Pollo Asado from Best Tacos del Sol at Mercado Central
I was standing in line before I even knew what we were waiting for — sometimes a person just gets swept away by energy. There's always a giddy anticipation that makes my feet a little lighter when I'm walking into Mercado Central on E. Lake Street. The colorful building is impossible to miss when driving down the popular corridor, but it had been a while since I'd stopped in.
It turns out the line was for a dish I've had a million times, but when you're in a market with this many options, it's hard to decide between old favorites and new items.
Mercado Central first opened in 1997 as an economic hub, a place where local Latino business owners could combine power and support each other in one centralized location. There are several types of businesses inside, but I love lingering at the food halls on the first floor. It was there that the man behind the counter at Best Tacos caught my eye and beckoned me with their specials.
Pollo Asado ($14) is one of those dishes I can't resist. Marinated chicken is grilled right on the bone, then chopped and slathered with vibrant, piquant sauce. The chicken was charred and juicy — so succulent it made my head swim with dreams of summer days by a hot charcoal grill and the sun-soaked streets of Mexico City. It was an abundant plate, heaped with rice, beans and salad and a side of hot tortillas. It was a meal I was happy to tear through and then pack up the second half to revisit later. (Joy Summers)
1515 E. Lake St., Mpls., 612-728-5485, mimercadocentral.com
Special sirloin at Lindey's Prime Steak House
As a Minnesota transplant, I'm still working my way through classic Twin Cities haunts, the long-running and much-loved restaurants that have endured for generations. Like Lindey's, the Arden Hills steakhouse that is so confident in the thing it's been doing the past 60 years, it owns the URL theplaceforsteak.com.
I was thrilled to finally make it to this cozy cabin of a restaurant, where menus are made into signs that are schlepped around the restaurant by servers, and the only information on your table is a postcard explaining the various temperatures to order your steak. (Supposedly, if you fill it out, the restaurant will mail it for you.)
The first option on the menu — which is only four items deep — is Lindey's Special, a 16-ounce hunk of sirloin ($38) that the server slices in half at the table to show you how red medium-rare really is. But even better than that tender steak is the chance to sop up its flavor-bomb juices with an unlimited side of seasoned potatoes — something like creamy mashed potatoes that have been flattened and fried on a griddle. With a refillable basket of garlic toast and a bowl of salad also included, Lindey's leftovers were the gifts that kept on giving. (Sharyn Jackson)
3600 N. Snelling Av., Arden Hills, 651-633-9813, theplaceforsteak.com
Bruschetta from Edelweiss Bakery
A popular bakery in downtown Prior Lake now has a wilder side.
This fall, owners Laurie and Joe Lin added an evening wine bar four nights a week, serving small bites in a setting that's just as charming at night as it is during the day. A fireplace, music and a dozen or so tables set the cozy scene, perfectly suited for both date nights or nights out with friends.
The food menu isn't huge, but it can be filling. After a knockout starter of goat cheese served with dried fruits and nuts ($11) and plenty of bread and flatbread, we opted for an order of bruschetta — four large slices for $19 — as our main, knowing you can't go wrong with bakery bread. There were eight combinations, but the two standouts were artichoke tapenade with Parmesan, and the pesto-arugula-salami. The tapenade was bursting with flavor, in a delicious garlicky-salty kind of way that had me searching for recipes to add to my holiday appetizer repertoire. Arugula and salami were a nice match for the pesto, providing a peppery bite that went well with the evening's wine pairings. Grazing boards and salads round out the menu.
The wine bar is open Wednesdays through Saturdays from 4 to 9 p.m., and serves a well-curated list of wines (red, white, bubbles and port) by the glass ($7-$12) and bottle ($28-$44), a handful of beers ($6-$7) and a few N/A options ($6), too. If you come for an evening, make plans for a morning return; the bakery alone is worth the trip. For the most up-to-date info, follow their Facebook page. (Nicole Hvidsten)
16186 Main Av., Prior Lake, edelweissbakerypl.square.site
Milk & Cookies Pie from Vikings & Goddesses Pie Co.
In Minnesota, we don't let a little snow put an end to our farmers market season. Especially when there's a cozy place to hold one indoors. The charming Mill City Farmers Market has now moved into the even more charming Mill City Museum for the winter, with markets on select Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. (The next one is Nov. 19.)
Many of the market's greatest hits are set up amid the old flour mill's brick walls. The vendor with the longest line? That would be Vikings & Goddesses Pie Co., the business from St. Paul-based pie-maker Rachel Anderson. While her offerings of $5 slices may vary from market to market, right now you can get one of Anderson's bestsellers: milk and cookies pie.
Anderson describes it as her version of tiramisu. Nellie's Ice Cream chocolate chip cookies are soaked in coffee and whiskey, and layered with sweet mascarpone inside one of her all-out buttery pie shells. More cookies are crumbled on top. It's sweet, creamy, crunchy goodness.
You can order a slice or whole pie ($28) ahead at vikingsandgoddessespiecompany.com. And while you're there, grab a $5 frozen crust or two for a head start on Thanksgiving baking. (S.J.)
Mill City Museum, 704 S. 2nd St., Mpls., millcityfarmersmarket.org
23rd Century Cocktail from Earl Giles
The actual grand opening of Earl Giles Restaurant and Distillery, the destination restaurant and bar as imagined by well-known local barmen Jesse Held and Jeff Erkkila, took a while, thanks to the pandemic, supply chain issues and life. But the dream was realized a couple of months ago, and their destination distillery in Northeast is fully open and running on all cylinders.
Last time we visited, the kitchen was fully functional and the pizza was an immediate hit, but the bar wasn't yet stocked with their own spirits. So upon return, drawn to the siren song of the fluffy crust pizza, we ordered drinks.
The 23rd Century is a brisk balance of warm coffee and cocoa flavors with Earl Giles' crisp London Dry-style gin, and the whole thing is offset by a little lemon citrate. The result is a drink that should be opposing flavors yet somehow work together splendidly. It's a quaffable drink that would crush during brunch (or lunch) with its light sweetness and bright finish. Between this, the pizza and a giant warehouse room filled with live plants, this is sure to continue to be an oasis through the winter. (J.S.)
1325 NE. Quincy St., Mpls., 612-345-5305, earlgiles.com
The Taste team is taking a break from eating out to eat in for Thanksgiving week. We'll be back with five new things on Dec. 5.