A table set with care, surrounded by friendly faces enveloped in a buzz of laughter: that’s the best. There were many dazzling new restaurants on the scene in 2013, but what I’ll remember most is what we’ve shared – you my face-less readers and me, here behind a computer thinking of you. It’s been an incredible year for the community and the restaurant news pales in comparison.
Here are my bests of 2013.
Spill the Wine
The most memorable evening of the year had to be a night full of my very best girlfriends. We had gathered at the newly opened Spill the Wine to check out the space. We were enamoured with the room and promptly ordered a whole pile of food – practically one of everything. We were all blowing off steam from a variety of catastrophic personal dramas. We were dealing with a range of awful including: divorce, cancer, death, divorce. You name it, we were in the shit of it. So, we did what the best of friends do in these dire times: we were laughing our fool heads off over a smattering of empty plates. The super gooey cheese curds, zesty fried rice and fire kissed octopus were long gone.
As we were chatting a strange little bald man wandered up to our table, bent down to one of my friends and whispered, “I’m your worst nightmare,” and poured water down the side of her perfectly coiffed hair. We were shocked and confused – and most notably if you know me, speechless. The restaurant manager sprang into action. He was instructed that he needed to leave and it was suggested that perhaps he should consider paying our bill. To this day, we don’t know what that was about. Was it that we were too loud? Why not just ask us to STFU? The entire business was so odd.
The manager was an angel. What could have been a wretched memory, was instead filled with good food and kindness. (P.S. – Sterling, I see you again? This round is on me).
Spill the Wine, Calm in the face of calamity service award.
The Buttered Tin
Breakfast is my most vulnerable meal. Whenever I have an early morning meeting, there is a chance that I haven’t eaten and even one minor culinary misstep feels like a personal affront. The Buttered Tin embraces me every morning or afternoon when I enter, in a comforting embrace. Their food is deceptively simple – perfectly poached eggs that burst a golden yolk which cascades over cornbread and red salsa. Hashbrowns are always extra crispy. The dessert case is packed with treats that dance the edge of sweetness, they are never, ever cloying. On one afternoon, after my house was broken into and my laptop, TV and camera were absconded with, I found solace in a wedge salad. Piled with crispy layers, draped in creamy dressing and studded with garden-fresh tomatoes and fat hunks of bacon, it was exactly what I needed and expected. For further comfort, owner and baker Alicia Hinze gifted me with her take on a ho ho and the chef sent me home with a bag full of vine-ripened tomatoes he’d picked from his yard that morning. Owner Jen Lueck bestowed me with a much-needed hug. What should have been a distressing moment resulted in a resolve to conquer the world.
For their reliably wonderful, elevated breakfast and lunch, The Buttered Tin wins Best Way to Start Your Day.
The Rabbit Hole
The Rabbit Hole is still brand new, but already it’s a consistently awesome spot to grab a bite and cocktail with friends. The complementary lighting and snug booths also makes for a great date night destination. Their kegged cocktails are quickly delivered and I’m positively smitten with the “Not Doing Jack in the Morning.”
Watching Chef Thomas Kim and Kat Melgaard take on this incredible task of opening their second restaurant has been a breathtaking experience. Their restaurant would feel just at home with a Brooklyn address, but we’re lucky to have this in the heart Minneapolis. The interior design is dazzlingly – crushingly hip. The food is inventive, fun and just so darn good. The crispy, loaded bacon haemul pajeon “pancake” is packed with fresh scallops and porky goodness, fried until ultra-crunchy, savory, wondrous.
The talent this duo possesses is astounding. They built and designed this whimsical space themselves. That they did this while they also got married and gave birth to their first child is just a stunning display of over-achievement. I had the pleasure of cradling that little angel while her parents worked and I swallowed my awe. They inspire me.
The Rabbit Hole, handily wins the Best Seat at the Cool Kids Table award.
However the very best part of this year was the passage of marriage equality. I was at the Capitol the day it passed. Those emotions were like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. My heart swelled and my eyes wouldn’t stop filling. As I wandered down the steps, I passed a tomato slice in the shape of a heart. I took it to be a sign. Even discarded food agreed we were on the right side of history. My heart has been so filled by this community. I’m so thankful that you took the time from your busy life to turn to this page and follow me on my culinary adventures. It’s an honor to dine with you and a pleasure to be invited to your table.
All good things must come to an end, though. This is my last Slice column for Lavender. I hope to continue to write here occasionally, at the pleasure of Editor Andy Lien. But my time is up. I see nothing but wonderful things on your horizon. Find me @JoyEstelle on Twitter and food whoring around town – I’m not done eating yet. I will never forget you or our time together. Thank you for coming for this little slice of time.