed with locally sourced produce and a tangy vinagrette, you’ll leave with a very happy mouth.

Dining Out for Life Meal(s): Dinner
Percent Donated to The Aliveness Project: 35%
Two Locations:
600 Washington Ave. N, Minneapolis and
512 N. Robert St., St. Paul
www.blacksheeppizza.com
–Joy

 

Blackbird Café
Just three words can describe this place: making Minneapolis yummier! There’s a reason this is consistently voted one of the Cities’ best neighborhood bistros; it’s damned good. Sink your teeth into the Longhorn and you’ll see why it is a comfort food classic. My mouth is watering as I think of the braised beef brisket topped with horsey mayo! Another lunchtime favorite, grilled Caesar salad with fried croutons. (Transparency alert: this was where I got hooked on it!) They also have terrific soups which change daily.

Dining Out for Life Meal(s): Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Percent Donated to The Aliveness Project: 40%
3800 Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis
www.blackbirdmpls.com
–Pat

 

Borough
North Loop has become the destination for food fans of all stripes. Borough burst onto the scene and has continued to dazzle fans with their elegant, delicious food. There’s nothing like the anticipation of watching that champagne-tinged broth tumble tableside into the large awaiting bowl with luscious potato set in the bottom. Even something so simple as a soup is given their brand of elegant enhancements. If you’d really like to get dazzled, go straight for the duck breast with foie gras or their butter-poached lobster. Then again, it is hard to pass up that beautiful octopus like an arm of something from 10,000 Leagues Under the Sea cooked into tender submission. Don’t forget to order a couple of cocktails. This restaurant currently boasts one of the most impressive list of craft cocktail shakers in the cities.

Dining Out for Life Meal(s): Dinner
Percent Donated to The Aliveness Project: 20%
730 N. Washington Ave., Minneapolis
www.boroughmpls.com
–Joy

 

Christos
After our winter of so much discontent, doesn’t the idea of heading to the Greek islands and sitting down at a taverna sound pretty good about now? Good news, you can save the airfare and head here for a taste of Mediterranean hospitality. You can’t go wrong with traditional and hearty favorites like Gyros or Mousaka.  And there’s also a great selection for non-meat eaters. I’ve found the spinach and feta cheese spanakopita to be particularly yummy. And the special house-made dressing on the Greek salad always has me saying “opa” after the first bite.

Dining Out for Life Meal(s): Dinner
Percent Donated to The Aliveness Project: 35%
Christos has several Twin Cities locations.  The Minneapolis location is on the famed
“Eat Street” at 2632 Nicollet Avenue S, Minneapolis
www.christos.com
–Pat

 

Corner Table. Photo by Hubert Bonnet

Corner Table. Photo by Hubert Bonnet

Corner Table
This is the perfect excuse to get in and have a little dinner at Corner Table before the restaurant moves into their new digs down the street. Chef Thomas Boemer has a way with pork and no evening would be complete without a sample of his exquisite, mind-bending, mouth-pleasing pork belly topped with snappy little mustard seeds and often accompanied by a poached egg. Owner Nick Rancone always has a perfect bottle of wine to match every menu item and a little vinyl to spin to set the laid-back dining mood. Be certain to save room for dessert. The sweet potato donuts, dusted with powdered sugar with a chickory sauce, will help kickstart your tomorrow before today has ended.

Dining Out for Life Meal(s): Dinner
Percent Donated to The Aliveness Project: 25%
Nicollet Ave. at 43rd St., Minneapolis
www.cornertablerestaurant.com
–Joy

 

Eagle Bolt Bar
Hands down one of the friendliest watering holes in Minneapolis, it may surprise some to hear that the EagleBOLTbar also serves up some of the tastiest and affordable food in town as well. It’s not just bears who can’t resist the hearty, stick-to-your-ribs Eagle Burger prepared Cajun-style with fried onions and smothered with pepper jack cheese! And then there’s my personal fav, the GLBT…guacamole, lettuce, bacon, and tomato. Wash all that goodness down with a happy hour 2-for-1 drink special, daily from 4 to 6 pm.

