Macarons at the Woman's Club of Minneapolis
Kevin Winge, the club's executive director, revealed a few secrets regarding the building's roomy, well-appointed rooftop patio. That it even exists is one, and that it's open to the public three nights a week is another.
"It also has one of the best views in town," he said.
That's total Understatement of the Year territory, because this is the kind of skyline panorama — framed in the foreground by the sweep of Loring Park's emerald treetops — that triggers dollar signs in the minds of convention and visitor bureaus.
Although the swanky main-floor restaurant has been closed during the pandemic (reopening looks like early fall), the kitchen hasn't been idle. In December, the club leased the facility to Involve MN, a nonprofit that provides meals to homeless and temporarily sheltered individuals and families.
"They operate out of our kitchen seven days a week and are producing about 26,000 meals a month," said Winge.
Involve MN and the club collaborate on the rooftop menu, which features club sandwiches, a salmon Nicoise salad, a hummus platter, short rib sliders, a few flatbreads and wine, beer and cocktails.
An especially lovely touch is a changes-monthly dessert, prepared by a different female Twin Cities pastry chef.
Nikkolette's Macarons (3425 N. Hwy. 169, Plymouth, nikkolettesmacarons.com) has the starring role in May. Owner Nikkolette Krumheuer has a nimble touch with the classic French cookie, getting the contrasting texture combinations just right while not going bombastic with the flavors. At the club, she's serving a delightful quartet (dark chocolate, marshmallow, pistachio and pink champagne) for $8. They're almost as sweet as that view.
410 Oak Grove St., Mpls., 612-813-5300, womansclub.org. Rooftop open 5-9 p.m. Thu.-Sat., reservations required.
Arturo Special pizza at Arturo's Pizza
The Murray family, one of the Twin Cities' most enduring dining dynasties, has branched out beyond the Silver Butter Knife Steak for Two orbit of its timeless downtown Minneapolis landmark restaurant.
Last week, third-generation owners and siblings James, Jill and Tim Murray quietly opened this counter-service pizzeria in a former Red's Savoy outlet.
"We've always been on the lookout to diversify our brand, and if the right opportunity came along we would be open to it," said Tim Murray. "We thought we'd get in on the pizza craze. That's the business that seems to be doing well these days."
They've christened the place after their grandfather, Arthur Murray ("He was Irish, but we're using the Italian version of his name," said James Murray), and are turning out an homage to New York-style pizza.
Chef Dan Lehmann has devised a pleasing crust that has a pronounced crackerlike snap around the edges, but holds up under the heft of well-chosen toppings: feisty tomato sauce, well-seasoned housemade pork sausage, meaty olives, snappy onions and tons of mozzarella ($25 for a 12-inch pizza, $29 for a 16-inch pizza).
It's one of a half-dozen house formulas (Margherita, chicken Alfredo and others, $20 to $28), along with a build-your-own option and three by-the-slice varieties (cheese, pepperoni and that excellent sausage, $4 to $5). Other options include garlic butter-lavished cheese bread, panzanella salad and cheesecake with raspberry sauce.
Meanwhile, at Murray's, business is picking up.
"Make no mistake, the past year has been brutal," said Tim Murray. "Hopefully the worst is behind us. People have been very loyal in their support, and we really appreciate it. I think that things are headed in a positive direction."
18 NE. University Av., Mpls., 612-886-1624, arturospizzaminneapolis.com. Open 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. daily.
Gnocchi with Cauliflower and Orange at Bar La Grassa
After keeping the doors closed during the pandemic, owners Isaac Becker and Nancy St. Pierre recently cracked them open a bit, offering a limited takeout menu. Hurrah.
Many BLG standards are AWOL at the moment — including the crave-inducing bruschetta topped with lobster and scrambled eggs — and it's easy to see why: they wouldn't travel well.
