101 in 1001 #89: Try five new Twin Cities restaurants!

Confession: I am a foodie. 

I mean, duh, anyone who follows me on Instagram or has met me even a handful of times knows that. I eat at Spoon and Stable more than most 28-year-olds eat at Taco Bell. I'm growing more and more adventurous and proficient in the kitchen, but dining out and well has always been my first love. 

I do, however, get in the habit of going to the same few places over and over again. Current faves: Spoon, duh (always and forever, and yes it's so pretentious that I just called it Spoon)...Cafe Lurcat, right across the park from my apartment...Saint Genevieve for champagne and delish snackies...and of course Meritage and the St Paul Grill across the river in St Paul. So I made it a goal to branch out as part of my 101 in 1001, and I've hammered this one out in record time. 

1. Revival St Paul

My coworker AJ and I headed here for a spontaneous lunch outing one day when he was taking a half day. I had the sweet tea to drink, and he had the bourbon sweet tea...I was very jealous that he didn't have to go back to the office :) 

Revival is famous for having the best fried chicken currently available in Minnesota, but also for a damn good burger, so we did what all the cool kids do and got both, to split...plus some cornbread and a side of pimento mac and cheese: 

Verdict: There is no overhyping in the Cities when it comes to Revival. Both the burger and the chicken were high up in the pantheon of MSP GOAT, at least in my book. I left totally satisfied and spent the rest of that afternoon in a finger-licking food coma at my desk, fantasizing about fried things and the crispy, perfect top of that mac and cheese. 

2. Young Joni

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Dick and Jodester beat me to Young Joni, the newest offering by Pizzeria Lola's wonder woman Ann Kim (nominated for a James Beard award, woo!). Young Joni, in Northeast just around the corner from Dangerous Man, offers her famous woodfired pizzas, but also expands into Korean-influenced riffs on other favorites. 

We ordered the "La Parisienne" pizza (prosciutto, gruyere, ricotta, brown butter, caramelized onions, and arugula), and it was revelatory. As was the shishito-pepper-laden cauliflower with golden raisins, though we weren't as wild about the Sweet and Spicy Pork Spare Ribs. The cocktail list was craft/artisan-level good, which is rapidly becoming de rigeur around the Cities, but my personal fave: 

The "Church Basement Bar Platter" for dessert. SO MINNESOTAN. Tiny morsels of Brownie, mini chocolate chip cookies, and dark chocolate-coated Special K bars, all served with a tiny carafe of ice-cold milk. Such a novel presentation and exactly what I love about creative dining in the TC. 

3. The Lexington

The Lexington, affectionately known by locals as "the Lex," has a storied history in St. Paul but has been closed for years due to a never-ending renovation and endless disputes with the city. It reopened this February, restored to its former glory, and it's just lovely.

I grabbed a spot in the bar on a frigid late-February day with Dick and Jodester, marveling at the gorgeous wainscoting, beamed ceilings, roaring fire and gorgeous vintage white baby grand piano. 

We got to enjoy the view through rose-colored (and blue, and green, and lavender, and yellow!) glass...the famous stained glass windows are original. 

Dad enjoyed a Vesper, Mom a "Minnesota Collins." 

I hollered back to my London days with the prettiest take on a Pimm's cup...

...and of course a little bubbly, because that's my jam and why not pop bottles on a Tuesday at happy hour? We also enjoyed their fried chicken sliders and garlic parsley fries (seriously such a good snacky dinner).

4. Mercury Dining Room and Rail

We hit up Mercury before my dad and I went to our Whiskey on Ice event, so I was coming out of the dark, terrible throes of the flu (plague). As such, I was not at my dining-out best, and barely touched my food, and skipped a drink altogether (also, duh, we were going to go drink copious amounts of whiskey). That said, the atmosphere is a huge improvement over former tenant Brasserie Zentral...

...and the quarter of the avocado and smoked-tomato relish grilled cheese I choked down was delicious (and made great leftovers once my stomach was back up to actual food)! I really ought to go back and retry this one when I'm feeling less like microwaved death.

5. Bellecour

BELLECOUR! Oh Bellecour. The new restaurant by my favorite person, Gavin Kaysen of Spoon and Stable, resides in the old Blue Point space in charming downtown Wayzata. Just like big sis S&S, it's nearly impossible to score a reservation, but Jodester did on the day the restaurant officially opened, and we headed there last weekend for our inaugural trip.

Much like Spoon, it is immediately apparent just how much thought and intention went into designing the more classic-French Bellecour. It's absolutely lovely, from their enticing pastry window and bakery...

...to the cozy bar, walls of wine, gleaming kitchen, and this mural, which I am utterly obsessed with, in their light-flooded Garden Room (where we dined). The feeling is so different from Spoon, but the same level of attention to detail ensures that the experience, once again, leaves visitors spellbound. 

We started with the most gorgeous Cremant de Loire, a Champagne-adjacent wine region in France, and also enjoyed a fantastic, very mineral Sancerre with our entrees. Adding to the fun of the night: I had made the acquaintance of sommelier Nicolas Giraud at Spoon and Stable on New Year's Eve, when we chatted in French for about 10 minutes about the dinner's wine pairings and his background. He remembered me, and came up to our table launching straight into French, for another quick chat about Bellecour, the wine, and the adventure of running two restaurants with exquisite wine offerings. I was on cloud nine, and it wasn't just the cremant!

On to food! We started with oeufs mimosa, a Belgian endive salad (front), and a fabulously savory salade frisée (right) with quail egg and sherry vinaigrette. All fantastic, and so carefully executed and plated that it took the entire experience to a visually delicious level as well. 

Dad ordered steak frites, with a beautiful filet and fantastic fries. Mom ordered short rib, served with a sauce au poivre and the teensiest mushroom duxelles...fall-off-the-bone tender and so savory. My duck a l'orange, meanwhile, was flawless...and I'm very picky about duck. Just LOOK at that!

We wrapped up with two desserts...a honey-and-cream vacherin and a Paris-Brest interpretation of a profiterole...and a chat with the hostess and Gavin himself, who came over and graciously indulged our gushing for nearly ten minutes. We're total groupies, and I feel no shame...my dad, in particular, is obsessed. A quick shout-out to Gavin - he is truly the warmest, most personable restaurateur I've ever encountered, and his pride in his establishments, staff, service and cuisine is palpable. It makes dining at his places an absolute delight, and completely guarantees I will be a lifelong Kaysen loyalist. 

Can't wait to see what he does next...and what the next big things in the Twin Cities culinary scene will be! 

For more 101 in 1001, head here. And if anyone wants to HH at Bellecour, pound through some fried chicken at Revival, chill at the Lex, or go on new adventures...hit me up, yo!