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Chocolate Dream Extreme shake from Tipsy Steer

After consulting a Blaine-based friend for recommendations in the northern suburbs, we rolled up to Invictus Brewing Co., and the restaurant within it, Tipsy Steer. Tipsy Steer also has locations in Roseville and on Hiawatha Avenue in Minneapolis, but here we could get their woodfire pizzas, sunnies and chips, and bronzed red snapper tacos (all excellent) with one of Invictus' inventive brews. I had to try the Tyrannosaurus Press pastry stout, made with locally roasted Folly Coffee and more than 100 pounds of mixed cookies from T-Rex. I also grabbed a couple of crowlers to take home from their line of candy bar-inspired beers, the Pearson's Nut Goodie milk stout and the Salted Nut Roll golden ale.

It wasn't just the grown-ups who got to have dessert. All around us, we saw families sharing ridiculously over-the-top "psycho milkshakes," overflowing with whipped cream and brownies, whoopie pies or entire slices of cheesecake. Interest piqued. We ordered the Chocolate Dream Extreme ($9), a classic chocolate shake made chocolatey-er with plenty of chocolate syrup, a brownie AND a Hershey bar sticking out of the top. My family of four couldn't finish it, and not for lack of trying. It was the perfect refreshment for a perfect patio on a summery Sunday. (Sharyn Jackson)

2025 105th Av. NE., Blaine, 763-208-3063; 2704 N. Snelling Av., Roseville, 651-200-3581; 5000 Hiawatha Av. S., Mpls., 612-353-5945;

Suggested serving size for Duluth's Best Bread cinnamon rolls.
Suggested serving size for Duluth's Best Bread cinnamon rolls.

Joy Summers, Star Tribune

Duluth's Best Bread Cinnamon Rolls

Just after cresting the hill on Interstate 35 comes the first polar kiss blown off Lake Superior, a familiar welcome to Duluth.

We came for a funeral of a friend's father and after the service, retired to the hotel for a proper Finnish sauna. Reflecting on loss while celebrating life, we sweated and plunged into the great lake with a view of the Aerial Lift Bridge.

We collapsed into bed that night and woke up ravenous. I craved a taste of childhood comfort: a giant cinnamon roll, and Duluth's Best Bread is an ode to all the wonders flour can produce. I reveled in each bite. Tumbles of soft dough twist around earthy cinnamon, all topped with just enough icing ($3.50). Each bite is a taste of home and a short visit to the childlike wonders found in a life well-lived. (Joy Summers)

120 E. Superior St., Duluth, 218-340-9410,

The chickpea falafel appetizer at Waterbury restaurant in Minneapolis.
The chickpea falafel appetizer at Waterbury restaurant in Minneapolis.

Nancy Ngo, Star Tribune

Chickpea falafel at Waterbury Restaurant

Did I miss an announcement about this new Minneapolis restaurant? That question popped into my head when driving past Waterbury Restaurant, which seemed to have popped up out of nowhere.

After sleuthing the restaurant website and finding out that Elevage Hospitality and their executive chef, Sam Collins (Feller in Stillwater, Bricks in Blaine and Village Pub in St. Anthony), were behind it, I had to check it out. Waterbury opened quietly eight weeks ago, according to staff, serving breakfast through dinner.

We're most familiar with Collins from Feller, where game such as pheasant, venison and bison make regular appearances. So it seemed appropriate to order the sizable bison ragu that, served with a porcini gnocchi and priced at $19, seemed like a steal.

But if we had to keep score, the dish with the most game turned out to be a vegetarian dish: the chickpea falafel ($14) appetizer that gave off Mediterranean-Indian vibes. We appreciated the execution of green chickpea patties with hints of red Fresno peppers and cumin that were prepared wonderfully golden crisp on the outside and airy on the inside. A bed of preserved lemon aioli and a chili relish topping further gave the flavor-packed dish sweet heat and fresh notes — and a further marrying of excellent flavors from around the globe. (Nancy Ngo)

3012 Excelsior Blvd., Mpls., 763-264-4069,

Perseverance and the power of a Monday lunch spot.
Perseverance and the power of a Monday lunch spot.

Joy Summers, Star Tribune

Slow-roasted beef arepa from Arepa Bar at Crasqui

"They say I should make the sizes smaller, but this is how we eat," said chef/owner Soleil Ramirez. She's referring to the easily shared Arepa Bar entrees: Soulful cheese-stuffed cachapas that occupy an entire dinner plate. And the signature arepa ($18) that was, frankly, intimidating, with its gaping maw stuffed with fillings.

Defying expectations is something Ramirez does daily. A Venezuelan immigrant, she first dipped a toe in Minnesota's culinary world with Arepa Bar inside Midtown Global Market. Last year, she opened St. Paul's Crasqui to critical acclaim, realizing her dream of building a fine-dining restaurant. She made the difficult decision to close the Minneapolis arepa stand earlier this year, but it's just reopened for lunch inside Crasqui.

Visit Arepa Bar Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with all the same comforts but now with patio seats. The pillowy arepas can be stuffed with an array of fillings, but the stewed beef, Venezuelan coleslaw and avocado spread are the correct answers. Alternately rich and crunchy, it's slow and steady cooking at its finest, holding all of the triumph over adversity this chef has displayed. And it's big enough to share. (J.S.)

84 S. Wabasha St., Suite 3, St. Paul,

Walleye cakes at FireLake.
Walleye cakes at FireLake.

Sharyn Jackson, Star Tribune

Walleye cakes at FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar

There's a long list of Minnesota-based food producers at the bottom of the menu at FireLake, the 10-year-old restaurant inside the Radisson Blu hotel adjoining the Mall of America. For out-of-towners, it's a chance to sample some of Minnesota's homegrown flavors and a dish that's been on the menu since Day 1.

Despite a spring menu refresh, I was still drawn to one of FireLake's signature, and unchanging preparations of Minnesota's state fish. Flaky Red Lake Nation walleye cakes ($15) come two to a skillet, lightly crisped up on the outside, tender within, and with a lemon-tarragon rémoulade for dipping. You can also order walleye as a main dish, corn-crusted for $32, or beer-battered with fries, $22.

Or consider a cheese board featuring Faribault Dairy and Alemar Cheese, a Wild Acres Farm turkey burger on a Denny's 5th Avenue Bakery bun, mushrooms from R&R Cultivation, and a Comfrey Farms pork chop. As far as mall or hotel dining goes, one could do much worse. (S.J.)

2100 Killebrew Drive, Bloomington, 952-851-4040,