See more of the story

Big appetites

Target Field and U.S. Bank Stadium ticket holders will be familiar with brats and Polish sausages ($7) at the Kramarczuk’s Holidazzle outpost, but they might want to consider venturing into new territory. Namely, one of the city’s best hot dogs ($4), a snappy-cased, all-beef beauty that boasts a smoky bite and a sharp, garlicky kick. Truly, anyone who partakes will never regard the lowly hot dog in the same way.

This northeast Minneapolis institution embraces the surroundings with a Holidazzle sausage ($7), a seasonally appropriate blend of smoked pork, wild rice and cranberries. The “Holi” goes directly from the grill into a brawny pretzel bun (from St. Paul’s top-notch Saint Agnes Baking Co.) that’s built to stand up to plenty of relish and sauerkraut.

Follow the scent of burning apple wood to Walt’z Wings and Bar-B-Que, where decisionmaking is put to the test. Do you go with the meaty smoked chicken wings ($7)? Or the chopped pork ribs, the meat ($8) falling off the bone and humming with a low-sodium spice rib?

Here’s the best-case scenario: Opt for the “Meat & Mac,” a paper boat that’s loaded with baked mac-and-cheese, each creamy bite blessed by that apple wood smoke, and topped with a heaping helping of that melt-in-your-mouth pork ($10).

Owner Walter Anderson is giving Holidazzlers a reason to return; in the coming weeks, he’s promising to feature apple- and bourbon-glazed turkey legs as well as beef brisket.

It’s fun to watch the poffertjes — the cute Dutch hotcake puffs made with buckwheat — as they turn golden brown and spongy on their special griddle at the Littlest Pancake.

Yep, you should order a batch ($6), especially if they’re drizzled in the deliriously buttery caramel sauce that owners Steve and Karin VanZyl also sell by the jar, its sweetness tempered by sea salt. (For those wondering if they should purchase a jar of the stuff, the answer would be, “Duh.”)

But don’t let the poffertjes’ showy performance distract from the stand’s sensible side: a crispy, butter-drenched grilled cheese sandwich — the gooey dairy goodness is straight-up Wisconsin sharp Cheddar and pepper Jack, and the bread is a sturdy, basic sourdough — served with a cup of piping hot, dill-laced tomato soup ($8), made with roasted Romas. It’s a combination that has been taking the chill out of Minnesotans for forever, and it’s one that still works like a charm.

Global choices

Another show that’s definitely worth watching is at Twin Cities Paella, where owner Frank Machado presides over a pair of wide, shallow pans. Each is filled with rice simmering in a fragrant saffron broth and topped with a bevy of mouthwatering ingredients.

Maybe it’s chicken, zesty chorizo, colorful peppers and green beans, or perhaps it’s scallops, mussels, clams and shrimp. Whatever the recipe ($8 to $14), this rib-sticking Spanish (and Tater Tot-free) version of hot dish will help warm diners from the inside out.

Get a taste of Polish home cooking at Pierogis Wonderland, where Renata and Robert Luniewski specialize in half-moon-shaped dumplings ($7) that they lovingly fill with a pepper-accented blend of beef and pork (there’s a potato-cheese version, too) and garnish with sour cream, bits of bacon and sweetly caramelized onions.

Another prime example of cold-weather comfort food is the couple’s homey cabbage rolls ($5). Fans will be happy to know that the Luniewskis are working on launching a food truck.

“End of January, or maybe early February,” said Renata. “My husband, he loves winter. The snow, the cold. No temperature scares him.”

It’s a mystery why K-Town Street Foods doesn’t have a berth at the Minnesota State Fair, if only for the food truck’s over-the-top kimchi fries ($10).

A kind of Korean poutine, it’s a generous basket of thick-cut fries, loaded down with chicken (or tofu, or steak), plus shredded cheese, green onions, a spiced-up mayonnaise and plenty of pungent preserved cabbage. It’s the brand of street food that begs to be shared, making it totally worthy of the Great Minnesota Get-Together. It sure works in Loring Park.

There’s also a rice bowl ($12) that follows a similar framework, along deep-fried pork egg rolls ($6) and cheese fries ($6 and $7).

Raise your glass

Fulton Brewing is back for its third year in Loring Park, with both an outdoor, cans-only booth and a handy, let’s-warm-up heated tent, with taps, plenty of seats and a pile of games, from Jenga to Uno.

The brewery — about a mile north of the park — trucks in a handful of its well-crafted staples ($5 and $6), including its Lonely Blonde (an American blonde ale), Sweet Child of Vine (an India pale ale), Standard (an all-malt lager) and Hopstar (a hoppy India pale ale).