Dining Out for Life Meal(s): Dinner
Percent Donated to The Aliveness Project: 100%
515 Washington Ave S., Minneapolis
www.eagleboltbar.com
–Pat

 

Eli’s East
The triangular-shaped building has an interesting layout, but once snuggled into one of those maroon banquettes, you’ll find it works quite nicely for a great meal. Eli’s East has a menu worth getting lost inside, but there are two things that someone at the table absolutely must order or you’ll be missing out. One is their wings: be it a variety from the specials board or one of their standards like a honey-soy-drizzled-salty-sweet-savory wonder of a wing. The other item is a burger. They have a wonderful way of cooking a ground beef patty just the way you like it and setting it inside a satisfyingly squishy bun. Once you have those, you’re free to run wild through the entrées, but just promise you’ll remember these rules.

Dining Out for Life Meal(s): Lunch, Dinner
Percent Donated to The Aliveness Project: 35%
815 E. Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
www.elisfoodandcocktails.com
–Joy

 

Firelake Grill House and Cocktail Bar
With its simple philosophy of providing fresh, local, and sustainable food, Firelake Grill House long ago earned a place as a destination rather than just a restaurant in a hotel. Recently reopened after undergoing a massive and tasteful update, Firelake’s downtown Minneapolis location at the Radisson Plaza Hotel is now as fresh as the organic chicken and duck eggs it serves up. I’ve actually dreamed about the simply amazing smoked salmon benedict. Menu offerings also include vegan and gluten-free options.

Dining Out for Life Meal(s): Breakfast
Percent Donated to The Aliveness Project: 50%
2 locations: 31 South 7th Street Minneapolis and
Radisson Blu Mall of America
www.firelakerestaurant.com
–Pat

 

Hill Burger. Photos by Hubert Bonnet

Hill Burger. Photos by Hubert Bonnet

Harriet Brasserie
It’s extraordinary how quickly Harriet Brassierie went from new kid on the block to beloved neighborhood institution. Breakfast is my favorite meal to linger over, whether inside the cozy restaurant or sprawled out on that gorgeous patio. Their tres leches cake is the dessert of the creamy gods and their savory biscuit contains layer upon buttery layer. The spritely colored spring pea soup, made with lovely little pea tendrils and plenty of cream, will have you dreaming of it long after the bowl is cleared. How did we ever live without this spot?

Dining Out for Life Meal(s): Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Percent Donated to The Aliveness Project: 35%
2724 W. 43rd St., Minneapolis
www.harrietbrasserie.com
–Joy

 

Highland Grill
The Blue Plate Company has become known for their hearty breakfast, lunches worth lingering over, dinners fit for the whole family, and an uncanny ability to read a neighborhood and understand how a restaurant can best serve it. It all began with Stephanie Shimp and David Burley’s first location in St. Paul’s Highland neighborhood. The Highland Grill hasn’t aged a bit, with sparkly booths, lime accents, and easy, cozy comfort. Breakfast includes classics like eggs done just the way you like them, slabs of smokey bacon, and locally roasted coffee that never seems to reach the bottom of the cup.

Dining Out for Life Meal(s): Breakfast
Percent Donated to The Aliveness Project: 35%
711 Cleveland Ave. S., St. Paul
www.highlandgrill.com
–Joy

 

Icehouse
Everyone knows that Icehouse is a fantastic venue to take in some local music, but it’s occasionally forgotten that they also serve a barbecue beef brisket sandwich that will make your toes curl. Allow me to remind you, that the chef inside this kitchen is the same that brought us Be’Wiched Deli, so they know their way around a midday meal. Or tuck into their extravagant burger augmented with foie gras and truffle bordelaise – it’s worth the money and for a good cause! Even if you haven’t got much room for food, it would be a sin to pass over their thunderously crunchy take on the classic Buffalo wing or their cheese empanadas atop a dazzling green chimichurri sauce.

