Biscuit sandwich at Butter Bakery Cafe
In the Twin Cities Best Breakfast Sandwich pantheon — the version that exists inside my cranium, anyway — this one deserves Lifetime Achievement status.
It's the biscuits. Fueled by baking powder, tangy buttermilk and prodigious amounts of golden, made-in-Minnesota butter, these tender, flaky, oversized beauties really blossom when they're toasted.
Fillings aren't fancy, and with biscuits this good, they don't need to be. The no-frills model ($7.50) features a fried egg and a melty slice of aged Cheddar. Add-ons include tomato slices ($1) and sausage, bacon (shown here) or a succulent, thick-cut slab of ham ($3).
Don't skip the essential final flourish: a few splashes of hot sauce. Fortunately, owner Dan Swenson-Klatt thoughtfully stocks bottles of Isabel Street Heat, one of St. Paul's top culinary exports.
Oh, and consider it your lucky day if there's a stash of day-old biscuits ($1) on the counter. With butter, jam and a toaster, your next breakfast awaits. (Rick Nelson)
3700 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls., 612-521-7401, butterbakerycafe.com. Open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. (kitchen closes at 5 p.m.) Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-3 p.m. (kitchen closes at 2 p.m.) Sat.
'Give Thanks for Turkey' burger at Burger Dive
A new special at Burger Dive's two locations is like an advent calendar for burger lovers. Every month, chef/co-owner Nick O'Leary and chef Karl Thomalla are designing themed burgers, and for the first installment, they've gone full-throttle on Thanksgiving.
The turkey patty — a first for Burger Dive — is a 50-50 blend of white and dark meat that's ground fresh and spiced like sausage, with pepper, onion and notes of orange. That's topped with a patty made from stuffing — enhanced Stove Top. ("We went old school with the stuffing," O'Leary said. "Everybody loves Stove Top.") The housemade gravy and melted Cheddar hold it all together.
But for O'Leary, the crowning achievement is the cranberry relish — it's his great-grandmother's recipe — named for his mom, Margie. Fresh cranberries, whole apples and whole oranges get pushed through a hand-crank meat grinder and seasoned with just a touch of sugar. "It's very pure. It's childhood memories frozen in time right there."
O'Leary didn't leave any aspect of Thanksgiving dinner out of this comforting handheld holiday meal ($14, with chips). Even the bun is in on the theme; it's a potato roll. "There are no bells and whistles, just old-school flavors," O'Leary said. "The trick is to make everything taste like grandma food." (Sharyn Jackson)
731 Randolph Av., St. Paul, 651-294-3240, open 8 a.m.-11 p.m. daily; Potluck at Rosedale Center, 1595 Hwy. 36, 651-340-2389, open 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sun., burgerdivemn.com.
Sas-squash sandwich at Fiddlehead Coffee Co.
This Rochester-based coffee shop just opened its third location in Bloomington, and it packs a lot of punch in its bright and cheery spot in the Fenley apartment building, a stone's throw from the Bloomington Central light rail stop. There's a long list of coffee and pastries as well as a full slate of breakfast items, bowls, salads, small plates, sandwiches and wine and beer.
With such a diverse menu, how can you decide what to order? Easy. Order anything with the housemade focaccia. Light and airy on the inside with a nice crisp on the outside, it is seasoned to complement, not overwhelm. And while its heft might make you wonder if it will overpower the sandwiches, it doesn't.
Creative sandwich options abound, but this time of year it's hard to pass up anything with squash. Enter the Sas-squash, a medley of roasted squash, roasted mushrooms, mixed greens, curried cranberries and crushed pecans ($13) — and it's vegan. The mushrooms' earthiness balances well with the squash and tart cranberries, and the greens and pecans give it a welcome crunch. Sandwiched between those two slices of carb heaven, it was a great lunch. (Two lunches, actually, because those focaccias are huge.)
Sandwiches come with a choice of sides — soup, mixed greens or pasta salad. You can't go wrong with any of them, but if the butternut squash soup is available, double down on the squash and go with that. It's all the tastes and comfort of fall in one creamy bite. (Nicole Hvidsten)
8061 33rd Av. S., Bloomington, fiddleheadcoffee.com. Open 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Thu., Fri.-Sat. 7 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun. 7 a.m.-3 p.m.
Arepa at Guacaya Bistreaux pop-up
Latin-Caribbean by way of New Orleans — that's Pedro Wolcott's geographic journey, and also the foundation for Guacaya Bistreaux, his restaurant slated to open in Minneapolis' North Loop in summer 2022.
The Panama-born chef, who has cooked at Big Easy top spots such as Commander's Palace, Cochon Butcher and Emeril Lagasse's NOLA Restaurant, is a recent transplant to Minnesota and he's intent on introducing locals to the internationally influenced street food and tapas of his youth — with a few hints of New Orleans mixed in. Panama's position on the edges of Central and South America, with its canal connecting the continents, has brought generations of migrants from Jamaica, Trinidad, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela and more. "Everyone from those regions traveled to Panama, so you can see how all these different influences started coming in," Wolcott said.
That's apparent in his seven-course tasting menu currently being offered Mondays at Glass House, an events venue and daytime coffee shop just outside downtown Minneapolis that recently started hosting chef-driven pop-ups — Wolcott's being the first.
Maiz a la plancha, a dish made from corn off the cob, cotija cheese and roasted tomato and garlic aioli, topped with crispy potato sticks, is something Wolcott would get roadside in Panama, sometimes on top of a hot dog. It was a favorite, as was a super-fresh ceviche of red snapper that had been flown in that morning. After filleting it into cubes, Wolcott served it as the center of a cornucopia of flavors and textures, including soft hominy, crunchy corn and avocado and sweet potato purées. It's a style of ceviche specific to northern Peru.
But this arepa was unforgettable. The crispy Venezuelan corn cake is stuffed with Honduran and Salvadoran cheeses, deep fried, then topped with black beans and plantains, cilantro-garlic aioli, and succulent pork that's been marinated in garlic and sour orange and baked in plantain leaves. If this is a preview of what's to come at Guacaya Bistreaux, we can't wait. (S.J.)
Glass House, 145 N. Holden St., Mpls., glasshousemn.com, guacayabistreaux.com. Dinners are 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Mondays through Nov. 22, with more dates being added. Tickets ($75 each, with an additional $25 for two cocktails by Meteor's Robb Jones) available at exploretock.com/glasshouse.
Pizza at Isles Bun & Coffee Co.
This Uptown landmark, famous for its cinnamon buns, has an alter ego. Starting at 11 a.m., Tuesday through Friday, it also doubles as a slice shop.
That's when the kitchen crew pulls a pan-style pizza ($4.50 per slice) out of the oven. The sturdy, focaccia-like crust is brushed with a sauce that's based on roasted red peppers rather than tomatoes, and there's just enough cheese to bind rather than blanket the toppings. Those toppings, by the way, are a colorful medley of whatever vegetables happen to be on hand.
"We leave that to the baker," said co-owner Jeff Veigel. "They always have to make the cinnamon buns the same, so this is where they can exercise a little creativity."
The happy results are a savory distraction in a sugar-centric space.
In other Isles Bun & Coffee news, the shop will soon have a food truck counterpart. Yes, Veigel has outfitted a mobile kitchen capable of turning out warm-from-the-oven Puppy Dog Tails, those smaller-scale renditions of the shop's gargantuan cinnamon buns.
"Of course we'll be baking on the truck," he said. "To do otherwise, well, that's just wrong."(R.N.)
1424 W. 28th St., Mpls., 612-870-4466, islesbun.com. Open 6:30 a.m.- 5 p.m. Tue.-Sun.