Fortunately, gnocchi does. Well, Becker's decadent version ($25), anyway. Each tender pillow gets a dark, caramelized sheen before being tossed with cauliflower slivers — a genius textural move — and brightly appealing pops of orange zest. The results are just as I remembered: uncomplicated, skillfully executed and madly delicious. No wonder it has been a BLG menu standard from day one.
More good news: The dining room is reopening on June 1, serving dinner Tuesday through Saturday. And after getting a start with takeout, in-person dining is scheduled to return on June 1 to the couple's two other properties, 112 Eatery (112 N. 3rd St., Mpls., 112eatery.com) and Snack Bar (800 N. Washington Av., Mpls., snackbarmpls.com), with the same five-days-a-week dinner schedule.
"Doing takeout has been nice," said Becker. "But we're ready for the big show."
800 N. Washington Av., Mpls., 612-333-3837, barlagrassa.com. Open for takeout (with some limited patio seating) 5-8 p.m. Tue.-Thu., 5-9 p.m. Fri.-Sat.
Shakshuka at the Lynhall
A few years ago, one of my favorite breakfasts went through a surge in popularity — had Chrissy Teigen tweeted about it? — and shakshuka popped up on the a.m. menus at a handful of Twin Cities restaurants.
That was then, this is now. Most of the places where I'd get my shakshuka fix have unceremoniously dropped it, an exceedingly depressing development. Fortunately, this North African-Middle Eastern staple remains a Lynhall fixture.
Shakshuka (also spelled shakshouka) pretty much boils down to eggs that are poached in a pepper-enriched tomato stew, but the formula is remarkably flexible. The Lynhall's rendition ($14), devised by former chef Kristin Tyborski, includes feta, which gives it a creamy heft, and delicate fried chickpeas, which insert a welcome crunch. For $2 you can add another egg, and the upcharge is totally worth it.
The restaurant has a new chef: Natalie Allesee, a Heartland, Tullibee and Waldmann Brewery & Wurstery veteran. She starts in a few weeks, and there's one big reason why I suspect that she'll keep the shakshuka.
"It's my absolute favorite item on our menu," said owner Anne Spaeth.
By the way, making shakshuka at home is snap. In its role as a dish that keeps on giving, it also serves as an excellent breakfast-for-dinner option. Find my go-to recipe, from Philadelphia chef Michael Solomonov, at strib.mn/3fiSEUX.
2640 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls. and 3945 Market St., Edina, thelynhall.com. Shakshuka is available on the brunch menu, served 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Wed.-Sun. at both locations. In Edina, the dine-in schedule also includes dinner, served 5-8 p.m. Thu.-Sat., and afternoon tea, served at 3 p.m. Sun.
Pulled Pork Sandwich at Bread & Pickle
One of the Twin Cities' most appealing outdoor dining venues is back for another season, and this well-crafted sandwich ($9) has made the return, too. Phew.
Outward appearances suggest that this barbecue joint classic ($9) is simplicity itself, but it turns out that there's a lot going on behind the scenes. That happens a lot at Bread & Pickle, the work of restaurateur Kim Bartmann. Witness the excellent burgers, and the basic-but-satisfying breakfast sandwich.
But let's talk pulled pork. The goodness starts with top-quality pork shoulder (sourced from Iowa's first-rate Beeler's), which is rubbed with a simple seasoning, given a quick braise and then slow-cooked with onions, citrus, cayenne, cumin, coriander and other essential aromatics.
From there, hefty hunks of that tender, succulent meat are splashed with a barely sweet barbecue sauce and stacked into a just-right bun (baked at Denny's 5th Avenue Bakery in Bloomington) that gets the buttered-and-toasted treatment. The final flourish is a heaping helping of crunchy, colorful coleslaw.
Get in line. Yes, it seems like there's always a line, especially when the weather is cooperating. It's worth the wait.
4135 W. Lake Harriet Pkwy., Mpls., breadandpickle.com. Pulled pork sandwich available 11 a.m.-8 p.m. daily.
Rick Nelson • @RickNelsonStrib