Dining Out for Life Meal(s): Lunch, dinner
Percent Donated to The Aliveness Project: 25%
2528 Nicollet Ave. S., Minneapolis
www.icehousempls.com
–Joy

 

Lucia's. Photo by Gianna Lucci

Lucia’s. Photo by Gianna Lucci

Lucia’s
Even the light seems softer and better inside Lucia’s. It’s hard to believe this gem of a restaurant has been operating for over 29 years, because the menu, interior and food are just as fresh as ever. Cooking local foods before it was a thing, Lucia Watson tapped into a passion for conscious eating with her delicious meals. Today the legacy lives on in not just her eponymous restaurant, but also the wine bar and bakery. Lingering over a seasonal salad, perfectly dressed with a side of rich soup is a beautiful way to break the midday fast.

Dining Out for Life Meal(s): Lunch, Dinner
Percent Donated to The Aliveness Project: 25%
1432 W. 31st. St., Minneapolis
www.lucias.com
–Joy

 

Manny’s Tortas
The Mecca of Mexican sandwiches, Manny’s Tortas continues to lure fans into the heart of the Midtown Global Market. Super crusty slices of bread are griddled up and positively stuffed to the hilt with ingredients. Choice of meat is sizzled up hot on the griddle and layered with gooey cheese. The construction lends to the genius of these tortas flavor perfection. Hot ingredients start at the bottom and that ever important cheese layer keeps the tomato, avocado, raw onion, jalepenos and lettuce fresh. Add in a swipe of creamy beans and a layer of chipotle spiked mayo and you’re home free. Every sandwich comes sliced in half, wrapped in paper and with a bag of chips. Get yourself some extra napkins and don’t immediately make any dinner plans.

Dining Out for Life Meal(s): Lunch, Dinner
Percent Donated to The Aliveness Project: 20%
Midtown Global Market, 920 E. Lake St., #125 and Mercado Central, 1515 E. Lake St., #103, Minneapolis
www.mannystortas.com
–Joy

 

Rustica
Did you know it’s totally acceptable to eat cookies for breakfast? It’s true, if your dollars are going towards a good cause. Although, it’s hard to resist the siren call of those crispy, fudgey Rustica cookies, they also have several other ways to scratch your early day empty tummy itch. Inside these walls they stock some of the best-made bread in the Twin Cities. Baguettes crinkle and sing, milk bread stands at the ready, so tender to the tooth, and the Levain has that intoxicating sourdough perfume. There are also many baked goods, glistening pastries, and so much more to discover.

Dining Out for Life Meal(s): Breakfast, Lunch
Percent Donated to The Aliveness Project: 40%
3220 W. Lake St., Minneapolis
www.rusticabakery.com
–Joy

 

Saffron. Photo by Hubert Bonnet

Saffron. Photo by Hubert Bonnet

Saffron
Saffron’s owner and chef Sameh Wadi is recognized time and again as one of the best culinary masters in the Twin Cities. Although, you’ll sometimes find him inside his World Street Kitchen truck or restaurant, it’s at Saffron where his impressive fine dining muscles are flexed. The dishes here are a bewitching mix of exotic spices and deeply comforting foods. Even those squeamish about ordering anything beyond chicken will find themselves won over by their Spanish-inflenced take on octopus à la plancha. The always-polished service is another reason to stop inside this restaurant and the cocktails prepared by master mixologist Robb Jones are a reason to linger long into the night.

