Chicago-style Italian beef sandwich from Frankie's Chicago Style
We need to talk about "The Bear." The captivating FX/Hulu show about the intense inner workings of a Chicago restaurant kitchen has launched untold numbers of cravings for the dish around which all the drama revolves: the Italian beef sandwich.
Kent Garbers has been feeling the effect at the New Hope restaurant he owns, Frankie's Chicago Style. "We've definitely seen an uptick in the amount of Italian beef sold in the last two weeks," said Garbers, who is only on the second episode but is already having flashbacks to his own earlier times in the restaurant industry. "It hits on so many nerves," he said.
Frankie's, which has been around since 1991, introduced the Italian beef to its menu about a decade ago, and with no "The Bear" to pave the way, "we had to almost educate the community around us as far as what Italian beef was."
So what's the difference between an Italian beef sandwich and a roast beef sandwich?
"The spiciness of the beef," Garbers said. "It's cooked a little longer and it's cooked in a broth, and then you add an au jus or a gravy to dip the bread in. A lot of our customers are Minnesotans so they get it on the side and treat it more of a French dip, which the Chicago natives kind of balk at."
I ordered mine dipped, which is how Garbers always takes his. The French bread, which is custom baked by Mainstreet Bakery in Edina and then warmed up with a little water so it's all crusty and chewy (just like on the show!), practically melts into the jus. Thin slices of beef are topped with peppers — I requested sweet and hot, and they were indeed hot. Altogether, the $12 sandwich was a supremely filling wallop of flavors and textures. Next up: family meal spaghetti. (Sharyn Jackson)
3556 Winnetka Av. N., New Hope, 763-545-7767, frankieschicagostyle.com
Gazpacho and savory scone at Socca Cafe
Here's a hot take: I love spending a day or two a week in our downtown Minneapolis office. There's a rush of energy I've missed. In the morning there are cars jockeying for ramp space; at noon a predictable rush of workers feed into the skyways. It all feels familiar in an almost nostalgic way.
The other day a friend of a friend asked where it's safe to eat in the city. I worry that people who aren't from here still think there are daily re-creations of something they saw on TV two years ago. While crime exists, it doesn't feel any more worrisome than walking through other major metro centers. People are shopping, catching the bus, grabbing a bite to eat, marching through the skyways or, in my case, meandering from one end of downtown to the other, soaking in the sun and seeking out something tasty to eat.
At the base of the new RBC Gateway building, which houses the Four Seasons Hotel, is Socca Cafe. Surrounded by giant floor-to-ceiling windows, the weekday cafe, overseen by Gavin Kaysen, is Mediterranean with a full coffee bar and pastries that are familiar to fans of Kaysen's bakery, Bellecour. For lunch, there are several grab-and-go salads and one chilled soup: gazpacho ($12). I picked up an order along with a savory scone studded with sun-dried tomatoes ($4). On a less windy day, it would have been fun to settle in for a picnic. Instead I slurped up the acid-bright, fruit tomato and olive oil soup in the lobby. The texture is full and rich, while the cold temperature and blended veggies served as a bracing balance to the summer sun. The crumbly scone stood in for bread, sopping up every last drop. It was heavenly.
A lot has changed in Minneapolis in recent years, and it may not be perfect. But there's still a lot to love about this city. (Joy Summers)
245 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls., 612-895-5700, soccacafe.com
Korean braised short rib at Kyndred Hearth
If you've never been to the Minnesota Vikings' training camp facilities in Eagan, you're missing out. It's impressive, even to casual fans. If you've never been to Kyndred Hearth, the nearby restaurant at the Omni Vikings Lakes Hotel, you're really missing out.
Nearly everything about it is stunning: the dining room, the patio, the service, the immense copper wood-burning oven and, of course, the menu. That's no surprise, since the Vikings and Omni Hotels tapped chef Ann Kim to be the culinary vision behind it.
You'll find a bit of everything — pasta, salads, sandwiches and a well curated list of appetizers — to appease the range of diners that hotels draw. Wood-fired pizzas, a Kim hallmark, are popular as expected, although the flavors are tamer than those at Pizzeria Lola or Young Joni. But knowing Kim's work, I went for the Korean-braised short rib ($33). Seasoned and braised for 14-plus hours, the rib was rendered mouthwateringly tender. Served over miso polenta (possibly the creamiest I've ever tasted) and alongside baby bok choy and hearty mushrooms, it was the star of the table. A bright topping of chives and sesame seeds made it look good, too.
Our server reminded us that Kyndred Hearth is a "true-fire kitchen," meaning that when a dish is ready, it's delivered. Perhaps that's why the menu is designed to be shared. Not all plates arrive at the same time, so sharing eliminates any awkward "let's all wait" moments. I would normally be all about sharing, but that short rib? I'll keep that all to myself. (Nicole Hvidsten)
2611 Nordic Way, Eagan, 651-689-9850, omnihotels.com/hotels/viking-lakes-minnesota/dining/kyndred-hearth
Cream Cheese Kolache at Finnish Bistro
My first job was the same one I kept until it was time to move out — inside my mother's flower shop, where a collective of (mostly) women helped raise me with just the right amount of pride and humility in a job well done. While it was undoubtedly the best-smelling work environment, it was also brutal on the body. Mother's Day and Valentine's Day were the hardest workdays. We'd unlock that door with the dangling bell early in the morning and stay until the wee hours of night.
On those days, my mother would do her best to bribe us with delicious things to keep us rolling. My favorite was the early morning cream cheese Danish: sweetened cream cheese tucked into a plush pillow of pastry. They danced sweetly at the edge of savory and always disappeared way too quickly. Eventually the bakery that made them, and our flower shop, closed. All these years later I have harbored pangs of nostalgia for the dish that I have not been able to replicate or replace.
That is, until I brought my mother to Finnish Bistro. The cafe is tucked into one of the most charming corners of St. Paul, where it has been serving the neighborhood and those craving Scandinavian baked treats for decades. There's also a glorious cream cheese kolache ($3) — this was the dish I'd been missing.
It's a sweet treat, but balanced. The bready pastry folds over the tangy, bright cream cheese and keeps the sugar in check. Each bite brought a wave of appreciation for its simple beauty. Next time I'll probably order it with a pulla spiced latte, laced with cinnamon and cardamom. All those heady spices, tangy rich bites and cozy vibes remind me of another time and place, filled with laughter and the powerful fellowship of strong women. (J.S.)
2264 Como Av., St. Paul, 651-645-9181, finnishbistro.com
Zucchini meatballs at Pryes Brewing Co.
The Mississippi River-adjacent patio at Pryes Brewing Co. is one of north Minneapolis' gems. And on a night when the Twin Cities River Rats are holding a water-skiing event across the street, it's a family-friendly place to have dinner and a drink before the show.
Besides Pryes' IPA and Pils offerings, the taproom is also known for its wood-fired pizzas. But I liked these deep-fried veggie balls even more. Shreds of zucchini are mixed with savory plant-based sausage and seasoned with tangy pops of feta cheese, and served with green goddess dressing for dipping ($12).
This summery meatless snack pairs beautifully with the Main Squeeze Lemon-Lime Blonde Ale; add a bountiful house salad with roasted grapes, candied walnuts and Pecorino to round out a charming al fresco meal. (S.J.)
1401 West River Road N., Mpls., 612-787-7937, pryesbrewing.com