From peach pizza to fried chicken, here are the highlights that popped out while I paged through my barely legible dining diary. What were your top eats of the week? Share the details in the comments section.
French toast at Rose Street Cafe
“I just love French toast, and I love croissants,” said baker/owner John Kraus. “This the best of both of those worlds.” Exactly. It’s an inspired idea: Why not take butter-laden laminated dough, bake it (and essentially steam it) in long Pullman loaf pans, slice it into brick-like slabs, immerse those slabs in a rich custard to create the dreamiest French toast imaginable? Patience is required. The grill’s heat gives the bread’s outer edges a browned toastiness, but a longer stint in the oven imparts a delectable, popover-like creaminess to the interior. Trust me, it’s worth the 15-or-so-minute wait. This kind of goodness requires little in the way of garnishes. “I couldn’t decide, so we went with fresh fruit,” said Kraus. Smart decision, although a splash of maple syrup works, too. $10, with an option to add bacon or sausage for $4. 882 W. 7th St., St. Paul, 651-556-4487. Open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
Breakfast ramen at Lyn 65
“We’ve been making ramen since we started doing brunch,” said chef/owner Ben Rients. “In other cultures, a big bowl of soup is customary for breakfast, and it’s definitely the kind of food we like to eat in the morning.” It’s a deceptively simple-looking dish that skillfully layers complex flavor upon complex flavor. The broth is basically a bacon dashi, chicken stock fortified with dried shiitake mushrooms, green onions and bacon. “Then we make a tare,” explained Rients, who took the call while harvesting apples and Marquette grapes at his family’s weekend place near Willmar, Minn. Picture a lively, super-seasoned blend of gochujang, tahini, garlic and a little kimchi, liberally incorporated into that dashi to accentuate the bacon’s smokiness. Steaming hot, the dashi is poured into a wide bowl (demerits for the chipped edges) and served with crinkly ramen noodles, more bacon and kimchi, a dash of furikake and some pretty (and slight heat-inducing) red chile threads. The elegant finishing touch is perfectly rendered (and oh-so-brunch-ey) soft-cooked egg. The results are a total umami bomb, and it comes as no surprise to learn that it’s the brunch men’s top seller. “Chef Dan Manosack has taken the brunch menu, and made it incredible,” said Rients. Agreed. $12. 6439 Lyndale Av. S., Richfield, 612-353-5501. Open for dinner 4 to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 4 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday. Brunch served 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.
Flatbread sandwiches at Zettas
This no-frills Eat Street spot is the greatest. It focuses, with laser-like accuracy and passion, on a single item: sandwiches that are fashioned from a house-baked flatbread and generously smeared with creamy (and, again, housemade) ricotta. The oval-shaped bread is terrific: thicker and more pliable than a flour tortilla, but thinner and not as spongy as naan. The ricotta – so pristine, so luscious – makes me wonder if I can ever consume another sandwich without it, and each enormous folded-over sandwich (seriously, a single order could feed two) is filled with a salad bar-like level of fresh greens. The fillings are first-rate: there’s a clever riff on the BLT that calls upon rich tomato jam and crisp bacon, but the mix can also be as unassuming as a honey-rosemary combo. With limited seating, plan on taking out, although a newish sidewalk patio has boosted the dining-on-the-premises capacity. There’s a small (and free) parking lot in the back of the building. $4 to $9. 2424 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls. Open 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Peach-onion pizza at Manger Restaurant & Wine Bar
When our server mentioned that the daily pizza special included peaches, this peach fanatic knew what he was having for lunch. Chef Mike Willenbring makes full use of the wood-burning oven he inherited from the building’s previous tenant, turning out plate-size pizzas with chewy, bubbled crusts that are topped with thoughtful combinations of ingredients. This one was no different, with the sharp pop of onion playing nicely against the sweetness of those wonderfully ripe peaches. $13. 320 5th Av. N., Bayport, 651-324-9313. Open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 pm. Tuesday through Saturday.
Sunday fried chicken at St. Genevieve
If only it were Sunday every day. Chef/owner Steven Brown and his talented crew offer a tremendous Sunday supper-for-two deal: what amounts to an entire chicken (it’s 10 pieces: two legs, two wings, two thighs and two cut-in-half breasts), served with a pair of simple frisee salads and a small pot of beyond-creamy, Gruyere-packed grits, for $45. The chicken is, in a word, spectacular. “We put a lot of love in it,” said sous chef David Moore. Yeah, no kidding. The free-range birds are cured in mild espelette peppers, garlic and paprika before sitting overnight in buttermilk and Dijon mustard, a painstaking process that explains the tender meat’s prodigious juiciness. Each piece is carefully fried in canola oil, until the outer coating (which brims with more paprika and espelette peppers) achieves that maximum-contrast moment of appealing crunchiness. The chicken is piled into a bowl (yes, you’ll have leftovers) and served with a sweet-hot sauce made using honey, nutty banyuls vinegar, chives and parsley. It’s like having a picnic in the south of France, minus the hassle of dealing with Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Dessert? A role model of a creme brulee, for $8. 5003 Bryant Av. S., Mpls., 612-353-4843. Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday, 9:30 a.m. to midnight Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. Sunday supper served 5 to 9 p.m.