Dining Out for Life Meal(s): Dinner
Percent Donated to The Aliveness Project: 35%
123 N. 3rd St., Minneapolis
www.saffronmpls.com
–Joy

 

The Buttered Tin
Long before she teamed with pastry chef Alicia Hinze to open The Buttered Tin, co-owner Jennifer Lueck has been an outspoken ally. So, it only makes sense that they would leap at the chance to participate in Dining Out for Life. Open for breakfast and lunch every day in St. Paul’s Lowertown neighborhood fans flock for breakfast filled with oozing, golden egg yolks and ultra-crispy hashbrowns. Lunch includes sandwiches served on their housemade sunflower bread and comfort foods such as holiday leftover sandwiches. Easter “leftovers” means ham and scalloped potatoes served as Lueck says, “As God and I intended them to be.” Amen. The Buttered Tin is not only donating profits the day of Dining Out for Life, but they are also donating profits from all bakery sales. They are creating a very special Dining Out for Life cupcake. So, be an office hero and order ahead for a pile of pastries and handily take home the Favorite Coworker of the Year award.

Dining Out for Life Meal(s): Breakfast, lunch
Percent Donated to The Aliveness Project: 20%
237 7th St. E., St. Paul
www.thebutteredtin.com
–Joy

 

The Rabbit Hole
Want to get a group of food fans fired up? Ask them who has the best fried chicken in the Twin Cities. Answers will likely range from nowhere to some hole-in-the-wall somewhere. For my money, it’s the 21 spice fried chicken that originated at The Left Handed Cook (and continues on inside their full-service restaurant space The Rabbit Hole). Tender chicken breasts are breaded with an intoxicating mix of dried spices. They are fried to a shatter-crisp crust and served with an array of sauces (don’t try to choose, just get them all). Whether topping a hearty rice bowl with sauteed greens, kimchi and a poached egg or just served on their own, this is a dish that must be eaten to be believed.

Dining Out for Life Meal(s): Lunch, Dinner
Percent Donated to The Aliveness Project: 30%
Midtown Global Market, 920 E. Lake St., Minneapolis
www.eatdrinkrabbit.com
–Joy

 

Toast Wine Bar and Café. Photo by Hubert Bonnet

Toast Wine Bar and Café. Photo by Hubert Bonnet

Toast Wine Bar and Café
What cozy cafés have done for the image of Paris, Toast Wine Bar and Café has accomplished for Minneapolis’ North Loop neighborhood. Its casual, approachable wine bar and menu always make for a memorable evening.  Not a wine snob? No worries; one of the friendly and knowledgeable servers can help guide you through the extensive selection. Custom cheese plates can include everything from Wisconsin cheddar to goat cheese from Spain. And there’s a tasty selection of homemade flatbreads and antipasti plates.

Dining Out for Life Meal(s): Dinner
Percent Donated to The Aliveness Project: 50%
Heritage Landing Building, 415 North 1st Street, Minneapolis
www.toastwinebarandcafe.com
–Pat

 

Wilde Roast
Wilde Roast is so much more than a spot for a fantastically decadent dessert or a spot to linger over bottles of wine with friends. A touchstone for the community and its Minneapolis neighbors, I love to begin a day inside here. The large windows and patio offer beautiful views of St. Anthony Main and those smoked gouda, gooey hashbrowns will keep you fueled even through the longest day. For those who are more sweet-inclined earlier in the day, I have just three words for you: Crème Brûlée French Toast. Wait, that’s how many words? Can’t talk now, my mouth is full.

Dining Out for Life Meal(s): Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Percent Donated to The Aliveness Project: 35%
65 Main St. SE, Minneapolis
www.wilderoastcafe.com
–Joy

 

Zen Box Izakaya
This beguiling neighborhood spot on Washington Avenue is my secret spot when hitting a Guthrie show. The convivial atmosphere is as irresistible as the menu is filled with easy-to-share munchables like the chicken kara-age; fried chunks of chicken dipped in an alluring spicy sauce. However, if you have time to linger and want a filling meal, a bowl of their ramen is an absolute must. Chef/owner John Ng labors over perfecting his broth and studies the art of constructing this storied soup long before he even begins a bowl. If they’re running one of their rare specials, it’s mandatory that you order it. You’ll thank me later.

Dining Out for Life Meal(s): Lunch, Dinner
Percent Donated to The Aliveness Project: 35%
602 S. Washington Ave., Minneapolis
www.zenboxizakaya.com
–Joy

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