But the Fulton folks also get into the spirit of the season, brewing an alluringly dark Porter ($7) specifically for the festival. It’s everything a hearty winter beer should be, and then some. Don’t miss it. The Fulton folks certainly wouldn’t miss Holidazzle.

“To us, it’s the quintessential Minneapolis winter event,” said Fulton marketing director Tucker Gerrick. “It feels good to be a part of this seasonal tradition of heading out into the cold to enjoy good company in the heart of the city.”

Misfit Coffee is making its Holidazzle debut, parking its mobile coffeehouse (a converted trailer) inside a sheltering tent.

Owner Marcus Parkansky is brewing a full complement of craft coffee beverages — espressos, cappuccinos, mochas, all $3 to $5.50 — but two really stand out.

Parkansky cleverly infuses a “Winter Camp” latte ($6) with the cheery holiday flavors of orange and rosemary, then sneaks in a hint of smoked black tea, “for that warm campfire smell,” he said.

Then there’s his beyond-luscious hot chocolates ($3.50 and $4), which start with cocoa mixes created by Milwaukee’s first-rate Indulgence Chocolatiers. Parkansky incorporates three into his rotation: dark chocolate/sea salt, vanilla bean/malt cocoa and a cinnamon/cayenne pepper blend, each melted into a syrup and blended with steamed milk. The results? Simple, and spectacular.

Meanwhile, the good people at Sociable Cider Werks in northeast Minneapolis are placing their emphasis on apple-generated warmth with two hot libations.

For grown-ups, hints of clove, allspice, nutmeg and orange peel spice up a sour, quietly effervescent hard cider ($5), and for drinkers of all ages, there’s a crisp, amber-tinted, nonalcoholic cider ($3) from Pepin Heights in Lake City, Minn. Wrap your hands around a steaming cup of either version, and you’ll eliminate the need for gloves.

Sweet stuff

Cookie lovers will feel right at home at Holidazzle. Three cheers for the pretty, plus-size, intricately decorated sugar cookies ($3) to be found at the Thirsty Whale Bakery, which knows its way around frosting; the operation specializes in custom-made cakes.

I didn’t spy any gingerbread beings, but there were wonderfully moist, chocolate-dipped coconut macaroons (“one of our biggest sellers,” said manager Sarah Bignell), plus chewy chocolate chip, double-chocolate chip and walnut-Craisin cookies, all sold by the half-dozen in shareable bags ($6, or two for $10).

At the Cookie Cups, owner Nicole Pomije presses buttery cookie dough into mini-muffin pans, with tasty results (the dot of rich icing is a swell touch), selling them in family-friendly fun packs of six ($6, or two for $10). Flavors rotate in and out of a large repertoire that includes cinnamon/ginger/candy cane, cranberry, fudge brownie, apple pie, red velvet chip and more.

Coincidentally, both booths have brick-and-mortar locations under construction.

The Thirsty Whale is opening in mid-December (4149 Fremont Av. N., Mpls.), with bakers Megan Bignell and Kyle Baker planning to offer doughnuts, pastries, cookies and cupcakes while retaining their custom cake business.

Meanwhile, Pomije hopes to open the Cookie Cups on Dec. 15 (3412 Shoreline Dr., Navarre), expanding her mini-muffin genre into savory items, including mac-and-cheese, meatloaf and a breakfast egg and potato concoction. Coffee, too.

Oh, and for those following a gluten-free diet, Misfit Coffee thoughtfully stocks a smattering of goodies (including a wicked-good brownie) from the well regarded Sift bakery.

Lurcat gets in the act

For those in search of a nearby warmup, look no farther than roomy Bar Lurcat (1624 Harmon Place, Mpls., 612-486-5500, cafelurcat.com), which is taking advantage of nearby Holidazzle crowds and opening for business earlier than usual on Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 23.

From 3 to 5:30 p.m., the kitchen cranks out $5 versions of the noshes it does best (mini-crabcakes, fish tacos, sliders, lettuce wraps filled with beef short ribs, cinnamon- and sugar-crusted mini doughnuts) while the bar focuses on hot drinks, both alcohol-laced and booze-free.

The furnace’s heat — and indoor restrooms — are gratis.

Holidazzle hours

Northeast corner of Loring Park, near Yale Place and Willow Street, Mpls., 612-376-7669, holidazzle.com

Open 5-9 p.m. Thu., 5-10 p.m. Fri., 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sat. and 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sun. through Dec. 23.